I remember my very first day of freshmen year at Syracuse University. I walked into my first class, Nutrition In Health, immediately noticing all of the beautiful yet intimidating girls who had already arrived. As I sat down and took more time to look around the room, I noticed that almost every decorative sticker on people’s computers or water bottles said things like, “love to run” or “kale is life.” After checking out all of the health paraphernalia, I found myself moving on to the kinds of trendy fitness snacks being eaten in the classroom, and from there, to judging people’s bodies against my own. And this was all before class had even started.
In the first few months of college, I quickly began to try and create a new version of myself that seemed flawless. I felt pressure to never be caught eating a pop tart, to spend every day at the gym, and to look at health and wellness as my entire essence. I so badly wanted to be someone who naturally ran 10 miles and found true satisfaction in only eating salad, but I continued to fail, which quickly led feelings of guilt and inadequacy. I continued to look around at all of these new faces, wondering if they somehow knew I had eaten Oreos for dinner the previous night.
It wasn’t until I actually spent time with some of those intimidating girls I studied nutrition with that I realized how special and kind they were. Walls of false perfection were broken down and we were all able to share about our imperfections. More than that, we were able to learn together that maybe the things we considered as our flaws weren’t that at all. Maybe these things that we thought made us imperfect, seemed ugly or unimpressive were actually things that we as humans can connect over. In my experience, the ways in which I feel most beautiful or loved is when I can take the time to connect with others, and these feelings of depth and community are what truly promote health.
College is a place for learning. I’ve learned that people really do love kale and running. I’ve also learned that it takes more than just kale and running for those same people, and their self worth consists of many other vehicles. It is so hard to be in college, scratch that, in life and not size yourself up against others. But it’s critical to remember that everyone is so much more than the slogans on their computer stickers. Real beauty is found in the connections of our imperfections. We can only then come to find that our imperfections may not truly be imperfect after all.
Abby Case studies nutrition at Syracuse University and has recently joined the Circles of Change community! She is passionate about food justice and encouraging everyone to discover a beautiful relationship with food and their body. Abby loves good documentaries, climbing high peaks, and really sharp cheddar cheese.