Self-Esteem Building and Empowerment in Teen Girls: Why It’s Important!

For many, it has become cliché to talk about self-empowerment and high self-esteem in teen girls. Apart from that, emphasizing the attainment of these qualities has become a lucrative marketing platform for many corporations. Businesses use the message of being a self-empowered girl as a backdrop for selling toiletries, and personal care items from tampons to razors, to birth control.

While we may dismiss these efforts as convenient marketing ploys, there are real reasons, as parents, mental health professionals, and policymakers to be concerned with the issue of low self-esteem in teen girls. Lowered academic achievement, mental health problems, and relationship issues are often times tied to low self-esteem.

AccorTeen girl stemding to an extensive OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Report, the ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Attitude, Behavior, Confidence (March 2015), conducted internationally and here in the United States “a strong correlation exists between girls’ confidence and academic success in particular in Math and Sciences.”  This study and others show that girls with lowered self-esteem are not living up to their full potential academically.  This will have lasting adverse effects on the future lifelong earnings of girls, since economic data predict that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields will command higher incomes than most.

As far as mental health goes, I see teen girls for a range of issues in therapy from depression, anxiety, peer-conflict, family relationships issues, risky sexual and cyber-sexual behaviors, suicidal ideation, academic issues, sexual identity, and substance abuse issues. My years of experience of working with teen girls and being a mother of a teen girl I cannot help but notice that all these conditions inevitability have a contributing or resulting component related to self-esteem challenges. Therefore, in addition to addressing the presenting problem, I work with parents and the teen in exploring and developing goals around enhancing self-esteem.

In our current culture, many teen girls feel they are constantly under a microscope. Comparisons with ubiquitous images of perfection, presented in traditional media (TV & magazines), and in the everywhere, ever present social media, along with normal teenage insecurities, can lead girls to “beat-up” on themselves more than adults or parents realize. Girls will forcibly express to me that they hate parts of their bodies, like their thighs, lips, their smiles, or even dislike their personalities, with no apparent evidence of why they should feel this way. The internal pressure they place upon themselves and external pressures to live up to artificially created images in the era of airbrushing, contouring and the like become overwhelming for some teen girls leading to or exacerbating already present mental and emotional distress. Hooray for performers like Megan Trainor, who recently took down a video post after the company producing it, air-brushed her waist to an absurdly unrealistic size.

Relationships can become strained between the teen experiencing lowered self-esteem and those around her. In some instances, the teen may isolate themselves and not want to interact with others, parents, or friends. Additionally, the teen may develop a distorted view of friendships seeing these as a further threat to her self-worth or self-image as she may always be comparing herself to her peers. Teens can become defiant to redirection or influence from well-meaning adults if they already feel disempowered and not valued.

Tackling this problem on several fronts can go a long way to increasing awareness and developing systematic efforts to address it. First promoting further collaboration of mental health professionals trained in this area with large systems such as education and workplaces will be helpful. Second assisting teen girls in developing positive self -messages, teaching assertiveness skills (vs. aggressive or passive responses), giving parents and loved one’s practical support skills, and valuing teen girls for who they are vs. who others think they should be are a start to enhancing self-esteem. Finally, empowering girls through our collective messages, letting them know they can and deserve to be/ achieve whatever their dreams are, will go a long way to reducing many mental health problems, improving academic outcomes, and enhancing a teen girl’s relational health, both with herself and others.

Feel free to contact me if you have a teen girl struggling with self-esteem issues, or you may register your teen for the upcoming Be Bold- Teen Girls Summer Self-Esteem and Empowerment Workshop

 

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Benefits to a Disagreement? 5 Tips to Effective Disagree [Part 2]

This is Part 2 of the ‘Benefits to a Disagreement’ post – to see part one, click here. We’ll continue with the third tip on having effective disagreements.

3. Slow down the pace of your words and delivery

Many arguments can be hijacked if an off-the-cuff, rapid, and sometimes thoughtless, comment was made. One way to slow down is to pay attention to your breathing. Is it rapid, shallow or are you holding your breath?

A mindfulness breathing technique called Lazy 8 Breathing is helpful in staying present and delaying reactivity. Imagine an 8 sideways and breathe in and out as you trace the 8 in your mind, giving equal time to each circle on the 8.

In a workshop I gave recently one young man found that this worked well for him, he excitedly shared that this worked for him and that he would use this instead of arguing then leaving the house for hours, which caused even more problems. Instead, he believed he could use this to cool down and remain at home.

There are many mindfulness resources on the web. Find one that works the best for you.

4. Try to focus on solutions rather than focusing the problem93e4a1203e0e8e01a33b617daaacccf1b927d167-634x422

Many couples make the error of repeatedly pointing out what’s wrong or how much they disagree, versus putting an equal or greater amount of energy how they could solve the issue or what they could do differently. Solutions may take the form of enhanced collaboration, compromising, learning new strategies to address the issues, or seeking outside help. Be open to possibility versus how bad the problem is.

5. Stick to the subject at hand without veering off into past or other related or even unrelated issues

Commonly couples complicate and confound the present issue by bringing up old hurts, old disagreements or past problems. This leads to a never ending cycle, as existing disagreements gets buried in old disagreements.

A great rule of thumb is to understand that new problems cannot be handled effectively in the context of old unsolved problems. Again, this leads to a pile up of issues, which can get overwhelming and thus never gets resolved. When disagreements get convoluted couples end up not even knowing where they started, where they’re going and what exactly they’re trying to achieve.

Try to maintain clarity and work to resolve the current issue successfully. Then set a mutually agreed upon time to revisit old issues slowly if necessary. You may find that you feel more confident and have better tools making it easier to address old issues.

I hope you will work to incorporate these techniques the next time a disagreement or an argument arises. Remember sometimes disagreements can be viewed as an opportunity to learn new ways of being and responding. Keep in mind, however, if you are experiencing repeatedly severe arguments, this is potentially an abusive situation and you should safely seek professional help.

I would love to hear your feedback. You can email feedback@simpletherapynow.com. If you’re experiencing difficulties with your partner and working through these tips doesn’t help enough, it may be time to get outside help. Contact me to have a free 10-minute consultation.

Stay tuned for my next 5 tips for reducing the potential destructive nature of arguments and rather how to gain the benefits.

Volunteering: The Happiness Effect

I came across a great article on the health benefits of volunteering and I wanted to share it with you. The information provided below was taken from this article on HelpGuide.org.

Volunteering: The happiness effect

Helping others kindles happiness, as many studies have demonstrated. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine. Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt very happy—a hike in happiness comparable to having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000, say the researchers. Giving time to religious organizations had the greatest impact.

Adapted from Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publication

The article also shares some of the health benefits of volunteering. Here are some reasons why volunteering is good for your mind and body:

  • Volunteering increases self-confidence. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
  • Volunteering combats depression. Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.
  • Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy Photo by Rachel Feierman

Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy Photo by Rachel Feierman

The full article shares a lot more benefits so be sure to check it out and if you’d like more information, you can take a look at the results of this research done by the Corporation for National and Community Service on the health benefits of volunteering.

Coming in February! PREPARE/ENRICH Premarital Counseling Classes and Individual Sessions

I have been working with couples and families for eight years, and now I am pleased to announce I am a certified facilitator for the PREPARE/ENRICH Program. Starting in February, I will be offering premarital counseling classes and individual sessions based on this program. Contact me as early as possible (contact form at the bottom of this page) to reserve your spot or book your session!

About PREPARE/ENRICH

prepare-enrich

PREPARE/ENRICH is a customized couple assessment completed online that identifies a couple’s strength and growth areas. It is one of the most widely used programs for premarital counseling and premarital education. It is also used for marriage counseling, marriage enrichment, and dating couples considering engagement. Based on a couple’s assessment results, a trained facilitator provides 4-8 feedback sessions in which the facilitator helps the couple discuss and understand their results as they are taught proven relationship skills.

Goals of PREPARE/ENRICH

The program helps couples:

  • Explore strength and growth areas
  • Strengthen communication skills
  • Identify and manage major stressors
  • Resolve conflict using the Ten Step Model
  • Develop a more balanced relationship
  • Explore family of origin issues
  • Discuss financial planning and budgeting
  • Establish personal, couple and family goals
  • Understand and appreciate personality differences

Over 3 Million Couples Empowered Through PREPARE/ENRICH!

Over the last 30 years, the PREPARE/ENRICH relationship assessment has empowered and energized more than 3 million couples. We’re the #1 relationship inventory and couples assessment tool.

For more information on the PREPARE/ENRICH Program, please check out their website at www.prepare-enrich.com 

Benefits to a Disagreement? 5 Tips to Effectively Disagree [Part 1]

One of the things we can be sure of is that we will experience disagreements in our relationships with partners or spouses at one time or another. This may lead to arguments of some sort, whether, mild or severe. An argument can be considered severe or approaching severe, when actions such as yelling, screaming, use of demeaning or disrespectful words and/or body language takes place, all of which will most often result in hurting each other deeply, rupturing or damaging relationship without seeming hope of repair, and causing serious emotional or mental harm to each individual.

So are there any benefits to be gained from having a disagreement when we know there is the potential for an argument?  Learning to handle a disagreement or an argument effectively can lead to positive results, such as discovering new ways to cooperate, acquiring previously unknown problem solving skills, increased opportunities to view a problem differently, learning more effective ways to communicate, while hopefully stemming the possibility of a severe argument.

How can we gain the benefits of a disagreement and reduce its potential destructive nature? Here are 5 tips and techniques that might help:

1. Recognize your stress style of communication early on

In most cases when a disagreement arises we begin to feel strained or pressured. This may lead us fall into a specific pattern of communication in order to relieve those stressful feelings.

According to Virgina Satir, developer of the humanistic approach in family systems therapy, we generally have four(4) styles of ineffective communication; they are the Blamer, Placater, Computer or Distractor. Each is style is unproductive, with the Blamer cancelling out the feelings of others, the Placater cancelling out their own feelings, the Computer or super logical is unable or unwilling to understand another’s feelings, rather focusing solely on the facts, while the Distractor never addresses the issues.

The goal instead is to work toward being a Leveler. As the name implies. this means shifting your communication style in which your actions, feelings and language are appropriate to the situation in order to promote harmony and understanding. The next time you find yourself in a disagreement or an argument, observe your stress style of communication and see if you can work to adjust it.  Note the difference and any resulting benefits.

2. Consider the concepts of honor and respect

Sounds simple but generally overlooked. I like to encourage clients, in the midst of a disagreement or upset, to note if their tone of voice, language used, or body language, is considerate and dignifying of their mate.  Are you rolling your eyes, quietly shaking your head disapprovingly, making huffing sounds, pointing your finger, leaning forward in a threatening manner, using harsh or critical language, interrupting or even finishing the other person’s sentences? All of these actions are disrespectful, and dishonoring, of the other individual.

Disrespect from one individual tends to invite disrespect in one form or another from the other party, which may include the same behaviors, or ways of getting even or coping, such as isolating or giving the cold shoulder.

Once in working with an elderly couple, the wife’s main complaint was that her husband cut her off constantly when she would speak. This had happened for many years. It slowly tore at their relationship, to the point that the wife was about ready to divorce her husband.

Although there were other issues, just practicing allowing his wife to speak during sessions had many positive effects. Physically, the wife’s appearance began dramatically to improve, as she became more empowered, and felt more respected. Space opened for the couple to address other issues affecting the relationship. One small change in communicating respectfully had a huge effect on their marriage.

Check back next week for tips 3-5! Connect with Simple Therapy Now on Facebook and be tune in to the Soulful Healing radio show with host Janice Clarke on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 3pm EST on http://www.wjfp.com or 91.1 WJFP to hear more of my thoughts on relationships.

Turning the Holiday Blues into the Holiday Yays!

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Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

The holidays are a time when it is expected that families, friends and loved ones plan for time together.  Many of us anticipate having time off from work, kids look forward to vacations and relatives visit from other states or countries. Store displays shout joy, excess, festivities. Yet research shows that this time of the year can spur increased anxiety, depression and holiday blues. There are some who suffer from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder which can peak in the winter months.

Mental health professionals agree that this can be a tenuous time for many, especially if you are in some kind of transition such as a divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of your home, the empty nest, loss of your mother country, unemployment or the even the memories of such losses. Here are some tips that you may consider to help yourself if you experience feelings of loss or disconnection.

Start by asking “How can I honor myself during this time of the year?  What are some things that I am truly passionate about?” For example, do you like to cook, dance, are you artistic? Do you enjoy nature, reading books, going to art movies or movies in general, a museum, or historic homes, or do you feel compassionate towards the elderly or children, or are animals your passion, or are you spiritually inclined?

Next, consider which of these passions you or your family could explore more fully that would bring you a sense of connection, reward, contentment or inner joy. There are many local organizations that offer classes and groups that you can participate in at this time of year. A small investment in time can help you find reasonably priced or even free activities, at your local library, community center, gardening center, a local park and recreation center or local church.

Many on-line resources exist such as Meet-Up Groups (www.meetup.com) based in your area focused on specific activities, country of origin or stage of life.  Other on-line resources if in Broward county,  Volunteer Broward (www.handsonbroward.org) or nationwide All For Good (www.allforgood.org) recently launched by Google, or Volunteer Match (www.volunteermatch.org) which helps you match your passions, gifts and talents with needy organizations in your community.

Finally, if you find that you would like to honor the memory of loved one who has passed consider participating in an activity that they would have loved or wanted to learn. This may bring you comfort and cheer knowing that you are honoring their passions.

Think of this upcoming holiday as a time of great time for giving not just to others but to you.  Follow this link for more resources and ideas available locally www.simpletherapynow.com

(This is reposted from the Bayview Therapeutic Services blog at bayviewtherapy.com)