This program worked very well for me, but this outline is totally up for creative tweaking. Tailor it to your floor; cut activities if there are time constraints, don’t do something you don’t think is good/useful. Just please get the message out there that society is crazy in regards to body image and that we hurt ourselves by forming ridiculous expectations. The goal of the program is for residents to leave with rejuvenated confidence in themselves and the knowledge that they share a lot more with their floor-mates then they previously thought. I did this with 21 residents and maintained a cozy, safe and intimate feeling. Larger and smaller groups would work well, too. Put on this program with the knowledge that our residents look up to us a great deal and will take this information to heart. Good luck and have fun!
1. Talk it up
2. E-vite works VERY well and include a “poll your guests” option. Get the conversation going by asking deep questions like “do you hate a part of your body” or “are you happy with your body image”. This gages the mindset of your audience and will help you tailor the program to your floor.
3. Posters – I used a silver wrapping paper to create the image of a mirror and wrote “What do you see?” on it. I put a flyer for the event on the silver paper.
1. Tape off section of room for crossing over activity
2. Create confidentiality contract
3. Go through magazines and get images of models and actresses with “perfect” bodies. Make sure there are more than the numbers of people attending, as there should be options for each person to choose from. Before everyone enters, tape magazine ads all around the room.
4. Create a piece of paper or large index card with each person’s name on it. (e-vite helps, you’ll know who is coming) and bring a stack of blanks with you. Write in black marker on each card- the idea is that beauty seems black and white but it is so much more colorful than that. Get these sheets up on a wall or spread out on tables before the event.
5. Set up confidentiality agreement outside of lounge/space and have residents meet and gather before entering the room as a group. Have them sign the confidentiality agreement one-by-one on their way in. Have the 2nd contract on the wall underneath a blank paper: this will be signed on their way out to officially state their shared new outlook and promise about their attitudes and images. They can sign it on their way out as a final step.
Confidentiality Agreement: (sign before they go in)
I promise to have an open and honest mind. In fostering an environment of safety, I will also honor the comments and honesty of my friends. What is said in this room stays only in our minds and hearts, and will never leave our lips. In the interest of trust and fairness, we promise confidentiality.
We make this promise with our signature.
Crossing Over Activity
Instruct residents to gather on one side of the line and cross over it when they identify or agree with the statement. Once over the line, they can raise their hand if they agree. The point of this activity is to show at the very beginning of the evening all the different thoughts and feelings they have in common with one another. Put a line of tape down the room (or a string). Tell participants that once they are over the line they stay there until part 2 begins.
Cross the line if:
… you have stared at the models in the ads in a magazine rather than the product advertised
… there is a particular facial feature you wish you could change
… you wish you had bigger breasts
… you hate your thighs
… you wish you had a flatter stomach
… you have been depressed about your reflection
… you have denied yourself something that makes you happy because of the way it will affect your body
Phase 2: Cross the line back if:
… you have a pair of shoes that makes you happy
… you think you’re gorgeous when you’re laughing
… you have beautiful eyelashes
… you have a dress that looks amazing on you
… someone has flirted with you
… you have good hair days
… people always tell you that you smell good
… you enjoy getting dolled up
… there are days you know you deserve a piece of chocolate cake
… you love wearing dangly earrings
This activity provides for transition from talking about the negatives, the media, problems and feelings we have that are bad, and then transitioning to where we set a positive mindset, focus on the good and build up some self-esteem.
Main teaching point to process with residents: People think we are beautiful for superficial things and people notice the real things about us just as much.
Touch Someone Who Activity:
Split participants into two groups if needed.
Touch someone who…
… has gorgeous skin
… has gorgeous hair
… has style you admire
… you think is brilliant
… has great posture
… makes you laugh
… has a cute nose
… has beautiful hands/nails
… wears great jewelry
… has a great wardrobe
… has great shoes
… has a talent you are jealous of
… has cute ears
… has made you happy
… you think has a great laugh
… makes you smile
… has great legs
… has composure
… has beautiful hands
… that you admire
… has a gorgeous neck
… has a sense of style
… is charming
… has great skin
… has great hair
… is classy
… has good taste
… has a pretty mouth
Mirror Mirror Activity
Hand out index cards with the name of everyone participating on a card. Participants sit in a circle and pass the cards around the circle, writing a beautiful thing about the person whose name is on the card. When done the cards are collected. At the end of the program the cards are distributed so that participants can read the comments. Encourage participants to post them on their mirror or place them in their makeup drawer. I used full size sheets of cardstock.
Play music while participants are writing comments (see ideas below):
“You’re Beautiful” James Blunt
“This One’s for the Girls” Martina McBride
“I wish you Love” Rachel Yamagata
“All you Need is Love” Lynden David Hall, Love Actually
“Have a Little Faith in Me” Mandy Moore
“The Way you Look Tonight” Michael Buble
Destroy the Image of Perfection Activity
Rip out tons of magazine photos of models in pictures. It is best if there is one model per page. Tape them up on the walls of the room before the program starts. Have the girls silently take a moment to think about that one feature they would change about themselves. Then have them go around the room and find the model in the picture with the trait they desire. Instruct them to silently go around the room, take the picture off the wall and sit down. Have them look at it for a minute, examining their pictures. So they have their image of perfection in front of themselves – communicate that to them. Then have them look up at you and find the flaws in the model. At first they’ll think its stupid because they just found the perfect model. But talk about the reasons the models look inhuman, sick, ill or deformed (most of them do). As you facilitate, the message is that our desired image of perfection isn’t even perfect and it is possible to criticize almost anything we see. Rip up the magazine picture and have them throw it away (put a garbage can in the center of the room.)
To the Pursuit of Happiness Activity
Have a contract about the campaign for real beauty. Write a petition as though they pledge their vote to a candidate, thus in signing, they pledge to campaign for real beauty and send that message to their friends.
With this signature, I pledge to campaign for real beauty. I will catch myself when looking at magazines, when comparing myself to other women. I will embrace my curves and shake them when I dance. When looking in the mirror I will adore my face and I will smile at others. With this pledge, I promise to stop others when they judge themselves. I promise to do this in order to create a happy and healthy life for others, and myself even if it means I go against the grain of the media and pop culture. I promise to work hard to love myself, and in doing so, make the world a more beautiful place.
Short Discussion Activity
Be prepared to lead a short discussion after each activity. I don’t want to give too many specifics because it was great to have the conversation flow as different people expressed different ideas.
Conversation starters that are great:
What makes you mad about the media?
What do you think about sizes?
Have you ever denied yourself something because of the way it would affect your body?
A lot of the discussion consisted of everyone adding to the person before them and me calling on raised hands when everyone had something to say. Keeping the conversation under control helped a lot – beware of girls who want to dominate the conversation – I had a problem with that.
Name cards: Main ideas – beauty is colorful, people see really different things when they think beauty, your flaw may be something someone likes about you, images are different to everyone.
Magazine pictures: Main ideas – even perfection has flaws, models are not perfect so don’t aim for that, unhealthy looking women – is it really beautiful? Examine it closely, you’ll see you don’t really want that, destroying the image that asserts power over your perceptions, it is so subjective/surreal it can be thrown away in a second.
Crossing over: Main ideas – Part 1: this is to demonstrate that we all share something: we have a problem with something about our body, we don’t like a physical aspect of ourselves, we all share that struggle. Part 2 demonstrates that we do like ourselves at the same time, that we take pleasure in the bodies we live with, that we can develop our image into something we enjoy – that doesn’t mean changing it to something we feel we should.
Main ideas to walk away with: Beauty is visualized stereotypically and on the outside in our culture, but there is so much more to beauty than that. As women we need to support one another, not criticize fellow females, maintain clear perspective and also find beauty in things we have some control over, like our posture, attitude, smile, clothes, demeanor etc. not just our physical bodies. There is a lot to beauty and we need to take hold of that.
Follow Up Idea: Prep for a Dove Photo Shoot – This is coming up for me. I haven’t done it yet.
Get a date/time scheduled to take pictures of everyone on your floor. Have them wear minimal makeup and a white top, in front of a white background (butcher paper or a sheet). Get a really great photo of them laughing or smiling or even a deep one of them looking serious, however they feel beautiful. Get these pictures developed and turn it into a bulletin board, showcasing the beauty of the floor in all of its big/little/quirky unique ways.
Submitted by Tess Feldman, Resident Assistant, University of Iowa