As girls stand in front of the bathroom mirrors on campus, they may fix their hair or their makeup, admiring or scrutinizing themselves. Since Monday, many women have paused to read the encouraging pink sticky notes posted on the bathroom walls while washing their hands.
The notes were placed as part of the Peer Body Project, a UH Wellness, Women and Gender Resource Center and Counseling and Psychological Services collaboration that aims to help young women love themselves for who they are.
“It builds confidence for some girls, if they need it. It tells them it’s not a big deal and to not overthink that kind of stuff,” said accounting sophomore Cindy Tran after seeing the notes in a Student Center North bathroom.
The sticky notes are not the only initiative PBP has implemented on campus. They also hosted a “Trash Your Insecurities” table where students could write down their insecurities, crumple up the paper and throw it away. In addition to this, PBP created a “Love Your Selfie” station where students could take photos and write what they love about themselves on them.
“(We also did) a cool mirror activity where we have people look in the mirror and post something that they like about their body on the mirror with a sticky note,” said business management senior Savannah Heistad, one of the eight PBP mentors.
In Fall 2018, the Peer Body Project began holding student-led meetings. These meeting leaders took part in a two-day training course prior to the events where they learned about the program’s curriculum.
“We discuss what society says about ‘the perfect body,’ we talk about where that ideal came from,” Heistad said. “We also will talk about experiences everyone in the group has had around body image — the good, the bad and the ugly.”
The meetings are held in small groups that students register for online. There are three different groups that begin at different times throughout the semester. The first group meets Feb. 18, the second Feb. 28 and the last will begin March 18. All groups will follow the same curriculum.
Each eight-member group will attend multiple sessions, which will feature take-home projects that attendees are expected to bring completed to the next session.
“We were approached about a year or so ago to participate in this project, and we agreed to do it this time last year. In April, we actually did a call-out application for peer facilitators,” said Director of UH Wellness Patrick Lukingbeal.
Many students applied and, after interviews, eight were chosen to become mentors, Lukingbeal said.
“I heard about the Peer Body Project from Susan Kimbrough in Housing,” Heistad said. “She sent an email explaining that they were looking for peer facilitators, and after some research I went ahead and applied.”
The sessions aren’t intended as treatment for those who suffer with or are recovering from eating disorders. Those students will be directed to more capable individuals like CAPS, Lukingbeal said.
The project is currently curated exclusively for women to align with the requirements of an Oregon Research Institute study that it is participating in. The study focuses on the effectiveness of a peer-led body confidence group.
“Part of the research study that we’re involved with is just groups for young women,” Lukingbeal said. “We did have the discussion about putting (sticky notes) in men’s restrooms. The messages would be really helpful for men too, but part of our reasoning for doing it this week is that we’re going to be launching the first group and wanted to encourage women to sign up.”
The institute has previously conducted studies with just men, with mixed genders and with LGBTQ students, but the most effective groups are composed only of women according to the results they’ve seen so far, Lukingbeal said.
If all goes well with the study, UH may try to expand the groups to include more people next year, Lukingbeal said.
The sticky note campaign is still in progress, and Heistad said to keep an eye out for them. She hopes the takeaway is that it’s OK for students to focus on their self-image and that it’s OK to struggle with it.
“There is no one like you, and you may as well be the best you possible, whatever that means,” Heistad said. “It’s also OK to be confident. It’s OK to think ‘dang I look good in these pants’ (and) that doesn’t make you superficial. You should be your biggest hype man and remember that someone else’s beauty does not mean you have a lack in beauty.”