Lucas West does not recall a time before his first year of college when he walked out of his home without color coordinating his outfit from head to toe.
The sophomore political science and psychology double major said he was bullied throughout middle and high school.
West said making sure that even his socks matched his outfit was something he worried about growing up because he would get constantly made fun of for his appearance.
“As terrible as it sounds, it really is this constant battle of managing my appearance so that I can avoid that criticism that isn’t even there anymore,” West said.
After high school graduation and departure from his small Oklahoma town, West said he no longer lets his self-image be dictated by others. Although he sometimes thinks about losing weight or looking differently, he is much more comfortable with himself today, he said.
“My goal when I came to college was to be Lucas, to be how I want to be and not how others want me to be,” West said.
First-year biology major Lanicia Carver said she used to be obsessed with how parts of her body looked and would only wear things that would cover those parts. Carver said once she got to college and saw people of all shapes and sizes, she became more comfortable with herself and let go of those insecurities.
Carver said she thinks that people often see images on the television screen or in movies. These images make them want to look a certain way, which doesn’t fit in real life, she said.
“Genetically, [the models in magazines and on TV] look like that, and I feel like society and the media push those views, and they’re unrealistic because obviously not everybody has that genetic make up,” Carver said.
Carver said she believes it’s important for young people to understand their body and its limitations.
“I’m not 5’11”, I’m 5’1″. I can’t wake up and think ‘I’m going to be 5’11″ tomorrow,’” Carver said. “No, it’s unrealistic for me to think, and it’s unrealistic for a lot of people to think.”
In some areas at the university, attention to body image is nearly unavoidable in the curriculum.
Suki John, associate professor of dance, said the dance world is one that has a way of unintentionally presenting an aesthetic bias.
As a member of faculty for six years, John said she has dealt with students struggling with body image, including some with eating disorders.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” John said. “[Students] are trying to create an ideal body, not only in what they do in terms of ability, but also in terms of what they look like.”
The dance department does not have a weight requirement for admission, nor does it periodically weigh those in the program, something that is done at some schools, John said.
“It’s barbaric in my opinion,” John said. “It’s all about ability. Getting in the program has everything to do with your ability as a dancer and your academic merit.”
In order to help students with body image, the department advocates wellness and works to keep students healthy by optimizing the body instead of making it look different, John said.
The TCU Counseling and Mental Health Center does not generate statistics on general body image issues on campus. However, it is a problem they see, Eric Wood, associate director of the center, wrote in an email.
Karla Lopez, first-year mechanical engineering major, said she has seen peers in college struggling with body image. Lopez said learning to appreciate one’s body is a process.
“There’s a point that you reach when you’re comfortable with yourself,” Lopez said. “We’re still learning, but I think one day we’ll get to a point where we’re just like ‘I’m doing so many great things, why should I care how I look?'”