It all started because of one boy, one sentence.
Seven students were gathered in a circle for our monthly Psychology Anonymous meeting as I posed the first question, “What are three things you like about yourself, and three things you don’t?”
As each student took their turn, I noticed how they struggled to find even one positive aspect about themselves, but were quick to name the bad. But then, I saw him.
Already shifting in his seat, his face portrayed discomfort and he started to gather his stuff as if he wanted to leave. But he was too late, it was his turn.
After a few moments of silence he whispered, “There is nothing to like about me,” with a cold, glossy stare.
It was at this moment that I noticed how today’s society has caused the youth to see themselves in such a negative light. Our self-image has been distorted in such a way that some people have become incapable of loving themselves.
I wanted to change that.
When June rolled around I started to gather research on body image and self-esteem. I took surveys of students across Miami Dade College campuses asking about what they have experienced and what they would like to learn more about. I created a pre/post test along with a psychoeducational slideshow and tested the material in my Human Growth and Development class. However, I wasn’t satisfied.
I wanted to do more than just educate the college population on body image and self-esteem, I wanted to give students a chance to grow, participate, and reflect, and so, Beauty for Ashes was born.
Beauty for Ashes Seminars, Inc. is series of workshops I created that focuses on how our body image and self-esteem can be affected by our perception, the media, gender roles, and others. It is focused on making beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety.
In partnership with Phi Theta Kappa and the Psychology Club, I was able to bring the program to my college campus and touch the lives of over 60 students. Each student was challenged to reflect on their body image and self-esteem by participating in activities that focus on everyday things such as walking, taking a compliment, and defining beauty.
They were also asked to self-reflect by creating a mask that depicts their self-image and how they believe others view them, writing what they see when they look in the mirror, and writing a letter to themselves.
By empowering the young leaders, I allowed members of both clubs to facilitate the discussions and create their own presentations. As I guided them through the process of presenting their phase, I saw a transformation in them. Each facilitator had a story, and slowly it was beginning to change.
In the summer of 2015, I was awarded the Brave Life Grant sponsored by Keds that allowed me to turn Beauty for Ashes Seminars into a nonprofit organization in the state of North Carolina. Having seen the impact workshops had in Miami I am excited to see how Beauty for Ashes Seminars, Inc. touches the lives of those right here in Chapel Hill.