Body Image & Empowering Your Daughters

This piece is by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS and is the second part of her interview with Barb Steinberg, it was originally posted on PsychCentral.

Below, Barb talks more about body image and offers fantastic insight on how parents can help empower their daughters. Her wise words on finding happiness in everyday moments particularly struck me.

She also raises thought-provoking questions that parents can ask themselves about their own unrealistic expectations and definitions of beauty.

And if you’re a teen, I think you can glean lots of great information from Barb’s answers.

Q: What are parents’ top concerns about parenting teens when it comes to self-esteem and body image issues?

A: Studies have shown, girls’ self-esteem begins to drop at the edge of adolescence and continues to drop through college. It can be tough for parents. They want the best for their daughters. They want them to be successful and happy.

In our society, thinness and beauty are one in the same and they are equated with success and happiness. So many parents find themselves wanting their girls to feel good about themselves but also wanting them to fit into the norm of the American thin body type.

Even though we know there are many sizes and shapes within what is considered healthy, parents may find themselves falling into the trap of having unrealistic expectations for their daughters with regard to their bodies.

Q: What kind of advice can you offer for parents about helping their teens through the above issues?

A: As parents, we have to check ourselves first. Ask self-reflective questions, such as: why is this such a hot topic to me? Why am I responding emotionally to this? Is my response more about me than about my daughter? Is there anything in my past around this topic that I need to look at?

We need to address how we define beauty in our family. Do I only point out the thin, traditionally beautiful women and compliment them? How do I speak about my own body in front of my kids? As a role model for my kids, how do I demonstrate health and self-love in my own life?

We want our girls to feel comfortable in their own skin. This can be a process. It may take time. We need to ask our girls how they feel about their bodies. They may feel better than we think they do.

Our goal is to help our girls  find ways to increase their comfort and positive body experiences – to help them to take the focus off of the external and bring it back to who they really are and what they have to offer the world. We need to remind them (and show them) that life doesn’t have to be hard. We are here to have fun!

Q: You lead a workshop on empowering girls. What are some ways that moms can empower their daughters?

A: Empowerment is about believing in ourselves, feeling that we have something unique to contribute, knowing that we can make our own decisions, understanding that no one has the right to make us doubt ourselves and trusting our instincts.

What Empowers Our Girls?

  1. Being active in group activities (physical and otherwise) – offers experiences of success/mastery, sense of community, exposure to other peer groups and different ideas
  2. Being charitable/helping others – a sense of purpose/contribution
  3. Having creative outlets – What is her passion? What does she love? What lights her up, makes her feel alive?
  4. Allowing for failure – through failing we develop powerful strengths, be willing to “mess up” in front of her – demonstrate resilience
  5. Resisting gender-role stereotyping
  6. Exploring the question, “Who Am I?”
  7. Identifying and having her own needs met
  8. Being in supportive relationships
  9. Having her achievements and her character acknowledged

I love the quote from Naomi Wolfe for mothers – “A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance vaccinates her daughter from low self-esteem.”

Q: You also teach girls and women about bringing more happiness into their everyday lives. How can we do that?

A: This is one of my favorite topics! Who doesn’t want more happiness in their lives?! There are so many ways to create more happiness. I’ll name a few. We think it is the big things that bring happiness – a wedding, a birth, a vacation to Spain, a new car, a new house or if you are a teen girl – getting an “A” on your math test, making captain of the soccer team, being asked to the prom, etc.

And those big things do make us happy, but how often do those happen? There is happiness in the little things. Become a “seeker of moments” – those times when you stop in your tracks and notice that you feel good – petting your soft, furry cat; the taste of your bubble gum lip gloss; a great song on the radio; sharing a smile with the Starbucks barista; noticing the beautiful sunset…it’s the little things accumulated that make for a happy day and a happy life. We just have to slow down and take notice. We have to look for the things that we like, the things that bring us happiness. They are already there.

When we take notice in the moment or reflect at the end of our day with a gratitude journal by making a list of all the good things that we experienced, we need to say “thank you.”  It is when we feel gratitude that our happiness expands and if you really begin to take stock, you will notice that with the more gratitude that you feel, the more happy moments you experience. It’s just the way it works. I promise. Try it!

Set an intention for your day. What do you want your day to be like? What do you want to feel or experience? Do you want to be more patient? Do you want to be more productive? Do you want to slow down? Do you want to laugh more? Do you want to have fun? Setting your intention when you wake up guides your day. You get to choose how you want to feel every single minute. Why not choose to feel good?

Q: Anything else you’d like to add about your work, body image, self-confidence or a related topic?

A: Thank you for the opportunity to “talk” with your audience. These topics are close to my heart, so I appreciate that you have created a forum for us to share and grow. I hope that I will get a chance to interact directly with your readers through my workshops and teleclasses. They can find out about upcoming events by joining my mailing list on my website


Copyright (C) 2010 Psych Central. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission from and

About isabelrasmussen

Three generations of women in my family raised me until first grade, amongst them I was taught how wonderful it was to be a girl. In my tween years I was confronted with many of the social challenges other girls face and my self confidence dwindled. I think it was going from being so proud of being a girl to struggling so much as a girl and reading of all the struggles that women faced that motivated me throughout my life. I received her undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies at UW and then worked in domestic violence and as a community organizer in San Francisco. At 26 I took the opportunity to live in Guatemala for a year and West Africa for a summer. I returned to the US and in 2008 obtained a Green MBA at Dominican University in San Rafael.
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