I've written about my struggle to stay fit in college. Despite my best efforts, which I'll admit at times we're just mediocre efforts, there were still those inevitable pounds I gained when I moved away to live at college. The first semester hit hard with all the eating out, drinking, and even all you can eat dining halls. I didn't realize what an impact it was making on my body and therefore my self-esteem. I've always had a really great relationship with my body, food, and health. But by the time I came home for winter break, that confidence started to waver.

Going into the second semester I set my mind to change this, and going into summer I am definitely happier with where I'm at. As the end of the semester approached, I had to do a huge painting series for my final project, that was not only touching on what I'd learned in my first year of painting but the direction I want to go as an artist. I had been struggling to think of a way to incorporate all my thoughts and feelings into the series while finding a theme that I cared about and related to.

After weeks of thinking about it, I realized the concept wasn't going to be something I dreamed up one day, but a part of my life that I had to pour into these paintings. I wanted to channel these thoughts about body image and self-confidence or lack thereof into my work.

The series depicts a girl pensively looking in the mirror, both in baggy clothing and a little black dress, with a second figure looking over her shoulder, representing her subconscious. I spent more time in the studio than ever before working on these, not only because I was driven to make my work look great from a technical standpoint, but it was a topic I was passionate about. I used some reference photos of my friend for the pieces, but really it is more of a self-portrait.

Channeling these insecurities into my painting made me realize that we care so much about our bodies and working out for all the wrong reasons. Staying healthy is so important, but it's not so much about the number on the scale. It took going through these changes with my body to realize that you have to exercise to feel good and happy, and the results will come after that. I haven't felt in such a good place with my body in a while, and I also haven't felt so proud and connected to something I've made in a really long time, both of which I attribute to hard work paying off.