I love college but I know it’s bad for my self-esteem. I love college but know it’s bad for my mental health and my body image, too. I love college but every day isn’t peachy keen.
Quite honestly, there is very little that I dislike about my college experience. I go to a great school and am enrolled in a major that I am passionate about pursuing for the duration of my career. I have amazing friends, campus is gorgeous, and there are parties galore. And just because all of this interests me and brings me happiness, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have negative effects on me.
I, like an overwhelming number of college students, have depression and anxiety. A lot of it stems from my body image and self-esteem, with which most women struggle.
A lot of people have described me as big. I’m nearly six feet tall and by no means thin. In the world of college hook-ups, dating, and never-ending sexuality, that can be hard. My body is not the type that is portrayed in modern media as ideal. Society has trained me to hate my body since the day I was born.
In the past few years, I have been on a (very) rocky self-love journey, but every single day on a college campus feels like 2 steps forward, 1.99 steps back. Between the ages of 18 and 22, young adults are supposed to be at the peak of hotness, freedom, and sexual exploration. At least, that’s the messaging we get from media, society, etc. So when I look around at all of these beautiful people, you can understand why I often feel less-than.
College makes me feel unnoticed, undesirable, and unloved. Are any of those things true? Absolutely not.
When I am by myself, I look in the mirror and like what I see. I’m pretty cute, if I do say so myself. I sit alone in my room and grin just thinking about how wonderful and loving my friends and family are. Then I step outside of my bedroom door and the world hits me with an aggression that feels extremely personal.
My anxiety puts doubts in my head at all times. It makes me feel like everyone is looking at me and seeing all the “bad.” Everyone is looking at the bulge of chub (that nearly every woman on the planet has) underneath my bra strap or the way my stomach sticks out over the button of my jeans.
My anxiety makes me feel like everyone is looking at my friends and realizing they’re beautiful and fun and funny, without taking a second glance at me. If I have to hear “dude, is your roommate single?” one more time, I will explode. What don’t these new people that I meet every day see in me that they see in my (admittedly fabulous) friends?
My anxiety makes me want to stay in my room all day because, alone, people can’t see the “bad” things or overlook the good ones. I put the quotations around the word bad because I realize that these things aren’t actually bad, they’re just things. They’re things about me, and I’m pretty great, so they must be, too.
This whole narrative seems very disjointed, doesn’t it? How could I possibly love myself in private and feel out of place, nervous, and downright despondent in public? How could school make me so happy while depression is still such a big part of my life? Welcome to the world of mental illness in college, folks! It’s a struggle every single day, but it’s one worth working through.
I still feel like absolute garbage on a lot of days. But there are really good days, too. And even on my worst days, when I see a super hot girl looking sexy as hell in a crop-top and being hit on by a guy I’m into and feel like I will never be beautiful enough to be loved, there are redeeming aspects. Because my college is the bomb and I am making the best of the hand I was dealt. Sometimes that means laying in bed for 3 days straight, and other days that means putting on a smile and pretending that everything really is peachy keen.
Image via Arianna Torres