Thursday, February 2, 2023

'We only have ourselves': Students talk self-improvement culture during self-love month

January 17, 2023
Illustration by Maddie Monroe
Illustration by Maddie Monroe —

January is self-love month. At a basic level, self-love can mean doing anything that makes you feel positive about yourself. Every person has a different way of expressing this, and this practice can come in many different forms. 

Most students juggle a lot in their everyday lives – from classes, to homework, to different extracurriculars and maybe even a job. Despite this, several students find it important to take an extra bit of time to take care of themselves, too. 

Psychology senior Jessica Skaff is the president of the Spartans Empower Body Acceptance, or SEBA, a registered student organization that promotes body acceptance and eating disorder awareness.

To Skaff, self-love is about how she views herself. She's careful of how she talks to and carries herself each day. 

“(I'm) learning to be a lot less critical of myself and a lot more accepting of where I am," Skaff said. "This is who I am right now. ... I’m doing the best I can.”

Dietetics junior and SEBA treasurer Paige Helfen joined the organization her freshman year. 

To Helfen, self-love is, “making time for the things that you enjoy and not the things that other people tell you the things you should enjoy.” Taking time to be with yourself is important, she said.

In the next SEBA meeting, Skaff and Helfen will talk about self-love, specifically focusing on how it correlates with New Year’s resolutions.

“(News Year's resolutions) can be a really toxic thing with the ‘New Year, New Me’ metaphor,” Skaff said.

Instead, they will be targeting how the students can make resolutions in a way that is “sustainable and healthy.” 

Helfen said that a lot of people focus their New Year’s goals on changing their bodies. SEBA is planning on emphasizing the term they often use, "body neutrality" – accepting your body even if it is not your ideal body.

It takes time to accept your body and to love yourself, Helfen said, but it is vital in today’s culture, especially with the influence social media.

Freshman Sarah Ahmed said that it is hard to practice self-love when social media plays a crucial role in how people view themselves. It has affected the way she personally perceives herself, leading her to compare herself to others and engage in negative self-talk.

“I know that I am guilty of it, I say mean things to myself all the time, sometimes it just comes out naturally. I think that we should start loving ourselves more and being kind to ourselves,” Ahmed said. “At the end of the day, you only have yourself.”

Skaff also believes that social media plays a part in why people, especially young girls, feel negatively about their bodies and appearance.

Helfen said that when people on social media promote eating disorders, weight loss and dieting, young girls “get in their heads that they should be doing that.”

“(Social media) instills the idea that we need to be perfect all the time,” Ahmed said. “Love yourself, take care of yourself, don’t care what other people think or say.”

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