Are you already looking into the mirror for hours on end, wondering what people will think of you when you’re walking to class?

Do you secretly take selfies and stare at the microdetails of your skin, your nose, your hair?

Or maybe you do the opposite.

Maybe you avoid ever seeing yourself. You rarely let people take photo. You can’t remember the last time you actually looked yourself in the eyes.

For those who identify as men—I’m including you in this, too. If you knew the amount of folks who are cismen clients who told me that Shawn Mendes’ Instagram makes them feel insecure, you wouldn’t feel so alone.

If you struggle with how you look, you’re not an anomaly.

Whether we admit it or not, so many of us have a hard time being in our bodies. With social media frequently fanning filtered images to our phone on a bottomless scroll, it can feel practically impossible to feel confident in our bodies.

As a psychologist, I hear it all the time with clients.

They’ll tell me, “I wish I looked like everyone else on campus.”

“I’m so unattractive compared to everyone here.”

“Why can’t my body look like that?”

They look at me with hopeful eyes, wishing I could be the Fairy Godmother that fixes how they felt about their body.

So these are the glass slippers that I’ve got: body neutrality.

Not body positivity.

Yep, you read that right.

After all, who am I to gaslight my clients and tell them until we’re both blue in the face that we love our bodies?

If that’s not their truth, it’s hard to make that true.

And while I’m all for self-compassion and leaning into self-love as best we can, we’ve got to consider the systemic lens that needs to shift when it comes to body image.

When we tell ourselves that we love our bodies as they are, we’re doing so because we’re buying into the paradigm that our bodies hold all of our worth. They equal power. They equal acceptance.

But therein lies a toxic narrative still.

We are still prescribing to the idea that our bodies hold the key to our happiness and our value. We’re merely adapting the rules to continue playing an unhealthy game.

What’s another vantage point?

What if our bodies were not the definition of our character? What if we were so much more than our bodies? What if our bodies were a part of who we are, rather than all of who we are?

This is what body neutrality stands for.

What I love the most about this shift in perspective is that we notice what our bodies can do for us without relying on our physical self-perception to make or break our self-esteem.

So instead of forcing yourself to say, “I love my stomach!” you instead say, “I may not love how my stomach looks but I’m thankful for how it helps me digest food so that I have enough energy to get through my day.”

Or, “Sometimes I feel embarrassed by the size of my arms, but they help move me in my wheelchair and for that I am grateful.”

Can you feel the difference?

I hope this will be a helpful shift in thinking as you step onto campus. As you see other bodies, remind yourself that your worth is not in your weight or what you look like.

And if someone judges you for the body you’re in? That’s their own insecurity that is getting projected onto you. You don’t have to take it.

You are so much more than a pant size, a purse logo, or a facial feature.

You are your brains. Your values. Your personality. Your character.

In fact, what if your appearance was the least interesting thing about you?

So remember this the next time you start feeling insecure: beauty is in the eye of the beholder—but maybe you shouldn’t be beholden to your beauty anymore.

 

Learn more about Dr. Lauren Cook at campuspeak.com/lauren-cook