When I first came to college, I was a bit of a pushover. I let my friends walk all over me in high school. That’s not to say I wasn’t a loud, effervescent young lady — but I wasn’t a strong one. I saw myself as someone people didn’t want to be around, specifically because I wasn’t a Perfect 10 by societal beauty standards. Now, I still don’t look like Kate Upton. I’m no Barbie doll but that doesn’t bother me the way it did a year ago. My first year at college was a hugely formative time in my life.
When I arrived at college with my wise-cracking, approval-seeking personality waving and my curly hair drawing attention at every turn, I was a deeply insecure person. At the time, I was a people pleaser with very few of my own original opinions. I tended to repeat whatever I had seen broadcasted on Facebook that week instead of coming up with my own stance on the culture I lived in. When I came back this fall with my feminism displayed in screen printing on my chest, and my curly hair still drawing the same amount of attention, I was much more comfortable in my skin. I attribute that newfound confidence and comfort to my strong-willed feminism.
The first year of college is a time to discover new outlooks and reinvent your old ones. It is the perfect time to become someone new. And that’s exactly what I did. Within the boundaries of my first year here at Concordia, I discovered body positivity and intersectional feminism and what it means to love unconditionally. In my first year, I learned to love myself through my daily escapades into the bowels of blogs “Everyday Feminism” and “Jezebel.” I learned to appreciate my body and my mind for what they are through the support of my Instagram followers and Buzzfeed videos. As I grew into my feminism and developed philosophies and ideologies that didn’t just mirror those of my parents, I grew into a stronger and more rounded person.
Now, as I strut around campus with my funky cardigans blowing in the Fargo-Moorhead wind, I see a lot of versions of me. I see a lot of Freshman Natalies scampering around campus in trendy clothes they’re not comfortable in. I see a lot of Freshman Natalies trying to find a place for themselves at parties and in DS. I see a lot of young people who don’t quite know who and what they are and I feel for them. I might seem a little biased but I firmly believe that feminism is the answer for all of these young and impressionable minds.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How could feminism have anything to do with the identity crisis that is my life?” Feminism is not just a force for social and legislative equality. Feminism is not just a club on campus. Feminism is a moral code that requires us to love all people, regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status or sexual orientation, equally — including ourselves. Feminism can help you with finding yourself by encouraging you to love yourself.
I’ve recently taken up a new torch within my feminism called “Body Positivity.” I’ve started rallying not for immediate congressional action but for personal reflection. I’ve started wearing the clothes that make me feel amazing and beautiful instead of the clothes that I think will make others like me more. I’ve started looking at my flabby stomach with love instead of disdain. I’ve started appreciating my body for all the things it does right: digestion, blood flow, general functionality — instead of being angry with it for what it’s not: thin, tall, hairless, tan. I think this manifesto of self-love has helped me to be a much healthier and more beautiful person. It has also transformed me from a weak, insecure try-hard, to a strong, opinionated feminist who needs no validation but her own.
I stand by self-love as the best discovery tool. By loving my body, I have learned so much about my mind. I urge you, my freshman friends and acquaintances, to get to know your body. Get to love your body. Gain your Freshman 15 and find a way to love all of the extra “you” you’ve gained. Once you’ve become comfortable in your own skin, go out and try new things. Live beyond the walls of your dorm and your lecture hall. Once you’ve learned to love your body, let feminism guide you on your expedition to find a new “you” you can love unconditionally. Find a “you” who loves everyone — regardless of size, shape or color, equally – including yourself.
Natalie Dulka is a sophomore English Writing and Theatre Art double major from Minneapolis, MN. She keeps herself occupied by holding the position of Chief Executive Officer of Feminism Club, being involved with the theater, and writing plays. Her passions include sarcasm, wool socks, and equality.