It’s interesting that recently empowerment has been linked to aesthetics – to the perfect contoured face and the ideal body. From Kim Kardashian ‘breaking the internet’ with her full-frontal nude photos for Paper Magazine to Emily Ratajkowski’s lingerie clad Instagram posts, an idealised version of the body is continuously linked with empowerment and self-worth.
But what about other forms of empowerment? What about those individuals who don’t identify with the heteronormative images portrayed in the media every day? Throughout my teenage years, I believed that my self-worth was linked to my appearance; that if I didn’t look ‘beautiful’ and like the airbrushed, altered images I saw in magazines, I wasn’t good enough. So, after years of attempting to live up to societies construction of perfection I finally realised that true beauty and empowerment can be found by accepting yourself and acknowledging that how someone else regards you should not change how you see yourself – that your self-worth can be found from your inner beauty and not what’s on the outside.
Mindfulness has been growing in popularity recently. It is a significant element of Buddhist tradition and the concept is related to meditation techniques. Mindfulness incorporates self-compassion and the appreciation of everything around us in the here and now – it teaches us to find our inner calm by being fully present, aware of what we’re doing and where we are without being caught up in worries of the past or the future. We all possess the ability to be mindful, but it can become more readily available to us if practiced daily.
While I’m no mindfulness guru, I’ve found that taking a walk each day and valuing all the natural beauty around me has really helped me respect myself and my place in the world. Taking a moment to slow down and catch your breath can really help to focus your thoughts in a positive way, which may be useful if you are struggling in any way with your mental health. University, assignments, meeting new people and moving away from home can be a lot to take so if we can have respect for ourselves and see that every person deserves to be valued this will go a long way in helping us to adjust and cope with the stresses of everyday life.[pullquote]Another positive technique I have used to improve my self-confidence and self-worth is taking yoga classes. [/pullquote]Originating in ancient India, yoga incorporates physical, mental and spiritual practices and disciplines. If you are looking for a class to join, the NUSU yoga society meets on Thursdays from 6-7.30pm, for the beginners’ class at the Jesmond United Reformed Church. Their classes help to promote mental wellbeing and self-affirmation while improving stamina, endurance and flexibility.
Another great way of focusing on your inner strength and beauty is by pursuing your hobbies and things that you enjoy. While university is about studying and furthering your knowledge in your chosen subject, it is also just as important to develop your skills and interests in other avenues. So, whether that’s baking, salsa, fellwalking or political activism, find what makes you happy and follow it, and I’ve got a feeling it will help you feel strong, independent and beautiful. University is a great place to get involved in what you love as it is a very inclusive environment with societies and clubs for everyone no matter what your age, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. So, go full-glam or just-rolled-out-of-bed chic, but just be aware that what makes you beautiful is the individual that you are and not your external appearance. We all deserve compassion, and most importantly self-compassion.