Since July 2015, I have had the opportunity to serve as a BodyImage3D facilitator. Upon receiving my invitation to training, I was so excited to live out the Purpose of Tri Delta by assisting our collegiate members in every possible way—particularly surrounding issues of body image. What I was not prepared for, however, was the ways in which serving as a facilitator would also assist me in reconciling my own journey toward radical self-love and body positivity. As a facilitator, I am constantly reminded that the work of BodyImage3D is not just relevant for our collegiate members, but its message transcends and resonates across all stages of membership in the Fraternity.
Ultimately, being a BodyImage3D facilitator has underscored the importance of steadfastly loving one another—starting with ourselves. BodyImage3D as an act of love begins with listening. Listening to our bodies, our emotions and our experiences as well as those of our sisters. While listening seems like a simple enough starting point, it can often be difficult to truly tune into ourselves over the noise of external factors like mass media, cultural expectations and daily life stressors. However, listening to ourselves is the critical first step in becoming friends with our own bodies, our own feelings and our beliefs.
I learned the importance of listening the hard way during my senior year at NC State. Despite my body sending me warning signs all day, I refused to listen to the alarm bells ringing in my own ears in favor of Greek Life activities, homework and Executive Council responsibilities. Because I chose not to listen to myself, I ended up with an internal hemorrhage caused by a ruptured ovarian cyst resulting in the loss of nearly two liters of blood into my abdominal cavity. I was within minutes of dying due to blood loss because I actively chose to ignore my own body in favor of the external messages of the importance of campus involvement. Now, I cannot help but wonder, had I experienced the BodyImage3D Program, would I have listened and sought help sooner?
Through BodyImage3D, we are encouraged to recognize that listening to ourselves is not selfish; it is the first step of self-love.
Once we begin to listen to ourselves and honor the messages we hear, BodyImage3D then opens space for the next component in steadfastly loving ourselves, which is ownership. Through the program, we are encouraged to take ownership of the breadth of the kinds of messages we tell ourselves: both positive and otherwise.
As a facilitator, one of the most humbling points of the program is owning the fact that we all have dark parts of inner self, an inner critic, who speaks untrue, hurtful and abusive things into our minds, but the power in ownership is being able to shift from the false messages of the inner critic toward loving, truthful ideas of self-acceptance. Through ownership, we are encouraged to make conscious,intentional decisions about the quality of the messages we tell ourselves, and consequently, the messages that we impart to others. Complementing the act of ownership, validation becomes a third element in BodyImage3D’s impact. Validation recognizes that self-love is a difficult, messy and unpredictable process. This means that the process of developing a practice of self-love is fraught with both seemingly unbearable lows as well as previously unexpected highs. However, validation also recognizes that we are all on this fickle, frustrating and fulfilling journey together.
There is strength in solidarity knowing we, as sisters, are present and open as sources of support, encouragement and accountability for one another.
Finally, BodyImage3D fosters empowerment to put self-love into action through individual as well as group choices. Each time I have facilitated the BodyImage3D Program, I am reminded that at the end of the day, the option to live out self-love is each of our individual responsibilities. Whether it is ending a toxic relationship or beginning a daily self-care routine, we are each the agent in charge of fostering our own self-love. As empowered individuals, we can also identify group goals for change and accountability such as challenging fat talk during large gatherings or increasing the positive thoughts we share out loud with our community members. Empowerment is taking action for our own wellness through self-love as well as holding our shared community responsible for striving to do the same.
Taken together, my experience as a BodyImage3D facilitator has been an experience of renewing love—love for ourselves, love for our Fraternity and love for our future.