Progress from Imperfection: Making Room for Mistakes, Doubt and Risk Personally and Professionally

i-am-a-work-in-progress_bigstock-450x452Women (and many men too) are notorious for aiming for perfect. Whether it’s in parenthood, the workplace, our looks or the overall appearance that we have it all together, imperfections are painted over with a broad brush.

The result?

Low risk. Low reward.

Our lack of honesty with ourselves and others is hurting much more than it’s helping.

For any of us to move forward in any realm of life, there must be room to make mistakes. To take the risks. To swim in doubt. To be authentic and imperfect and unsure on our path to success. Living a photoshopped life grounded in reality show flawlessness and Facebook photo perfection does not lead to forward movement.

So here’s some food for thought.

  • When do you feel most connected with people? To truly connect, we must be real. Think about those friends, work buddies, clients or relatives in your life to whom you feel the closest. They know the real you, don’t they? The messy you. And it’s this raw honesty that allows the relationships to deepen. When we reveal our concerns, doubts and mistakes along with the strengths and accomplishments, you allow others to love you for who you are rather than who you project yourself to be. And the relationship authenticity can then go both ways.
  • When can you progress as a parent, professional, athlete or performer? It’s when you take risks and go beyond your comfort zone, isn’t it? When trying a new technique or going down a path you have not yet visited, it’s hard to be perfect. We must embrace ourselves as the learners we are so we can take risks without the baggage. Each time we learn—each time we make a mistake—we become stronger, more knowledgeable and ironically, more successful.
  • When can you figure out your next steps in life? It’s often when we provide room for doubt. If we continue to plug in the next move, the next job and the next conversation without providing space and time to figure out what we do and don’t want, we can be squelching our true, thought-out next steps. We must be able to ask ourselves, whether professionally or personally; “Am I happy with the direction I am going? Do I want to change my trajectory? Do I want to try something new? What do I truly want?” Doubt can be uncomfortable—but it’s a necessary vehicle for progress.

Life is not perfect. We must stop striving for perfection and instead, try for our best. Try for learning. Try for better, stronger, more nuanced and more open than yesterday. Life is messy, weird and wonderful. We make progress from imperfection. Letting go of perfect can feel like it’s shining high beams on our weaknesses but in actuality, it demonstrates our courage and strength.

Go for it!

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The Hidden Message Nobody is Discussing: Sports Illustrated, Cheryl Tiegs and Ashley Graham

cheryl-tiegs-si-cover-split-tease-today-160226_e6877114c73a7e752a8ccb6930d367f1-today-inline-largeA few days ago, social media was atwitter with comments about the new Sports Illustrated cover featuring plus-model Ashley Graham. Cheryl Tiegs, former SI swimsuit model had criticized the magazine for putting Ashley Graham on the cover. Tiegs, who is now 68 years old, said;

“I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 (inches)…That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it. No, I don’t think it’s healthy. Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”

People took sides. Some agreed, while others applauded Sports Illustrated and underscored that health can come in many sizes. But as the media storm showcased the groups that either supported or disputed Cheryl’s words, an unsaid truth laid buried beneath the surface. It was on my professional Facebook page, where we, too, were discussing the new Sports Illustrated model,  that this truth was beautifully stated by a long term personal friend of mine—and I’d like to share it with you:

“I feel like we’re missing the point. In allowing ourselves to get roped into a discussion about which women’s bodies are “healthy” enough to appear mostly naked in a magazine, we are perpetuating the institutionalisation of our own objectification and ensuring that it continues for our daughters’ generation. The fact that the field is widening so that a greater variety of women “get” to be photographed wet and on all fours is not something to celebrate. The day something as archaic as a “swimsuit issue” ceases to exist will be something to celebrate.” (S. Lang)

Yes. ^ THIS. ^

When I’m presenting to audiences on the ten media messages girls receive about themselves each day, objectification and sexualization are two of the most alarming problems that often lead people in the audience to call out in frustration. How is this still possible that women are looked at in the way—and, in fact, in cases such as this swimsuit issue, we argue and tweet and yell so that more women get to be treated in this manner?

Of course we a wider definition of “beautiful.” We want more size acceptance, less criticism, more breaking through glass ceilings and less marginalization. But is this argument—who is hot enough, thin enough, beautiful enough, healthy enough to be photographed wet and on all fours on the cover of Sports Illustrated—a magazine that typically celebrates athletes—the way to do it?

Perhaps this is the real conversation we are meant to have on social media. What do YOU think?

Evolution of Another Body Image Conversation with my Daughter

monsterhighMy daughter is rounding the corner to age seven in February and if there is one thing I’ve discovered in the time that I’ve been her mother, it’s that all “big talks” are really just a series of small conversations about big issues. Body image is no exception.

Since I talk about body image in many of my presentations and keynote addresses, it’s no surprise that this is a hot button issue for me. I want my daughter to feel confident AND also know how to discern negative messages that come to us in the smallest, most benign-seeming packages. Studies tell us that consistent exposure to images, videos and other media that show extremely thin, unrealistic depictions of girls and women, can have an adverse effect on the body image, self image, attitudes and feelings of girls (and boys as well!).

Many parents and caring adults (mentors, teachers, family members) who have contact with girls (and boys!) often ask me for examples of specific conversations I’ve had with my own children so they can see how to have one of these small conversations that can make a big difference. Of course, your own presence, interest and love will come out in your own words. As I often say, “be ready!” These conversations can sneak up on you. AND if you aren’t quite ready– just tell your child; “I want to think about my answer for a little bit because it’s important– and I will get back to  you later on today. OK?” Then, make sure to follow up! And, if you missed an opportunity or you wish you said something else– no worries! There is no expiration date on do-overs! We all need them. ?

Here’s how my conversation went with my own daughter yesterday and today:

T, age 6 3/4, looking at a toy catalog: Mommy? Why don’t you like Monster High Dolls?
Me: Well, I don’t like that all of the dolls have the same, very unrealistically thin body that nobody would ever have in real life. Also, they are extremely made-up and the outfits aren’t appropriate as they are very short and tight. I wish they looked and acted more like real girls who all look different–girls who have healthy bodies of all different shapes and sizes– with kind faces rather than all those mean scowls all the time.
Later that day…
T: I did realize one positive about Monster High Dolls, Mommy. They come in different colors.
Me: Yes, I like that too. Because we are all different colors, aren’t we?
This morning…
T: You know Mommy, you’re right. These Monster High Dolls have the skinniest legs that nobody could ever really have. They look weird and then they have these big feet in very high heels that you can’t do anything in ever. They should make them look more like real girls. ‘Cause that would make sense!

Bingo.

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Parents and Teachers: How to Talk to Children about the Paris Attacks

paris-attacks-2How to Talk to Kids about the Paris Attacks and Other Tragic Events

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Many of us stayed up late watching everything we could about the tragic Paris Attacks on Friday night. We waited to find out more on Saturday about how many lives were lost, if the perpetrators were all captured and how France and other nations were going to respond.

As a mother of a 5 and 6 year old, I kept the news off while they were in the room and remember running up to the TV to turn it off when a Sunday morning story about the death toll suddenly came on—that’s not the way I want them to find out. Still, I don’t have my head in the sand. it’s important to be prepared to discuss these tragic situations as children hear a great deal in school and from their friends. And with older children in late elementary school, middle school or high school, they likely have head about it already.

How should parents handle it when a large-scale tragedy occurs in the world such as the Paris Attacks?

  • You are the trusted source: If you have a feeling that your children will hear about the tragedy in school, talk to them about it as soon as possible. You can give them the information that is true, appropriate and helpful. Older children might want to learn more about who was involved in the attacks- and there are some websites that provide easy-to-understand information that you can read together or you can read and then discuss the points that you feel are necessary. For example there is this and this for explanations of more complicated facts.
  • Use age-appropriate language and information: Children don’t need to hear the gory details. Give them the information that they need to know in words that they would understand. You can be factual without being gruesome. It is important to set the tone and provide the facts instead of allowing someone else, who may not be correct or appropriate, to do it for you.
  • Allow emotions and fears to surface: Don’t dismiss your children’s fears or emotions. Rather, allow them to have a safe place to express them. If you are upset (as humans, of course we are!), you can talk about being sad or frustrated without going into full detail or matching their intensity. For example, you can say; “I am sad this happened to these people” or “I am frustrated that I can’t help.” In fact, it’s best for adults to talk to other adults about their own feelings rather than delving in deep with children who may not be fully equipped yet to understand.
  • Let them know they are safe: Children are often concerned with their own safety and the safety of their friends and family surrounding them. Make sure they know that events such as these are rare. Talk to them about the adults in this world who are doing what they can to keep the people safe. Discuss the helpers, the heroes and those who are taking action to create peace in this world.
  • Keep an open door: Many children will need more than one conversation to put their questions, fears and concerns to rest. Let your children know that you are available to talk to them if they have questions. You may not know all the answers, but you will do your best to find them out or explore them with your child. For older children, don’t assume that they fully know what’s going on or that you know what they are thinking or feeling. Ask them what they know and how they feel about it. If you feel that there is a better person for your children to talk to about this tragedy, be the bridge or the passageway to the right person so your children feel that their questions have been answered.
  • Honor the loss of life: Whether the tragedy was Sandy Hook, The Boston Marathon bombing or the Paris Attacks, find ways to honor those who were lost. This may be orchestrated through a moment of silence, a family donation or finding ways to help personally.
  • Understand that children all react differently: Some children will want to talk about what’s happening while others might clam up. Some will have lots of questions, while others might seem disinterested. All children react differently. Be aware of hidden signs that a child is upset. For example, sleeping more or having trouble sleeping, withdrawing from friends or wanting to spend more time with family, acting out with poor behavior or wanting to stay home from school. Be open if and when your children become open to talking about the Paris Attacks or tragic events like them.

The best thing we can do for our children is to give them the time, space and arena to discuss their feelings and questions. Just being there can be a comfort when tragedies like the Paris Attacks, the Boston bombing, Sandy Hook occur. And of course, as always, hug them tight and tell them that they are loved. Feeling safe and secure can go a long, long way.

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Dr. Robyn on GMA: Are Participation Trophies a Celebration of Mediocrity?

harrison_gma_trophies

Good Morning America came to my house last night to ask me about a hot button topic discussed this morning on the show.

http://abcnews.go.com/beta/Lifestyle/pittsburgh-steelers-james-harrison-back-sons-participation-trophies/story?id=33130650

gma_participationtrophies-300x225James Harrison, football star on the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one tough linebacker.  He also has drawn a hard line when it comes to parenting.  On Instagram this past weekend, he reported that his 2 sons received “participation trophies” and that he was returning them.

 

“While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy” (photo). “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best. Cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

Harrison used the hashtag #harrisonfamilyvalues to punctuate his point.

While many agreed with Harrison’s views, some also disagreed. Here’s what I think:

For some children who may have participation challenges due to social skills or shyness issues, a participation trophy can be a tangible way to encourage those children to participate more and celebrate their participation. For most other children, they don’t need participation trophies and can, in fact, learn important social skills and sportsmanship from winning and losing.

As parents and teachers, here are some important tips:

(1) Disconnect the term lose from loser: As parents, we need to help children learn how to be a gracious winner and, just as important, that even when you lose, it doesn’t make you a loser. When a child experiences a loss in competition, it can help to strengthen that child’s character because that child can see that there is always next time– always another chance– always more hard work s/he can put in to learning and growing.

(2) Use a loss as a lesson: Allow your children to lose! Remember, no loss has to beat you down– not in competition and not in life! What can you learn from the loss? How can you get better? What can you do differently next time? This conversation might not happen right away– but once the frustration of the loss dies down a bit, a conversation can be a wonderful way to turn a loss into a win. (See me talk about this more on another segment regarding losing and grit that aired on GMA here)

(3) Share your grit to glory stories: Grit, going after a goal with passion without letting obstacles get in the way, is a vital part of character development.  Show your children how grit helped you get through! When did you lose? How did you react? Parents and teachers can share their stories and what they learned from winning and losing. You might be surprised by how inspirational you can be!

Children are all different– and you know them best! The answer to this question regarding participation trophies is NOT about age or development but rather about what your personal child needs to thrive and take a step towards independence. For some, participating in itself is a win. For others, the bar needs to be set higher.

In the end, all people need to learn how to cope when they don’t win and once they do, that’s a win they can take with them for the rest of their lives.

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Can TopShop Ultra Thin Mannequins Affect Body Image of Girls & Women? Dr. Robyn Silverman on Good Morning America

I was interviewed for Good Morning America on Topshop’s decision to discontinue ordering ultra thin mannequins for their stores.

Note: I love doing these segments. However, due to the short length of the segment, my quotes were GMA_Berry_mannequins_size_800_400spliced for time-sake and the initial sentence didn’t exactly reflect how I feel about the possible effects of mannequin size on body image. Whoops! So let me clarify! I do not feel that exposure to thin mannequins leads to poor body image. I do feel that repeated exposure to very thin models, very thin mannequins and messaging about the merits of dieting and thinness can have effects on the body image of many girls and women (my original quote). You’ll see more on my view below!


ABC US News | World News

Can mannequin size have an effect on body image?

For some people, yes. Of course we all know that mannequins are not real. However, studies tell us that when girls and women are repeatedly exposed to very thin body standards in the media, on models or on mannequins, it can affect their body image, self esteem and eating practices—and interestingly, even their pension to buy.

The reality is that mannequins don’t just sell clothes. They inform beauty ideals, weight standards and fashion trends that tell people what they should aspire to in order to be considered beautiful and Read more

The Upside to Lying: Dr. Robyn Silverman Discusses on Good Morning America


ABC US News | World News

How about THIS for a new spin on lying? A new study suggests that kids with a good memory also happen to be good liars!

We all know that lying is pervasive in childhood. So perhaps it’s good for parents to know a marker for good liars is having good working memories—in particular, good verbal memories, which makes sense because they need to remember what they said and who they said it to so they can keep all their lies straight.

The new study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology shows that when the researchers from the University of Sheffield gathered more than 100 children, ages six and seven, and told them not to peek at the answers on the back of a card detailing a fictitious cartoon character, the best liars were revealed. Then researchers questioned the children, spotted the liars, and evaluated their ability to lie in the face of two questions that would catch them red-handed. The “best” liars told a whammy each time, while poor liars did it only once or not at all.

It takes mental effort to keep all the stories straight—so the researchers conclude that the liars may have better working memories and may even be “smarter.”

We explored a few key questions this morning on Good Morning America.GMA_childrenlying_800_400

So many parents would say they didn’t teach their children to lie, but rather that it seems like an innate behavior. So, where are they learning it and why do they do it?

Research has told us that 1 in 5 interactions are lies! Adults and children do it. Some people lie because it gets them out of trouble while others lie Read more

THAT moment in the bathroom with your daughter

wey_77b_mommykiss-225x300We all get that feeling that we are messing up our children sometimes. I do too. Often…if I’m being honest.

I look back to when we first took our daughter home from the hospital and remember my husband and I looking at each other and wondering how in the world they let us take her.  We had no idea what we were doing!

And there are days, with both our children, that we still feel the same way. Do you feel that way too sometimes?

But as much as we think we are messing up at times, it’s also very likely, we are doing something VERY right.  Never forget how powerful you are.  Our children are taking in our words.  They are watching our actions.  They are adopting our values. And it does make a difference.

Everyday, there are opportunities to shape our children.  Of course, it’s what we do overtime that makes a lasting impact.  And sometimes, we DO get it right. And sometimes, we even get a chance to realize it.

Last night– I had THAT MOMENT in the bathroom while brushing teeth with my daughter:

T, age 6: “Mommy; am I beautiful?”
Me: “Yes. When people are kind and full of character, it comes out their eyes and in what they do and it makes them beautiful. And people who are nasty all the time, even if they are pretty on the outside, are not beautiful.”
T: It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. It’s the inside that counts.”
Me: “That’s right, Baby. People focus too much on what they look like on the outside and not enough on who they are on the inside.”
T: “Yeah. Because it’s what’s in your heart that makes you beautiful.”
Me: “Yes, my Sweet. That’s exactly right. Are you learning about being beautiful on the inside at school?”
T: “No, Mommy. I learned it from you.”

They are listening. You are enough. And maybe, just maybe, we’re not messing up this parenting thing as much as we thought.

Carry on!
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Tips on Helping Teen Fans Deal with saying Goodbye to Zayn Malik from One Direction

zayn-450x327As you can imagine, I have been receiving calls and emails this morning from the press asking me to provide tips on “the loss of Zayn Malik” from One Direction.  At first glance, I thought he might have died and quickly looked up the story so I could comment effectively.  But he didn’t die– he is simply leaving the group to move in a different direction– one away from his One Direction life.  In fact, he declared that he wanted to live as a “normal 22 year old.”

Fans have reacted with everything from well wishes to anger to depression to extreme frustration and sadness.  Why?

Social media and reality shows allow fans to have an all-access pass to watching and experiencing the growth, hopes and successes of their favorite stars over time. These young celebrities start out just like their fans in many ways– unknown and hopeful.  Involved fans root for their favorite unknowns, cheer for them and even vote for them as they become a recognized entity and eventually, a star.  But rather than these stars feeling untouchable to fans, they feel more like friends and family members.

xfactorzayn-450x300Adding to what I view as the “reality effect,” music has an added benefit of creating and putting an indelible mark on our memories– providing a time stamp on important moments in our lives. It’s as if these stars are present in our lives, offering a comfort on bad days and a celebratory song on good ones.

zayn_malik-450x229So it’s not surprising that when Zayn Malik said his farewells to One Direction, many fans started grieving his loss as if he was walking out of their lives. It’s a break up for them, too. Fan watched him move from young hopeful to star from X-Factor to international recognition. And now he’s leaving.

While it may seem silly to many, parents and mentors can provide an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on as their devoted teens watch Zayn Malik move forward with his life.  Shrugging off your child’s feelings will not win you any awards– so be empathetic without matching their intensity. You may even remember and share how you felt about a musician when you were younger but know that without the internet, you didn’t get as close and share in the life of that band member like your child feels s/he did.

As we know, time heals all wounds and of course, devoted fans can remember the good times simply by turning on One Direction and dancing to their hearts content. That’s the great thing about music– you can listen to it just as you remember it, over and over.

And of course, devoted fans can still watch their favorite group move One Direction forward without Zayn Malik– a change, yes, but as many of us can attest, change can be good even if it’s different.

Fans can also cheer for Zayn as he continues to post about his life independent of One Direction.  They may even feel happy for him once the sting subsides– and as all pain does, this one will too.

So– bottom line. You may think it’s ridiculous but your devoted teen is really feeling pain and experiencing what they see as a real loss. Be gentle with them.  They’ll thank you for it.

Pros and Cons of Children in Sports: Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show

The Today Show brought me on today to kick off a series on children and sports along side football player, Greg Jennings!

What are some of the benefits that children gain from playing sports?

There are so many reasons why sports are great for kids, from the obvious physical reasons to learning social skills to lowering the probability of engaging in risky behavior like drug abuse. But one of my favorite benefits of sports and one I love to present about to children and adults—is that sports can help develop character and grit in children—teaching them to set goals, go after them, overcome barriers and showing them that if these kids dig deep, they have what it takes to achieve those goals.

There are so many pressures placed on the parents and the kids. If you want your child to be the best, you need to get the private coaches or you need to have them practice five days per week. At what point is enough, enough?

First, I think one of the key phrases we need to illuminate here is “if YOU want your child to be the best.” Children have to be as invested (or more) in their particular sport as their parents are or “enough is enough” is going to come way too quickly. Sports are about the children and the team, rather than the parents’ goals.

That aside, a good parent often knows when their child has had too much. When your child’s grades are plummeting, they always seem exhausted, overwhelmed, agitated and physically unwell, they have no time for friends, family or the other things they love, it is likely time to help them re-evaluate their priorities and what they truly want to do. We want our children to learn grit, character and the keys to success, but we don’t want to compromise their long-term mental or physical health.

What are some of the sacrifices families may need to discuss when children are involved with sports?

Sports can provide so many wonderful learning and health opportunities from physical strength, flexibility and endurance to mental strength, powerful character and lowered risky behavior.  Sports can be wonderful for children!

However, especially as the child grows and becomes more competitive in sports or involved in certain sports, time, money and energy will be allocated to this particular sport for this particular child.  That means the time, money and energy will not be allocated elsewhere.  Some sacrifices may be unstructured playtime, down time, extra homework time, sleep and other activities that your child also wishes s/he’d be allowed to do.  Lay them out on the table with all those who will be impacted in the family (the driver, the parent who has to wake up or travel with the child, the parent paying, the child) and decide if the sacrifices are worth it before you move forward.

How can children balance their schedule?

Competitive sports can get intense.  And while our children are todayshow_march2014b-300x225involved in sports, we also want them to stay on top of their academics, spend time with friends and family, relax and engage in other activities that they love.  But our children can’t do everything.  Some options to think about are (1) Limit the number of competitive sports to one (or maybe two if they are seasonal) per year, (2) Consider recreational sports instead of competitive ones or do a combination of each, (3) Schedule in breaks during the week or during the year when the pressure is off and the children can just be children.

How do we know if children are in sports for the right reasons?

Why are your children in sports?  There are clearly many benefits, however, we want to make sure our children are involved in sports in which they love and they want to participate.

As parents it’s vital that we don’t;

(1) Live vicariously through our children.  The question is, are they doing it for themselves or are they doing it for you?

(2) Merge with our children. Meaning, don’t allow the sport to become more important to you than to the child.  When we take over their responsibilities, attend every practice and game, talk about the sport all the time, coach them and say things like “we had a great practice today” and “we have a game on Saturday.”

(3) Wig out. If your moods depend on your children winning or losing or you find yourself screaming at the children or the coaches during the games, you may need to take a step back.

For all the parents out there, what is the most important thing to keep in perspective?

Our children aren’t all going to be Olympians and world class athletes.  And that’s OK! Remember that sports are supposed to be fun and teach kids about life and themselves—they’re not all about fame, fortune and winning.