With today’s easily accessible technology, people are constantly being barraged with images that influence how they think they should look. Am I thin enough? Does my hair have a natural shine? Is my skin clear? The pressure to fit society’s concept of beautiful can be a heavy additional burden to an already stressful life. MSU Denver Assistant Professor Kat Martinez taught a new way for people to view themselves at the Love Your Body workshop on Auraria Campus.
Martinez is a faculty member at the Institute of Women’s Studies and Services, where she teaches genders and sexualities courses. At her first workshop on Feb. 22, she talked about why people put so much pressure on themselves to look a certain way, and how to become more aware of the positive aspects of their bodies.
“After my own body image issue, I had to rethink my relationship with my body, and in the process sort of just learned some of the techniques of re-imagining and re-experiencing my body differently,” Martinez said.
When Martinez learned a close family member was already worried about her weight at age seven, she decided to reach out and teach these techniques to other people caught in that negative body image cycle. Her studies show that the more a young person watches media that portrays a certain body type image, the worse they feel about their own body.
In the workshop, Martinez showed examples of how the media can be a dangerous tool that causes people to self objectify. When parts of peoples bodies are represented as objects, or a piece of a whole, people start to think of themselves as that one piece, instead of a whole person. Martinez took the class through two exercises that concentrate on how the body is feeling, and what is distinguishable about it. She said that instead of focusing on what our bodies can’t do, people need to recognize what they are capable of.
MSU Denver student Lyndsie Zinicola attended the workshop because the pressure she puts on herself to be thinner is stressful.
“I work out a lot and I’m constantly picking on myself,” Zinicola said. “I used to weigh a lot, I had a child, and I lost all the weight. I’m very hard on myself now about keeping weight off and eating
Zinicola said that she would definitely try out the techniques Martinez went over. “I’m so wired and worried about my body all the time,” she said. “I need time to chill.”
Sky Leopard, a student on Auraria, came across the workshop purely by accident, but when she heard what it was about, decided to stay and check it out.
“I’ve been studying Buddhism. I started chanting, which is supposed to bring you guidance,” she said. “I thought it was interesting that I’ve been suffering from depression a lot lately, and the first thing I come along is this body positivity class. That’s why I stayed. I felt it was brought to me. I thought she was a great speaker, and it was good for me to come to this class today.”
Martinez said it’s important to know that people of all different body types go through similar struggles.
“A lot of students are thankful for reading about and hearing some of the stuff that they were thinking about themselves,” she said. “It’s important for them to hear they’re not the only ones, and that there are techniques for them to combat those negative images.”