As a teenager, Mia Johnson struggled with her appearance.
“Like everyone else, I’ve always struggled with my personal body image and I had a lot of issues in high school with not eating,” Johnson, a senior studying psychology, says. “… I’m on my own personal body positive journey, so I want to bring that to everyone.”
As president of The Positivity Project, Johnson is able to accomplish her goal of sharing her discovery of self-love. The organization, founded in 2016, is devoted to encouraging confidence and acceptance.
“We promote body positivity and self-love,” she says. “Loving yourself at every step of your journey, whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain weight, making sure you’re taking a moment to be like, ‘Yeah, I like myself this way.’”
Johnson co-founded The Positivity Project after taking a course on disordered eating. A graduate student involved with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) encouraged her and a classmate to develop a support group for body positivity. She felt the problem was important to recognize.
With the help of The Positivity Project, Johnson and club members are able to celebrate and share their unique journeys to self-love with the OU community.
For the past two years, the organization participated in the NEDA Walk, a fundraiser to support eating disorder treatment and awareness. Participants gather at West State Street Park to listen to speakers, raise awareness and form a community of support.
“My favorite part of the NEDA walk was definitely seeing all the hard work, fundraising and dedication that went into [it] actually come together and help an important cause,” says vice president Jasmine Whittington, a sophomore studying early childhood education. “A lot of people worked really hard for it to happen and it was so rewarding seeing it come together and knowing that it really did make a difference.”
The club also co-sponsored Love Yourself Week, which took place Oct. 16-20 and included No Makeup Monday, an art exhibit, LGBTQ+ Dine-and Discuss, Scale Smashing and more.
Outside of scheduled events, The Positivity Project meets biweekly on Monday nights to share their individual struggles and support one another.
“It’s a really safe environment, and I felt that way from the beginning,” Whittington says. “That’s why I kept coming back, because we had deep, meaningful discussions, but I felt safe talking about it.”
Whittington says she struggled to appreciate her body growing up and felt like an outcast among her friends, partially because she is 5 feet 11 inches tall.
“I wasn’t very confident at all,” she says. “All my friends were like 5’2” and super cute and there was just me, like lanky and gross. So, when I got older, it became really important to me that I did love myself, and when I got here it was kind of my mission for the year to become comfortable with myself.”
Whittington says she is grateful to be immersed in a group of people who value self-love.
Communications Chair Taylor Bell, a junior studying psychology, says the club gives her confidence and reminds her not to put other people’s opinions above her own.
“In high school, I definitely wore a lot more makeup. And like, I’ll have my days where I just put on a bunch,” Bell says. “But then I don’t really feel like bad not wearing it now. I’ll wake up, my face will be red from washing it and I’ll just go to class and not think about it. Because what people say really doesn’t matter.”
At every meeting, the club designates a featured member of the week, who stands in the front of the room while the rest of the members write compliments on a chalkboard behind them. Bell says that is a mutually rewarding experience.
Though the club is on the smaller side, with a consistent group of six members, Johnson says she enjoys the intimate discussions. The laid-back environment creates a safe space for each member to share personal experiences.
“I like having a small group of people; we all just kind of hang out,” she says. “It’s kind of just like a regular Monday night with us.”
However, as a result of its active social media presence and flyers posted around campus, The Positivity Project is certainly not unknown to students.
“I have people come up to me all the time like, ‘Oh I saw your name on the flyer, you’re in The Positivity Project. What goes on?’” Bell says. “I’ve never been in another organization, so I guess I don’t have anything else to compare it to, but I feel like people don’t just come up to you on the street and ask. I guess I’m real proud of that.”
Though the club is currently all female, men are encouraged to come to meetings and engage in discussion.
“We are open to everyone joining,” Johnson says. “That’s my biggest thing, I want to have a representative group of people in our organization.”