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

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Facts on How Young People are Seeing Their Bodies

Here are some interesting facts to help us see the vastness of the problem that we have with body image, please browse through other posts on this blog to see what suggested solutions are and to be inspired by what others are doing.

  • 42% of first, second and third grade girls want to lose weight. Collins, M. “Body figure perception and preferences among preadolescent children.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 10 (1991), pp 199-208.
  • 45% of boys and girls in grades three through six want to be thinner; 37% have already dieted; 7% score in the eating disorder range on a test of children’s eating habits. Maloney, MJ, McGuire, J. Daniels, Sr., and Specker, B. “Dieting behavior and eating attitudes in children,” Pediatrics 84 (1989) pp 482-487.
  • 46% of nine- to eleven-year-olds say they are sometimes or very often on diets. Gustafson-Larson, A. M., and Terry, R. D., “Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth grade children.” Journal of the American Dietetic Assoc. 92 (7)(1992), pp 818-822.
  • 70% of normal weight girls in high school feel fat and are on a diet. Ferron, C. “Body Image in adolescence in cross-cultural research” Adolescence 32 (1997), pp. 735-745.
  • During puberty, most girls’ bodies need to gain, on average, 10 inches and 40-50 pounds, including more body fat. Friedman, Sandra Susan. When Girls Feel Fat: Helping Girls Through Adolescence. Firefly Books, 2000.
  • Females need 17% body fat in order to menstruate for the first time and 22% to have regular cycles. Cooke, Kaz. Real Gorgeous: The Truth About Body and Beauty. Norton, 1996.
  • Over half of the females age 18-25 studied would prefer to be run over by a truck than to be fat, and two-thirds would choose to be mean or stupid rather than fat. Gaesser, Glenn A., PhD. Big Fat Lies: The truth about your weight and your health. Gurze Books, 2001.
  • A survey of college students found that they would prefer to marry an embezzler, drug user, shoplifter, or blind person than someone who is fat. Gaesser, Glenn A., PhD. Big Fat Lies: The truth about your weight and your health. Gurze Books, 2001.
  • Up to 35% of normal dieters will progress to pathological dieting and, of those, 20 to 25% will progress to partial or full-blown eating disorders. Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., and Estes, L.S., “The spectrum of eating disturbances,” Intl Journal of Eating Disorders 18 (3) (1995) pp. 209-219.
  • The death rate for eating disorders is 5 to 20%. American Psychiatric Association, “Practice Guidelines for Eating Disorders.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 150(2) (1993) pp. 212-228.
  • Americans spend $50 billion annually on diet products. Garner, David W., PhD, and Wooley, Susan C., PhD. “Confronting the Failure of Behavioral and Dietary Treatments for Obesity,” Clinical Psychological Review 11 (1991), pp. 729-780. $50 billion is more than the Gross National Product of more than half of all the nations in the world, including Ireland.

From the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, website,

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Faces of Beauty: Celebrate The Unique Beauty In All Of Us

I just discovered the blog Faces of Beauty and absolutely love it!  Please take a look at what she is doing; I’ve pulled a few pieces from her blog and posted them below.  I am so inspired by this because my hope for this blog Beauty Message was for women to take on the challenge of telling themselves they were beautiful for 10 days and then sharing the experience here.

Faces of Beauty is on a mission to celebrate the incredible and unique beauty in all of us.  It throws off the societal pressures to look a certain way and gives an opportunity to share what we love about ourselves.

The hope is that Faces of Beauty will help start a revolution of men, women, and children learning to love themselves just as they are!

Just take a (happy!) picture of yourself from the shoulders up and email it to Heather at heathersdish @ gmail [dot] com.  Make sure you include a little note (500 words or less) about what you love about yourself, what makes you beautiful, and/or your journey to learning to love yourself.  The photos will be posted one photo and paragraph each day under your first name.  Please let me know if you would like to be linked back to your blog/website if applicable!

AMBER is one of the people featured on her blog

That girl used to look in the mirror and all she saw were braces, freckles and flaws. Her legs too thick and her chest was too small. She had low self esteem, body issues and she was a late bloomer. She convinced herself that she weighed too much and wasn’t pretty enough. She didn’t think she was worthy and that showed. She treated herself poorly and let others treat her that way too.

That girl grew up and realized she didn’t always have to think like that, she didn’t have to be so hard on herself.  She began to think her freckles were cute that her and that her thick eye brows framed her face.  She embraced her flaws and began to love herself. And when that happened, that girl did bloom, and realized she was beautiful. The mirror and scale no longer defined her, she defined herself.

Now that girl blogs about her outfits and things that inspire her. She celebrates the things she thinks she thinks are beautiful, and now she can finally include herself in that list.

I now know I am beautiful. Inside and out.

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Helping Teen Girls Improve Their Body Image

This piece is by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS and she interviews Barb Steinberg, it was originally posted on PsychCentral.

Building a positive body image and secure sense of self is a process that I think we undergo our entire lives. I feel like I’m just starting to explore and discover myself. To get to the meat and potatoes of my personality, my likes and dislikes, my passions and quirks.

It’s of course even tougher for teens, who are just forming their identities and figuring out the world. Who are in the midst of trying to make friends, worrying about being popular, getting used to a changing body,  dealing with academic and other social pressures and attempting to make sense of an often contradictory and damaging media.

As a teen, you might feel very confused. As a parent, you might feel even more so.

So I hope today’s interview will shed some light on helping your teen girl build a healthy image, and if you’re a teen, I hope you walk away with some insight, too.

Without further ado, I’m pleased to present my interview with Barb Steinberg, a licensed clinical social worker who coaches teen girls and their parents on how to help girls build a healthy and confident self-image and body image.

Below, she talks about the unique concerns facing teens today and how they can improve their body image.

Q: Your mission is “To connect with girls and women in such a way that by being seen and heard they are more true to themselves.” I think feeling like you aren’t being seen or heard also shapes one’s body image – as does not knowing who you are. What are some practical strategies for readers to be true to themselves and to be seen and heard?

A: Because I work with teen girls, I naturally work with the adults in their lives as well on how to assist girls in developing a healthy self-image. Teen girls are in the process of creating their image of themselves. They look outside of themselves, more than within for the most part, to decide who they are, and how they view themselves and their bodies.

It is inherent in all of us to have the desire to be seen and heard. If we know this about ourselves, we can seek out people in our lives that will offer this kind of connection to us. When I say that we all have the desire to be seen and heard, I mean on a much deeper level than just how our body looks, the clothes we wear, the makeup we use, etc. Although those things are fun to look at and fun expressions of our personalities, they are not who we are.

On a deeper level, we all want to be really seen. We want to be witnessed. We want to know that we are important enough for someone to stop what they are doing, to focus their eyes on ours and that the words coming out of our mouths are interesting and profound enough to be listened to just because we spoke them, nothing more.

When we feel that we have been seen and heard, that our soul has been acknowledged, there is less of a need to create a false sense of self – through the use of our bodies – to get attention, to get validation, to be desired.

Q: You’ve worked with adolescents for over 20 years. Have the issues facing teens today changed throughout the years? If so, what do you think has caused the shift?

A: I think the needs of adolescents have remained the same – to put it simply, the need for connection. However the issues facing teens today, although similar to the issues of teens for generations, have intensified and the main culprit for that, in my opinion, is technology.

Technology certainly has many positives but the downside is the intensity with which our teen girls have access to information and images that may be beyond their level of comprehension and may be filling their heads with unrealistic expectations about who they should be.

Technology has also caused a shift in the type and level of connection among humans. So in many cases our teens and parents are lacking in intimate communication and connection because there is a TV or computer on or a cell phone in hand. This lack of connection most certainly impacts our teens in a negative way.

Q: How do you help teens improve their body image issues?

A: The first thing is to introduce them to the idea that they are not their bodies. They have a body, but they are not their bodies. They are much more than that.

I help them acknowledge and name all the different aspects of themselves that make up the very special and unique person they are. This is done repeatedly in one form or another because we are changing beliefs and beliefs are entrenched – beliefs are just thoughts that we have thought repeatedly. So we need to help teens think new thoughts enough times they that begin to believe them.

I use a variety of tools/processes in my workshops and coaching practice to help teen girls be kinder to themselves and their bodies.

  1. We make goals of having “fat talk” free days. I challenge them to go one day without saying one negative thing about their bodies and then we set goals to increase the number of days. I encourage them to extend the challenge to their peer group so they get support and in turn we change the lives of many girls, rather than just one.
  2. I encourage mirror-free days – to give them a break from the incessant looking in the mirror to see if they are good enough. The message to be sent with this is – you are good enough even with a crappy hair day, or smudged eye shadow or a hole in your shirt. Why continue to put yourself in front of the mirror if the result is feeling badly? Be kind to yourself – take a break from the mirror if it helps you to feel better.
  3. Similarly, I encourage being scale free – removing the scale, the daily weighing of oneself. If you start your day by weighing yourself and you instantly feel badly because of the number you see, why are you torturing yourself? How your clothes fit give you all the information that you need. There is no need to continue to do things (i.e., scale usage) if it makes you feel worse about yourself. That is being repeatedly unkind to yourself and your body.
  4. When girls say something negative about themselves, I ask them if they would make that comment to their best girl friend. Of course, they say “no.” I encourage girls to speak to themselves like they would speak to someone they liked – to learn to be a friend to themselves. This is a skill to be practiced for a lifetime.
  5. I have girls make a list of all the things they are grateful for about their bodies – my legs can walk, my hands can write or carry things, my mouth can taste, my eyes can see, etc. Giving them a different viewpoint about what is right about their bodies, rather than what is wrong.
  6. I encourage girls to have a get together and have them sit in a circle. They will go around with each girl sharing one thing she likes about her body. They will keep going until they run out of things to say. They will be surprised at how long they can do this and how great they feel when they are done. Variations: They can also keep going around and say things they like about themselves on the inside. They can have one girl in the “hot seat” and each girl in the circle will say one thing they like about her on the outside and on the inside. This is to lessen the feelings of competition among girls and give them practice in both giving sincere compliments and receiving them.

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

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The Ugly Side of Beauty Makeover Reality Shows

I was driving my car the other day and listening to a local public talk radio station.  On the show, Snap Judgment, Rebecca Hertz was sharing her experience of working on a reality TV show in which the women went through dramatic plastic surgery to be attractive.  The show claimed to be improving the womens self esteem their transforming them on the outside.  But is that possible?  Does looking great on the outside transform someone to feeling great on the inside?  It reminds me of the article we posted The Swan Who Thinks Like An Ugly Duckling, our negative self talk often continues.  I do not believe reality shows like this one help women.  I wanted to share this piece because it does what the reality show did not in that it shares what the experience was really like.  It also points out how our environment changes how we think, and women surrounded by plastic surgery begin obsessing over pieces of themselves.  Please take a few minutes to click on the link and then listen to the segment “Only Volunteers”.

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Voting is Beautiful

As women I think it is critical that we exercise our right to vote because we fought so hard to obtain that right.  I can not imagine living in a society in which I did not have basic rights such as voting. Yet we have had the right in the US for less than 100 years.  I write/ organize this blog to support women and girls in building their self confidence.  I focus on the issue of beauty because it has so much power over us and can also be a place of power.  I am grateful for how far we have come, that I as a feminist do not have to worry about basic rights for women in this country.  It is my responsibility as a woman to honor all the women before me who did not have equal opportunities by voting today.  Please honor all the beautiful women that fought for our right to vote by voting today.

Here is a piece on women’s suffrage from

On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once. But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.


The Abolitionists and the Suffragists

The campaign for women’s suffrage began in earnest in the decades before the Civil War. During the 1820s and 30s, most states had extended the franchise to all white men, regardless of how much money or property they had. At the same time, all sorts of reform groups were proliferating across the United States–temperance clubs, religious movements and moral-reform societies, anti-slavery organizations–and in many of these, women played a prominent role. Meanwhile, many American women were beginning to chafe against what historians have called the “Cult of True Womanhood”: that is, the idea that the only “true” woman was a pious, submissive wife and mother concerned exclusively with home and family. Put together, all of these contributed to a new way of thinking about what it meant to be a woman and a citizen in the United States.

In 1848, a group of abolitionist activists–mostly women, but some men–gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the problem of women’s rights. (They were invited there by the reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.) Most of the delegates agreed: American women were autonomous individuals who deserved their own political identities. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” proclaimed the Declaration of Sentiments that the delegates produced, “that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What this meant, among other things, was that they believed women should have the right to vote.

“This Hour Belongs to the Negro”

During the 1850s, the women’s rights movement gathered steam, but lost momentum when the Civil War began. Almost immediately after the war ended, the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution raised familiar questions of suffrage and citizenship. (The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, extends the Constitution’s protection to all citizens–and defines “citizens” as “male”; the 15th, ratified in 1870, guarantees black men the right to vote.)

Some woman-suffrage advocates, among them Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, believed that this was their chance to push lawmakers for truly universal suffrage. As a result, they refused to support the 15th Amendment and even allied with racist Southerners who argued that white women’s votes could be used to neutralize those cast by African-Americans. In 1869, this faction formed a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association and began to fight for a universal-suffrage amendment to the federal Constitution.

Others argued that it was unfair to endanger black enfranchisement by tying it to the markedly less popular campaign for female suffrage. This pro-15th-Amendment faction formed a group called the American Woman Suffrage Association and fought for the franchise on a state-by-state basis.

The Progressive Campaign for Suffrage

This animosity eventually faded, and in 1890 the two groups merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the organization’s first president.) By then, the suffragists’ approach had changed. Instead of arguing that women deserved the same rights and responsibilities as men because women and men were “created equal,” the new generation of activists argued that women deserved the vote because they were different from men. They could make their domesticity into a political virtue, using the franchise to create a purer, more moral “maternal commonwealth.”

This argument served many political agendas: Temperance advocates, for instance, wanted women to have the vote because they thought it would mobilize an enormous voting bloc on behalf of their cause, and many middle-class white people were swayed once again by the argument that the enfranchisement of white women would “ensure immediate and durable white supremacy, honestly attained.”

Winning the Vote at Last

Starting in 1910, some states in the West began to extend the vote to women for the first time in almost 20 years. (Idaho and Utah had given women the right to vote at the end of the 19th century.) Still, the more established Southern and Eastern states resisted. In 1916, NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveiled what she called a “Winning Plan” to get the vote at last: a blitz campaign that mobilized state and local suffrage organizations all over the country, with special focus on those recalcitrant regions. (Meanwhile, a splinter group called the National Women’s Party focused on more radical, militant tactics–hunger strikes and White House pickets, for instance–aimed at winning dramatic publicity for their cause.)

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Tuesdays are Now No Make-Up Day for Teens in Texas

This article was originally by Shirley Jinkins of Star-Telegram.  It has since become international news.  What these girls are doing is truly beautiful  and powerful.  It is inspiring to see the attention this story is getting.  We at Beauty Message plan to connect with these girls and help them grow their project into other schools.

On Tuesdays, about 180 girls at Colleyville Heritage High School leave their lipstick and eye shadow at home, attending classes with clean faces and fresh attitudes.

They also wear matching T-shirts that read, “Redefining Beautiful, One Girl at a Time.”

Redefining Beautiful is a new student club meant to empower girls to resist stereotypes based on appearance.Samantha Gibbs, Lauren Gilby, Nina Smith, Caroline Tessler, Emily Gates and Laura Kelly came up with the idea during the summer.

“We’re not against wearing makeup,” said Nina, 16, a junior. “We’re really against girls feeling like it’s a shell to hide in.”

The girls got the general idea from a website,, and decided to adapt the positive messages to a program that would fit at Colleyville Heritage. The website encourages teen girls to share their stories and to post anonymous encouraging messages in public places for other women and girls to find.

The friends recruited faculty sponsor Suzanne McGahey, made sure that their club met the criteria for a school-sanctioned organization and began signing up members shortly after classes started in August.

Six more of their friends joined them as charter members.

“We had more than 170 girls signed up within three or four weeks,” McGahey said. “I don’t know what they hit on, but it obviously made an impression.”

Bill Gibbs, Samantha’s father, said he was shocked at how quickly the club caught on.

“We ordered 25 shirts at first, and now there are 183 girls signed up,” Gibbs said.

The girls say they expected maybe 40 girls to join.

“It was awkward the first couple of Tuesdays when there were just 12 of us,” said Caroline, a 17-year-old senior. “People would ask, ‘What are you doing?'”

Many girls have joined the cause, they say, but not all of them can kick the makeup habit.

“There have been a couple of girls we’ve asked to join that have said, ‘I don’t think I could do that,'” said Emily, 17, a senior. “It’s encouraged me to not worry about makeup on other days besides Tuesdays.”

The idea is spreading. Students at Grapevine High School are also interested in forming their own Redefining Beautiful club, and Southlake girls have expressed interest.

Even the guys at Colleyville Heritage are on board, with 20 boys forming a support group.

“That’s all we’re trying to prove — that girls can be just as confident with or without makeup,” said Lauren, also 17 and a senior.

Students plan to embrace women- and child-oriented service projects, including a Thanksgiving food drive and clothing drive for Christmas.

“It’s wanting to share our story that no matter what has happened to you, you’re beautiful and you should love yourself,” Caroline said.

Redefining Beautiful members include classroom leaders, athletes and quieter types.

“We try to get the young girls to know that beauty is more about who you are than what you wear to school,” McGahey said.

School counselor Robin Davis said the negative effects of marketing and entertainment on girls and women are seen all too often.

“It’s the way our culture is; image and what you look like, what you wear,” Davis said. “It contributes to the incidence of teens with eating disorders and other ways of changing their appearance, whether it be tanning or makeup.”

No one associated with Redefining Beautiful has encountered negative comments from students, staff or parents, McGahey said.

Davis, an early fan of the group, wears her own Redefining Beautiful shirt Tuesdays and goes easy on makeup.

Gibbs is proud of his daughter and her friends.

“I think it’s good for their self-esteem because they’re focused on what’s most important instead of the superficial,” he said. “They were able to start something and make it work, and do something good with it. They’re making a positive difference.”

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