Speaker and author Jennifer Tress addressed more than 60 members of the university community on self-esteem and body image on Tuesday, March 4.
“From a young age, we always center on looks – we tell children, ‘You’re so cute’ or ‘You look so pretty,’” Tress said. “We don’t talk enough about our kids’ accomplishments or interests in balance with other things. We use physical appearance as the easiest and laziest way to assess ourselves.”
Tress started the website YoureNotPrettyEnough.com in 2010, which features stories of individuals who have struggled with body image issues and educational resources to combat these problems.
She is currently on a tour of 100 colleges to speak about these issues.
Tress provided the audience with ways to eliminate negative self-talk. She suggested playing a favorite happy song, completing 30 minutes of exercise, taking a walk, doing something you like, forgiving yourself for mistakes, not hanging around negative people and limiting technology time.
“Facebook or Instagram tend to only show the good things that are happening in people’s lives,” she said. “If you look on those sites, you think, ‘Oh God, everyone’s living this amazing life. . . nobody’s posting those ‘I’m eating a pizza by myself’ moments.”
Tress also said physical appearance should not be the only lens by which one views him or herself.
“Your physical self is a very small part of who you are,” she said. “There are so many things that make you, you: your smarts, your humor, what you’re passionate about, how you give to your friends, how hard of a worker you are, what your interests are . . . there are so many things about you that people value.”
Stefano Fasulo, associate director of student center and campus life, said he reached out to Tress after seeing her on an episode of “Good Morning America.”
“Her message resonates amongst all different age levels – young [people], middle school, high school,” Fasulo said. “I just thought this was very fitting for our community to have her on campus and share her journey.”
Senior Robert Grant attended the event and thought Tress’ message was an important one for the university.
“Quinnipiac is a community and we should work together to try to boost the esteem of everyone,” Grant said. “We should help people realize that if they are feeling down, that anyone is here to talk to you and you’re not alone.”
Tress said she was inspired to create her website after her ex-husband told her he had an extramarital affair because Tress wasn’t pretty enough.
“The interesting part about that story is the other woman and I discovered we actually liked each other and then confronted him together,” Tress said. “But the part that really resonated with me was the ‘you’re not pretty enough’ thing.”
Tress said she was shocked to discover that thousands of people were finding the website after Googling questions like “Will I ever be pretty enough?” and “Am I pretty enough for anyone to love me?”
“It really saddened me to see all that,” she said. “And the more I saw it, the more I thought, ‘This is really a thing; it’s a constant in people’s lives. I then had a vision that my site could be a resource center for those people.”
Tress started working with universities and women’s centers in the Washington, D.C. area in 2010 to administer hundreds of surveys that centered on the feeling of not being pretty enough. She also gathered dozens of videos of people talking about that feeling and published this research on her website.
She then published her book “You’re Not Pretty Enough: Extraordinary Stories from an (Un)ordinary Life,” in 2013, which contained autobiographical stories.
“Storytelling is a really powerful way to build a community, especially online, because you can relate to somebody once you hear their story,” Tress said. “You [understand] ‘Oh, there’s hope for me, I’m not alone and I can get past this feeling too.’”
Fasulo said he thought the event went “very well” and was happy with the high level of audience participation.
“It’s important for that message [about self-esteem] to get out there, because self-esteem does not seek out gender, ethnicity, nationality or sexual orientation,” he said. “It’s a human characteristic and it’s important that, as a community, we foster that self-esteem together.”
Sophomore Taylor Brock heard about the event from her resident assistant.
“I thought it brought up a lot of things that you don’t normally think about,” Brock said.
Brock said it is important for students to stay positive when they struggle with self-esteem.
“Everybody has those days where it’s like ‘yeah, it is a fat day, I just don’t feel good about myself today,’” Brock said. “But like [Tress] said, just put on your favorite song, dance it out and try to stay positive, which I know is a hard thing to do sometimes.”