Celebrating HBCU homecoming: Managing social and body image comparisons

College is a time for coming into your own as a person and developing your path in life. For many it is the first time away from family and serves as a temporary home.  Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) are known to have a family-oriented atmosphere and provide a sense of community and respite for Black students.  Between the time of enrollment and graduation many memories are formed. Even after college, memories continue to form especially in the form of social gatherings- particularly with homecoming. Homecoming at an HBCU is more than just wearing your school colors for the homecoming football game, it is about current students and alumni coming back “home” to celebrate the culture and social life of the university.

As with the preparation of any other social event the likelihood of social comparison is bound to arise. The need to compare your looks and achievements from the year prior or even against other classmates/colleagues can create unnecessary stress and anxiety. It can contribute to higher feelings of inadequacy and inner turmoil rather than serve as a true celebratory social function. Those in recovery from an eating disorder should be especially mindful of this as it could make space for the eating disorder to take hold of.

Tips on surviving homecoming

  • Focus on what it is all about- coming back “home” to a place where you are not a minority- most times it is the only time where you are in the majority.
  • Focus on how much growth you’ve noticed in yourself from year to year vs. what you lacked from year to year.
  • You may have to reintroduce yourself to old friends. For example if you were big into your looks back when you were in college but since being in recovery want to be less about that- you will need to set that tone to take the focus off of appearance.
  • Focus on the fun and be present in the moment rather than hyper focusing on what you are wearing—after you’ve put your outfit together, trust that you look amazing and keep the focus on the fun!

With COVID-19 in mind, this year’s HBCU homecomings will look a little different or not happen at all. Keeping these tips in mind will come in handy in the years to come when you will have the opportunity to be back “home” with your beloved friends and colleagues!

For more information about HBCU homecoming culture check out:

Rodgers, R. (2015). “It’s HBCU Classic Time!”: Origins and the Perseverance of Historically Black College and University Football Classic Games. In 926447460 726469826 B. Hawkins (Author), The athletic experience at historically Black colleges and universities: Past, present, and persistence (pp. 145-165). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

About Author

Kena Watson, LPA is a Master’s level psychologist and owner of Still Frames Therapy and Wellness, PLLC, based out of Charlotte, NC. She provides therapy for young adults and young adult couples and has a passion for working with women of color, especially college and early career professionals.

Her specialties include body image and eating disorders among people of color, anxiety and coping with life transitions particularly those affecting the Gen Z and Millennial demographic. She has 4 years of experience with working at Carolina House-an eating disorder treatment facility where she provided individual and family therapy as well as facilitated Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Body Image, Self-Care and Media Awareness groups for patients. In addition to therapy, Kena also hosts private therapeutic vision board events that are geared to help individuals and couples connect with their values as they plan for their vision for the year.

Contact information: (919)-378-1720/ Email: kenawlpa@gmail.com, www.stillframeswellness.com, IG:  @still_frames_wellness

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