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Alumna kicks off Love Your Body Week at SMC

Meaghan Daly | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

To mark the beginning of Love Your Body Week (LYBW) at Saint Mary’s, Whitney Werner, creator of the BeYOUtiful self-esteem program, talked about body image Monday in Vander Vennet Theatre in the Student Center.

“If a person has one other person in their life to trust and be there for them, that can save them,” Werner said. “It is in small groups and small moments that big things can happen. The moments that you have with individual people can impact a person’s life.”

Werner, a 2010 alumna of the College, developed BeYOUtiful three years ago to promote confidence in middle-school girls in South Bend. The program allows the girls to interact in a discussion format in which leaders guide the conversations.

Sophomore Samantha Moorhead, co-chair of LYBW, said she thought Werner had a great story to tell Saint Mary’s.

“Seeing the impact the program can have on those girls is so important for such a vulnerable age group,” Moorhead said. “Learning about how I can help and sharing with Saint Mary’s girls how they can help is important, [Werner] has such a powerful story that translates over to why she is so passionate about it.”

Werner recounted her own experiences with bullying and self-harm.

“Many of our physical issues we hate about our bodies make us look to fix our internal problems by trying to ‘fix’ external features,” Werner said. “Healing starts with us. … We can only take people as far as we have been willing to go with ourselves. By being willing to take care of ourselves, we become more empowered to help others.”

Werner said one of the first steps to appreciating one’s body is to love who he or she is on the inside.

“When people know they matter, it’s amazing how you can impact their life,” she said.

Werner said low self-esteem affects how people treat others.

“You have to have pride in things that you do,” she said.

Werner suggested writing compliments on the bathroom mirror.

“Write the truths you need to hear about yourself and tell yourself that every day,” she said. “Give yourself compliments. It does not have to be seen as an arrogant thing.”

Women tend to compare their features to those thought to be ideal, Werner said. This makes women feel like they have failed.

“A big part of it is realizing comparing isn’t healthy. I’m me and that’s okay,” Werner said.

Junior Katherine Kautz said students at an all-women’s college like Saint Mary’s have a greater chance of comparing themselves to other women.

“It stresses the fact that you need to start with respecting and loving yourself first,” Kautz said.

Werner said women should focus on growing from the inside, out.

“If you work on yourself, it develops beauty from a whole new way and spills onto other people,” she said.