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.
Thanks so much, Barb, for your insight! Please stay tuned for part two tomorrow for more on body image, empowering girls and happiness!
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Last reviewed: 5 Oct 2010