Risk Assessment

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

I Am a Work in Progress Quote Saying Bulletin Board

I Am a Work in Progress Quote Saying Bulletin Board

Women (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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Dr. Robyn on The Today Show: Vintage Ads Say Thin was Not Always In


These days, the word “fat” comes with a lot of baggage.  Studies tell us that fat is continually associated with unflattering words like lazy, ugly, blameworthy, gross, and unpopular.  But it wasn’t always that way.  If you look at some of the vintage ads, thin was definitely NOT always in.

“Enjoy life!” “Put on 5 pounds of flesh!” “Left out because you’re too skinny?” Vintage ads paint the picture that full-figured women were the beauty standard of their era.

Over the last 100 years the celebrated standard of body beauty in advertising has morphed from one that was more voluptuous (signifying vitality, wealth, and happiness) to one that is thin (signifying, sometimes erroneously, health, perfection and self control). In the early part of the 20th century actresses and models demonstrated the voluptuous trend—prompting beauty products and subsequent advertising to address the desire to put ON weight. Things changed dramatically in the 60s with the introduction of Twiggy, in the 80s with the fitness craze (think Jane Fonda), the 90s with the introduction of the waif, and now, we still receive messages (and the studies reflect this), that to be thin is to be beautiful, sexy, controlled, successful and good. Beauty products and advertising has followed suit.

These days it seems that people say the word “fat” like they are spitting it out on a plate.  This can be really confusing and upsetting for young girls who are going through puberty—a time when it’s very normal and natural to gain an average of 25 pounds! As a young girl or women is gaining weight, many look at it as “getting fat.” It’s common that people bemoan ‘I feel fat” or call themselves ugly names like “whale,,” “pig,” or “heifer.”

What would it have been like to live at a time when people thought it was more beautiful to be buxom that thin? Or is the pressure the same whether it’s to be thin or to gain weight in order to fit in?

It seems like a lot more women would have fit the ideal standard if we weren’t told that we all needed to be impossibly thin to be considered attractive. But then, naturally thin women would have been left out to the definition of beauty.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to marketing. As long as there has been women’s beauty products and advertising, there have been (and there will be) messages that tell girls and women that they are not good enough, not beautiful enough, and not worthy enough unless they buy these products…and use them.

How do you think it would impact YOU and the women in your life if their was pressure to gain weight rather than lose it?




No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about: When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments Read more

Compliment Shutdown: Why Can’t a Woman Take a Compliment?


Do you participate in Compliment Shutdown?

Lob: “I love your dress!”

Shutdown: “Oh, it’s got a hole in the seam and it only cost 12 bucks.  It’s really a piece of garbage.”

Lob: “Your hair looks great!”

Shutdown: “Gosh I haven’t washed it in days.  It’s such a mess I don’t know what to do with it.”

Lob: “Your presentation to the board was amazing.”

Shutdown: “Really? I flubbed on every other word and I looked like such an idiot.”

We’ve all heard the dialogue before.  Perhaps we have even participated in it.  Compliment wars.  This is when someone gives us a compliment and we shoot it down, claiming that it’s not true, that really quite the opposite is apparent, and reveal our perceived weaknesses and unseemly unworthiness.

Today I appeared with Kathie Lee, Hoda, and Leslie Goldman on The Today Show to talk about why women and girls have such a hard time taking compliments.

What’s going on here?

When I speak to audiences of women and girls (and this is also explained in my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat) I talk about 2 main reasons that women and girls have trouble taking compliments.  First, many of us have this body bully inside that tell us we’re not pretty enough, not thin enough, not good enough, and not worthy of the compliment- and the perfect standard and media messages only help us to feed into this behavior.

Second, even if we agree that the compliment is accurate, young girls are Read more

Dr. Robyn Featured in Women on Fire’s SPARK newsletter

What a beautiful review by Women on Fire founder, Debbie Phillips. See what she has to say in this video review!


“It should be no surprise that one of our own Women on Fire — Dr. Robyn Silverman — is the author of the book I am recommending as the #1 most useful and practical book (and I have read them ALL) on this subject. I know you will find this book a tremendous resource.  I also know that it is not only girls and women who are affected by these negative messages (check out Dr. Silverman’s insight on Body Bullying) and this book can help our boys, too.”

Note: Women on Fire is an amazing group of women who meet for awesome tea parties in various places around the US. Seriously. The women you can meet there are outstanding and exceptional. So much fun too!

A HUGE step forward or back? ABC Family Show on Weight Loss Camp


A HUGE step forward or back? ABC Family Show on Weight Loss Camp

ABC Family is debuting a show called HUGE on Monday night and we are all waiting to see how the show is received and what we’re all going to think of it. As a body image expert, the author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (due out in October 2010) and a child/teen development specialist, I draw a fine line between what moves us forward and what moves us back when it comes to weight, size, and body image.  As TV and celebrities like to be “in your face” or else they’ll have no viewers, they have taken a HUGE stance with HUGE—a full dramatic show centering on teens at weight loss camp.

Some might be frustrated.  I mean, why do we have to go there? In an attempt to move forward, don’t we simply want the gaggle of Gossip Girls to be more diverse in their cliquey membership? Yes, of course we do. But I do believe, this could be a step in the right direction.

Why? Because in a show where all the main characters are considered plus size, the typical Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Tyra Show Talking about Body Image

Dr. Robyn Silverman, body image expert, was on The Tyra show talking about women, body image and life after pregnancy. After pregnancy, many women have trouble accepting the changes in their bodies.  Loose skin, stretch marks, and extra weight can make new Moms feel inferior given the definition of beauty put out by media and carried out by the rest of society.  Dr. Robyn coached one young woman, Maria, through her body image challenges so that she was able to embrace her body and show it off proudly.


Plus Size Models: Finally? Big Deal? Not Really Plus Sized?


It turns out that Fashion Week may actually be reflecting what we’ve known all along: Not all girls and women are a size 0. Some catwalks, while still filled with the tiniest models, are more readily exploring the use of more full-figured gals.  By full-figured, I mean, size 12.

So, I ask you, is it enough? Can we applaud the use of a few models who are not quite the size of the average woman (size 14), but darn close?  It’s certainly a step in the right direction– away from any fat is bad, bad, bad! Read more

The Power of Zero: Fat Talk Free Week Video

As the guest body image blogger for today’s End Fat Talk campaign for Fat Talk Free Week, I really got to thinking about the power of that little size zero in the lives of so many girls and women these days. Such a round number, and yet such a strong dictator of straight lines for all.  Positive body image can’t exist among the masses if we are only celebrating one size.  For the good of our children– for the good of those we love– for the good of ourselves, let’s throw the fat talk where it belongs…in the trash.


The Power of Zero: The Quest for The Perfect Straight Line

Am I fat? Do you see these rolls? Can you believe how fat my butt looks in these jeans?  My goodness; where do we get this stuff? Fat Talk has become so prevalent that it has become more normal to have a conversation about bumps, bulges, and unsightly cellulite to well, not.

scale_cryI guess this must be our quest for perfect, isn’t it? The perfect zero. I can’t believe I’m even saying that. It used to be a bad thing to be thought of as a zero, now it’s reached godly status.  And the more the better. If 0 wasn’t small enough someone invented the double zero. The triple zero. What’s next? Do we need to start using sizes like 0 to the power of 10? It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

And remember when a 10 was the magic number? Now, that little straight line in front of that zero is scoffed at—berated—and coupled with rolled eyes and an inner body slam—ouch!– on how we could let ourselves go.

A zero—perfectly round and yet demanding of only straight lines. Yes.  The quintessential shape for a woman…is the non-shape.

Now I don’t want to sound like being a zero is bad.  It’s not.  But I would like to put back on the table that it is only 1 little number.  It is neither inherently bad or good—it just is.  And the other numbers we agonize over? They’re fine too.

But it is quite obvious that we play math games with ourselves while in the privacy of our own head or publicly hanging with other women. We subtract points off our self worth as our size and weight go up.  We add them back in as those numbers go down.  Somehow, all the work we do—all the people we touch in our lives—all of our achievements, our successes, our triumphs are trumped by any extra pound, inch, or rising size. Sadly, our self worth becomes the casualty.

Beach Fun Barbie blonde

And you know what? The only ones that can stop the power of zero is us.  Yes, there are men telling women that nobody wants to see curvy women on the catwalk and that Barbie needs lipo on her supposed cankles —but at the end of the day, it is us, girls, women, and yes, those who love them that have to stand up and say “enough!”

Yes. Enough.

I have heard enough.

I have seen enough.

I am enough.

It is Thursday of Fat Talk Free Week. If you have been successful at stifling the inner critic in your head or the body basher in your life—congratulations—keep going.  Not just this week but every week. This is a life long commitment to body esteem.

And to those of you who haven’t gotten there yet—can I just say it now? You are enough. You are powerful. You are amazing—straight and tall to bodaciously curvy. It’s time for you to say it.  Say it out loud.  To your friends. To your family.  To the girls and women who study with you—work with you- laugh with you. Say it. Say it now.

And then, listen. After all, you need to hear it too.

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Diet Doping: The Scary Link Between Body Image and Drugs

scaleDiet Doping: Getting Thin at any Cost

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For many girls and women, “feeling fat” has become a common part of everyday life.  Dieting has become normal.  Complaining about weight is a social expectation.  And doing anything you can to achieve the perfect thin body, acceptable.

A recent online poll of 993 teens and women has suggested that a whopping 1 in 10 girls and women are using drugs to lose weight even though 67% were in the healthy weight range. What does that tell us?  The healthy weight range is not perceived as thin enough.  Hollywood hard bodies and Vogue model legs and abs are what we’re striving for.  No, it’s not often linked to health, it’s linked to looks.

Often, when attempting to lose weight, young girls subscribe to unhealthy practices such as quick fad diets or acts of purging including vomiting and laxative abuse instead of using a healthy regiment of exercise and maintenance of a balances diet.  Girls and women are looking for the quick fix– what’s going to make them thin NOW- not what’s going to make them healthiest in the long run.  In doing so, they turn to what IS NOT healthy.  In fact, in the poll, 10% of respondents to the poll owned up to taking stimulants like cocaine and speed, 26% said they were abusing diet pills or laxatives and one in 5 admitted to suffering form eating disorders. What’s healthy about that? It’s a practice I like to call “diet doping” and I’ll be talking about it in my upcoming book coming out in 2010.

Think it’s only the caucasian girls?  Nope.  The intense pressure to diet has amazing cross over affects.  Studies over the last 25 years have shown that rate of these subclinical eating practices, dieting and purging, and diet doping are increasing among all social and ethnic classes.

It’s very important that we begin conversations with our girls early about what it truly means to be healthy.  In doing so, we must also commit to being healthy ourselves and refrain from criticizing ourselves, using destructive methods to lose weight, or applauding others who lose weight at all costs as being “disciplined” and “healthy.”  Let’s get back to basics. I mean, remember when healthy meant having good balanced nutrition, energy, good support and well managed stress?  Let’s go back to that. Who’s with me?

Be healthy together– I know many of you already are. All you Powerful Parents out there whose families are engaging in being healthy by attending your Powerful Words Member School are showing your kids YOUR definition of healthy. Doing fun extracurriculars, being around positive people, talking about the link between your character and your physical health– you should all be applauded for taking these positive steps. Keep it going!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs