In a culture where a woman’s worth often stems from her appearance, where the media tends to represent only a fraction of the population’s body type as beautiful and where entire businesses flourish from pointing out women’s physical “flaws,” it shouldn’t be baffling that so many ladies are insecure about being in their own skin.
Courtney Brandabur, psychology sophomore, is working to change that. In February, Brandabur launched a project titled “Girl Warrior: A Body-Positive Approach To Loving Your Beautiful Self.”
“‘Girl Warrior’ is a very abstract term. I think the best way to describe it is the everyday journey for a girl in her pursuit to feel beautiful and define that for herself,” Brandabur said.
Brandabur offers free photo shoots to help women feel beautiful and improve their body positivity. Each woman is asked to prepare a “beauty declaration,” a statement of a time when they feel most beautiful, and then she captures that scenario.
Brandabur’s beauty declaration was, “I feel beautiful when I sweat,” so she did some pushups and photographed herself glistening with perspiration.
Laura Johnson, mathematics junior, shared her beauty declaration.
“My beauty declaration was, ‘I feel beautiful when I dress up for myself,’” Johnson said in a Facebook message to The Daily Reveille. “I personally don’t like to get fancy with makeup and hairdo’s every day, but when I do decide to go all out with my appearance, I feel like I’m treating myself because I’m someone special.”
Johnson confessed she almost canceled her photo shoot because of a pimple. However, she realized she would be limiting her beauty potential by arbitrary societal standards. Instead, she decided to embrace her own beauty standards.
Brandabur was inspired to start the project after her own battle with negative body image.
“I see a counselor here at the health center, and I started seeing her because I was having these self-esteem problems, and a lot of it was based around my appearance,” she said.
She said her counselor advised her to keep a journal that helped her to get a handle on her insecurities. She said she could define her beauty on her own terms, and it felt powerful. She realized the pain she had endured and knew other women were also suffering, so she wanted to do something to empower others.
Brandabur hosts weekly chat sessions at Highland Coffees with her army of girl warriors to learn about women’s body image experiences and stories.
She said she’s connected with about 30 women so far, and her project isn’t even a month old yet.
Psychology senior Jodi Shipley said in a Facebook message to The Daily Reveille that she participated in the project “because self-love and empowerment are both crucial to promoting positive body image and ultimately loving ourselves.”
Brandabur said she’s delighted the project has taken off so quickly, but also disappointed that there is still such a great need to promote body positivity among women.
“It’s a beautiful sadness, you know? It’s beautiful that we’re coming together now and we’re able to tell each other our stories, but it’s definitely sad that we’re all in pain,” Brandabur said.
Brandabur plans to expand her project into a student organization in the future, but wants to expand slowly so her message doesn’t get altered or tainted due to the bureaucratic process.
More information about the project can be found at girlwarrior.org.