By: Kaitlin Cruz
For most people, the first thoughts when hearing the word “health” relate to medicine, doctors, and science. At TEDxUNC Bodies: Being Human on February 27th, attendees heard from presenters who gave entirely different perspectives on what it is to be healthy and what “Being Human” truly means.
During the first half of the event, several speakers focused on how perception by society and the view of one’s self play major roles in mental health, and how that can transition into physical illness.
Kim Lan Grout, the founder of the Redefining Disabled Project, aims to shift the view of people living with disabilities away from one of pity and judgment. Stemming out of a game she plays with her young daughter, she challenged the audience to change their reflexive reactions and start making positive, creative ‘judgments’ – not only about the disabled, but also about strangers on the street. For the Project, Kim photographs and writes about individuals with disabilities. However, their disability is not the focus of her art. She highlights the person outside of disability: the international award winning dancer, not just someone with polio; a “sassy black woman,” not just someone in a wheelchair; a runner who doesn’t let her fibromyalgia stop her.
Dr. Stephanie Zerwas, from UNC’s Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, and Krystyna Hutchinson and Corrine Fisher, from the popular comedy podcast “Guys We F****d: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast,” gave presentations emphasizing how today’s society is affecting the mental and physical health of the population. Dr. Zerwas explained how social media is affecting body image and therefore related to eating disorders. She shined a light on how things like #bodygoals on pictures of friends or complete strangers lead to body comparison. People become hypercritical of their own image even though the photos are not well suited for comparison, citing an example of an Ebbinghaus (size-perception) illusion. Similarly, Krystyna and Corrine spoke on people relinquishing ownership of their bodies to others —parents, friends, romantic partners, the media and beauty industry. These parties may tell us what we should look like or what we should do, and although it may be out of care, they may not realize the effect their statements have on a person’s self-worth.
An Ebbinghaus illusion: the orange circles are the exact same size, but appear different due to comparison with the surrounding circles.
To read more about these and other speakers from the 2016 TEDxUNC event, visit www.tedxunc.com.