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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!

 

 

Verizon Viral Ad for Girls: What are We Telling Our Daughters about Math and Science?

It was a great Good Morning America segment this morning!  We focused on a new viral Verizon campaign and ad that questions whether it’s time to move from telling our girls that she’s simply “pretty” to telling them that they are “pretty brilliant” too. What are we telling our girls about their abilities in math and science?  Can we attract more girls into STEM?  We explored this topic.

Why are we seeing greater numbers of ads reaching out to young girls and women giving them the message they can be more?

First, let’s not forget that these companies want to sell products and in these ads they are appealing to big markets, women and girls. But aside from that, I think these companies are seeing that by moving away from looks and celebrating the strong minds of girls, they can inspire a larger pool of future game-changers.  These are the people who can invent something important and become the next generation of leaders in their companies. We are looking for leaders, not hood ornaments.

The ad quotes a statistic- 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. So where does the disconnect happen? Is it the fault, as the ad suggests, of parents?

Parents get such a bad rap—but it’s not just parents, it’s society as a whole.  If a girl is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, many of the toys that support those interests are in the “boy” section, the protagonists of the majority of books & movies in this genre are boys—and while there are companies and wonderful grass roots efforts to change that, there is still a message we are working against that says STEM is not for girls and if you go in that direction you’re different, nerdy or boyish.

How does this play out with my own daughter?

My daughter is full of life and curiosity—and, as I tell her and my audiences when I present on this topic, you can’t fuel curiosity if you’re worried about getting your hands dirty. My daughter wanted to be a veterinarian now she wants to be a pediatrician.  She’s interested in science. So when she’s outside digging in the dirt, mud under her fingernails, a worm in her hand and not a care in the world, I say “go get ‘em girl.” That’s curiosity and learning at work.

What can parents do to help daughters reach their potential?

(1) Develop your child’s gifts.  Interests do not come with gender label on them.

(2) Compliment her on more than just her looks because she is so much more creative and nuanced than that.

(3) Develop her character.  Show her and tell her that powerful words like persistence, focus, goal-setting and commitment are vehicles to realizing her dreams if she simply chooses to employ them.

(4) Expose her to people and companies (large and grass roots) that believe that girls can be and do anything!

What are your thoughts about this topic?

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Labels: Confining, Constricting and Compressing Our Children’s Potential

labelWe don’t mean to do it.  But so many of us do it anyway.

“This is my shy one.”

“She’s my tom boy.”

“He’s my clown.”

“She’s my reader.”

“He’s my little athlete.”

“She’s great in spelling.”

“He’s great in math.”

“She doesn’t like sports.”

“He can’t sit still for a minute.”

When we label our children, we unwittingly define them.  We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them and who they are to be.

Most of us have heard of the movie, Field of Dreams.  The message repeatedly relayed is “If you build it, he will come.”  I think of labels similarly; “If you label it, they will BEcome.”

Sometimes, this seems like a win.  We label our child a “great student” when we value academics or an “amazing athlete” when we value sports.  What could be wrong with that?  The problem is detected when we realize that the labels deter the child from taking healthy risks and trying something new.  “I am a great student” and therefore “I’m not an athlete.” Or “I’m a great athlete” so “I won’t try out for the school play.”

Labels are accentuated when a comparison is put into the mix.  Brothers and sisters are often unintentionally pitted against each other by parents who categorize them.  The intention is not to harm, but rather describe.  But if we label one child “studious,” another “athletic” and still another “artistic” these areas become that child’s jurisdiction.  This can be detrimental to both the labeled and the other sibling.  The former can feel trapped and the latter can feel timid about trying that activity.

When it comes to gender, labels can feel like a safety net to ensure gender alignment (i.e. He’s all boy, She’s a girly girl), an affront (he’s effeminate, she’s quote boyish) or a self-fulfilling prophesy (she’s bad in math, he’s a class clown).

As we all want our children, both boys and girls, to have every opportunity to flourish into the person they are meant to become, it’s vital that we stop labeling and acknowledge room for growth, change and reinvention.  As a child is “becoming,” there is ebb and flow.  Labels can disrupt and “dam” progress and process.  To maximize potential, let’s leave development as fluid.

bravegirlsA new alliance I am part of called “Brave Girls Want“, is a force of leadership asking everyone from parents, educators, loved ones, legislators and businesses to support, empower, and encourage brave, adventurous, strong, smart, and spirited girls. We are looking to rid the world of labels that confine, constrict or compress the growth of our girls so they can be their most authentic and awesome versions of themselves.

As part of Brave Girls Want, we are planning to invade Time Square on October 11th, coinciding with the International Day of the Girl. For 7 days we will rent a billboard in Time Square and talk about what we want for our girls and what they are telling us they want for themselves. Fewer limits, more choices. Less photo-shopping, more real images.  Less sexualization, more time to enjoy childhood.

Please read about the initiative and help us in any way you can. Check out the IndieGoGo campaign—there are lots of ways to help make this action happen!

After all, these are our girls. All of our girls.  And we can make a difference.

drrobynsig170

 

When A Group of Great Girls Goes Bad: Basic Drama or Cultural Breakdown?

Girls rock.  Put a bunch together and it can be a great deal of fun, laughs and heart to heart conversations. Except when it isn’t.

Sometimes groups of girls have problems getting along.  They fight, gossip and hurt each other’s feelings.  At times it feels like a uphill battle while at the same time a downhill freight train with no intention of stopping.

I’ve been working personally with specific staff members and girls this year from a variety of schools and camps.  And even though I’ve been doing group coaching for a long time, I always find it an eye-opening study of girls culture, friendship and positive mentorship. Most recently, the leaders of an organization had asked me about one group of girls, in particular, who seemed to be in an endless fight. This daily argument not only was causing internal havoc in the group but was also exhausting the staff and leaving them with questions, concerns and a whole lot of frustration.

After a meeting with the girls personally, I realized that the problem was not, in fact, day to day fighting.  Rather, it was a much larger cultural problem that had festered like a toxic wound at the heart of the group.

Does this sound familiar to you?  It can be exhausting to deal with the day to day issues that emerge in such a group because there never seems to be an end.  That’s because the daily problems are a symptom—not the cause.  The question becomes; are you dealing with the root of cultural turmoil or are you trying to band-aid the daily indicators of that turmoil?

Here is a way to determine if you have a deeper problem than the standard daily grind:

  1. Same thing, different day: The girls always seem to be fighting about something. Complaining, arguing and gossiping are typical.  Someone always feels left out, picked on, stepped over or disregarded.
  2. Similar themes keep emerging: Not only are the girls fighting all the time but they are fighting about the same things.  What kinds of themes emerge?  Being left out.  Cliquiness. Looks.  Attention.  Boys.  Material goods. Meanness. In the case with this one set of girls, they were arguing about  2 things– “bragging and ‘top this’ behavior” as well as the flippant way the girls dealt with each other’s feelings.  Upon sitting down for our meeting, girls talked about feeling frustrated, awkward and depressed when others talked about money, clothes and trips they got to go on each year.  They also divulged that they felt horrible when other girls said something “mean” and then called them “sensitive” when feelings got hurt.
  3. The problem never feels solved: Staff are arduously attending to day to day spats and fall out but feel like they are on a proverbial hamster wheel.  You hear from staff that “this is a particularly tough group,” they “can’t get through to them,” and they’ve “tried everything” but aren’t getting anywhere. As you can imagine, it there is a larger, cultural issue, dealing with individual daily fights doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.
  4. The staff, teachers or counselors are fed up, deflated & defeated:  Not only are the staff articulating frustration, they are starting to check out.  When arguing ensues, they step out, turn away, or try to check it off as quickly as possible so they can move on.  Follow up feels fruitless or “inviting more of the same” so it doesn’t happen. This is not out of laziness but rather lack of knowing what to do differently to get a better result.  You hear from them that the girls “don’t respect them,” “don’t listen,” and “apologize but don’t mean it.”
  5. Every girl feels hurt: Even though some girls are more popular than others, in a group where cultural breakdown has taken place, there are a great deal of hurt feelings.  Most girls, at some point, feel left out, gossiped about or disregarded.  In a young teen group I recently had the pleasure to work with, a group dynamics exercise was the perfect catalyst for an honest discussion about how they felt when a part of the group and when ostracized or alone. And when they really got honest, they were able to admit that they both felt this way and were the cause of others feeling this way. These were awesome girls but their best was being squelched by negative, recurring behavior that became an part of the group culture.

When working with groups in which cultural breakdown has clearly occurred, honest discussion is necessary.  Only then can we identify the hidden problems, isolate the instigators, set ground rules for respectful behavior and allow the girls an opportunity to authentically apologize and be accountable for their actions going forward.  Such honest discussion can’t be a one-time thing but rather done periodically with frequent follow up with a trusted, well-regarded mentor.

And one final thought—when you manage negative behavior, it’s also helpful to encourage positive behavior to take its place.  Instead of focusing on faults and failures, what strengths does this group have?  What individual assets can the girls highlight in one another?  How can they have a hand in developing a positive and powerful group of girls in which everyone feels respected?

While problems are still going to occur—as this is not a utopia—we must provide the girls with the skills to deal with them.  How can we encourage them to be inclusive rather than exclusive?  How can we support them in speaking up while still being kind and open-minded?  It takes more time and more effort but in the long run, teaching these life skills and following up on their effectiveness can transform the culture of the group and in turn, the girls themselves.  And when the girls are transformed—the culture of the groups they are part of in the future will be better for it.

 

 

 

Picture Day, Hot Pink Socks and Raising an Assertive Daughter: When Values Can’t Be Conditional

pinksocks-243x300“I want to wear the pink socks.”

“Honey, you have a blue and white dress on.  Please just wear the white socks.”

“But I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Tallie, I’m exhausted.  Please stop arguing with me.”

“I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Fine! Wear the pink socks!”

My 4 year old daughter puts on the hot pink socks. I angrily stomp upstairs and ask myself why she doesn’t want to listen to me and just put on the socks. They’re just socks! So I go back downstairs to plead my case.

“Ugh, Tallie.  It’s Picture Day.  You can wear the pink socks any other day.  Can you please just wear the white socks?”

Tallie puts on the white socks.  I win.  Or do I?

I want my daughter to be assertive.  I want her to stand up for what she believes in, follow her own lead and make choices that are meaningful to her no matter what anyone else thinks.  I really do. We talk about being assertive.  I ask her to be assertive in restaurants when ordering.  With friends on play-dates.  With her brother when choosing a movie to watch.  Being assertive is important.  But can she be assertive on any other day but picture day?

As it turns out, values can’t be conditional.  They can’t depend on schedule, holiday, company or place. As parents we may know that intellectually but in practice, the notion can seem like quite a nuisance.   Well, in the short run anyway.

So I thought about it.  And after Tallie left for school I confessed my blunder out loud.  Raising healthy, strong daughters is an everyday thing, not a sometime thing.  It’s not about convenience, it’s about commitment.

So I plopped the hair on top of my head in a clip, put on a warm up suit, brushed my teeth and walked out the door with hot pink socks in hand.  I drove to the school and went inside.  Then I asked if I could see my daughter for a moment.

When Tallie came out, she looked a little confused.  Why was I there?  I knelt down infront of her and took her hands.  Speaking softly and looking her in the eyes, this is what I said;

“Tallie; this morning Mommy made a mistake.  You really wanted to wear the pink socks and I told you I wanted you to wear the white socks.  I got very upset and yelled.  That was not OK. Mommy was wrong.  You know that I want you to be able to speak up and tell me and everyone else what you want.  That was what you were trying to do this morning and I wasn’t letting you.  That was wrong. So if you want to wear the pink socks, here they are.  Do you want to wear the pink socks?”

Tallie shakes her head yes.  I smile.

“Can I put on the pink socks now?”

“Yes you can.”

I help her put her pink socks on. Tallie smiles.

“It’s OK, Tallie?”

Tallie nods.

“So My Love, when someone comes to you and tells you that they are sorry and that they made a mistake, that’s when you can say, when and if you are ready; ‘It’s Ok, everyone makes mistakes.’”

“It’s OK, Mama. Evweeone makes micktakes sometimes.”

Tallie kisses and hugs me.

“Thank you, Tallie.”

“I’ll miss you Mama.  See you yater.”

As Tallie turned around and walked back to her classroom in her blue dress and her pink socks I couldn’t help but smile.  I don’t know if she’ll remember this exchange but I know I will.

You see, they were just socks.  Hot pink socks. But that’s my daughter.  We don’t always get the big moments in life to announce our values and transfer them to our children.  We get the tiny moments.  The moments that come and go so fast you can miss them if you aren’t aware of them. It’s these little moments that build one on top of each other until they create a value that sticks with your child wherever they go in life, whether you are with them or not.

Today it’s socks.  Tomorrow it’ll be something else.  Friends.  Drugs.  Sex.  What she wants to do with her life.

My husband and I are creating an assertive girl.  Assertiveness can not be contingent on convenience.  It just doesn’t work that way. And believe me, sometimes raising an assertive girl can be a pain in the butt—but I think it’s worth it.  Don’t you?

 

 

 

The Many Sides of Girls: From Spiderman to Princesses and Everything In Between

tallie_farm-205x300The first thing my daughter, Tallie, wanted to do this morning was go downstairs and have me read her two Spiderman stories from her brother’s new Adventures of Spiderman book he received for Hanukkah last night.  So that’s what I did.  It was from that book that I read her a good night story before bed last night (because nothing says sleep like Spidey against “Lizardman”).  She has also taken a liking to her brother’s new Hess helicopter and truck (so we got her one too that she’ll get for Hanukkah one night).

Tallie loves to climb, tickle-wrestle, play with cars, play baseball, roll in leaves, make snow angels and run.  She also loves to play dress up, play dolls, play pretend and get her nails done with Mommy.

My point is that she is beautifully complicated and multi-faceted.  She is not one-note.  And my guess is, neither is your daughter.

nature_talchar-200x300As parents we must be careful.  Society tells us that girls are meant to love princesses and pink—and some of them do—but not all of them—and for those who do, that’s not all they love.  And it’s vital to our girls’ healthy development that we nurture all sides of them.

The side that likes to pretend.  The side that likes to build.  The side that likes to do puzzles.  The side that likes to run, jump and get dirty.  And the side that likes to read about everything from superheroes to bugs (a current interest of Tallie’s) to space to princesses and whatever else perks their curiosity from one week to the next.

My point it; we can’t let society dictate what our daughters love.  We must let our girls do that.  I’m currently coaching one mom who said to me on a recent coaching call; “I’m really not a fan of swimming so I’m not all that excited about it.  But my daughter is.”  Yup.  Sometimes we are not “in” to what our daughters like.

Tallie asked me for a book on caterpillars last week— not exactly one of my top interests but we got one out from the library.  I so want my daughter to be curious, ask to learn more and have a way of delving in.  Each time she does this, she acquires knowledge.  But she also learns how to learn and how to nurture her own curiosity.  The byproduct is probably more important than the immediate learning.

It would be so easy to create a child who is a reflection of our own image.  But is that really the goal?  As parents, we are charged with the job of bringing out the best in our children—the best version of themselves that they can be rather than the most convenient version of them that we would like to see.  There is typically a difference.  And while it takes courage to open our eyes and work to help them achieve the goals that light them up inside, as parents, we can help them discover who they truly are, the gifts they can bestow on the world and the people they were always meant to become.

Girls will continue to span a beautiful and diverse continuum of what it means to be a girl.  Some will feel best enveloped in pink, frilly dresses playing with dolls and drawing rainbows.  Others will feel most at home digging in the dirt, playing sports and reading about Superman and Wonderwoman.  But my guess, is that while many will fall somewhere in between, most are destined to jump around that continuum surprising us all.  And that’s one of the best parts, isn’t it?

vet_hospital-225x300On Sunday morning, Tallie, dressed in her “Dora the Explorer” nightgown, sequestered herself in her room, playing with her “animal hospital” she helped build with her Daddy the night before. On line to be “checked out” were several horses, a tiny kitten, a goat, a sheep and an alien. At the “reception desk” was one of the new “Lottie dolls” dressed in a blue sparkly shirt and a faux fur vest while another Lottie doll, dressed in a frilly purple dance dress, played nurse to her “Dr. Tallie.”

She asked me to play with her as she got her doctor tools ready for x-rays and surgery. “Dr. Mommy,” she explained confidently, “this goat has a fwog in its fwoat.  He needs a hug and to take medicine fah 10 days.” She dispensed her pretend medicine and then carefully laid him down on her favorite soft purple blanket in her bed.  We went on to diagnose a sick pig, a dog with a broken leg and a feverish cow.  I find it fascinating what her mind comes up with while she’s engrossed in play.

After 45 minutes or so, she hugged me and smiled a huge smile. “I yuv you, Mommy. I yuv you the whole world!” To which I responded, “And I love you my sweet love…every single side of you.”

And I do.  I really do.

 

TV Anchor, Jennifer Livingston, Called Fat: Fights Back Against Her Body Bully

(Note; My Today Show Health Report Interview on this topic included below)

The internet blew up yesterday with applause for Jennifer Livingston, a TV anchor in Wisconsin, who spoke out about fat hatred and what I call, “body bullying” after receiving a derogatory email from a viewer about her weight.

The viewer’s email read;

bodybully-300x214“Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Jennifer fired back with a very thoughtful, stern and directed response.

“The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground. And this behavior is learned – it is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail. If you were at home talking about the fat news lady – guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind – not critical and we need to do that by example. So many of you have come to my defense over the past four days.

To my colleagues and friends from today and from years ago…my family, my amazing husband and so many of you out there that I will probably never have the opportunity to meet – I will never be able to thank you enough for you words of support. And for taking a stand against this bully. We are better than that e-mail. We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down.

And I leave you with this… to all the children out there who feel lost…who are struggling with your weight, the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability – even the acne on your face…listen to me right now. Do not let your self worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience that the the cruel words of one…are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

I was interviewed by the Today Show Health Report about this incident.

Livingston’s move is a step toward civility in a society that thinks a woman’s weight is fair game, said Dr. Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of the book “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.”

“I applaud her for her response,” Silverman said. “It was a very responsible response.”

We’ve become a “fault-finding” society where it’s acceptable to make snarky comments about anyone, but especially those in the public eye, Silverman said.

When Livingston stood up to the mean-spirited viewer, she was helping combat the messages that say it’s OK to judge people based on weight.

“We send the message to our children that they are not good enough, they are not valuable enough, unless they look a certain way,” Silverman said.

While the fat-shaming speaks volumes to the girls and young women today who must constantly hear these messages wherever they go, it wasn’t the direct slams on Livingston’s weight that frustrated her the most.

On the Today Show this morning, Livingston told Savannah Guthrie;

“I can deal with being called fat … with being called obese. It was calling me a bad role model that rubbed me the wrong way, and not only a bad role model for our community, but for young girls, in particular.”

Young girls need to see and hear that they can be and do whatever they dream of in life– that their determination, hard work, smarts and talents will put them in the forefront- no matter what their weight, size, height or overall appearance.  We need more women (and men) like Jennifer Livingston who stand up and tell the world that they are worthy just the way they are– and that bullies should not and will not define them.  But they especially need to hear that as girls and young women, that they are valuable too– that they set their own path and their own definition of worth.  Jennifer Livingston did just that– and for that, I truly applaud her.

Yes, she certainly seems like a role model to me.

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.

vintage_weight1-222x300“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.

vintage_weight3-157x300These 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.”

vintage_weight2-157x300What 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?

drrobynsig170

 

International Women’s Day: What Stands in the Way of More Women Leaders?

silverman_headshotIt’s International Women’s Day—a day to reflect on the amazing women and girls in our lives but also to ponder what’s to come for the up and coming women in the world.

As the mother of a young girl and a speaker who works with girls and women with regard to leadership, confidence, mentoring, and the barriers that stand in our way, I see so much potential in today’s girls.  Yet, I think there is some work to do in order to help them to become the leaders they are meant to be.

We know that there is still an imbalance when it comes to the number of women vs men in leadership positions. This is true in business as well as in government.  Women have a great deal to offer but many are not taking their rightful place in this world—which for many, is in front…leading the pack.

How do potential women leaders stand in their own way of success?

(1) Pleasing others instead of pleasing ourselves:  Many girls and women are known “people pleasers.” They want to be liked. They want to be admired. They want to feel useful.  And while there is nothing wrong with being liked, admired, and useful—many girls and women will sacrifice what they want in order to “do” for others.  Leaders do what is right and what is needed- but they also follow their own bliss.  They assume their rightful place in this world not because others put them there or others don’t want the job but because they are doing exactly what they were meant to do.  When a girl or woman follows her our own bliss, they are always in the lead. Nobody can usurp the position that has someone else’s name on it.

(2) Perception of ceiling: We’ve heard for years about a glass ceiling that is impenetrable by women in business.  But every time I hear something like that, I think of Roger Bannister, a runner who was told it was impossible to run a 4-minute mile.  It had never been done! And then he did it. Immediately following, others did it. I think if we sell ourselves and our daughters a bill of goods that this ceiling exists, they will believe it.  What they believe is what they will see.  Leaders don’t look at ceilings—they look at what’s beyond it.

(3) Distraction: Girls receive hundreds of messages each day telling them that they need to look and act a certain way if they are going to be deemed worthy by others.  Questions loom in their heads; Am I thin enough? Too ugly?  Pretty? Do I seem like too much of a know-it-all?  Do people like me? Do guys like me?  Am I sexy? As I told the New York Times when they did a piece yesterday about girls’ need to always be camera ready, “the preoccupation with ‘How do I look?’ may well be getting in the way of living authentically. They are looking outward in at themselves — constantly thinking of the mirror rather than being fully engaged in the conversation, the activity or the learning.” With one eye on one’s goals and another eye on how they look (or how they think they are perceived) while going after their goals, how are girls supposed to make it to the top?

(4) The ‘who the heck do you think you are’ complex? I have had my own run-ins with this goal-grabbing question.  It’s the lesser-known cousin of “survivor guilt.” We question our right to achieve—and even the right to consider going after a particular goal. Am I worthy enough? What will others think? Why would anyone want to work with me? Why would anyone want to give me this chance, this job, or this award?  Leaders don’t wonder if they should achieve, they make it happen.

(5) Overloaded- all things to all people: We are notorious for over-scheduling. We say yes. We over-yes.  Spread so thin we nearly crack, our ability to concentrate on our own gifts and our own path diminish. Who has the time?  Leaders don’t just make the time amidst everything.  They say ‘no’ to many opportunities or requests so that they can honor the path they are on.

(6) Lack of tangible, known women role models & mentors: With so many anti-role models out there, it’s difficult at times to tease out who the winners are.  Women in power are often cut down and labeled in a snarky world of politics and Hollywood appearance standards. Reality TV stars from girls glamorized on 16 and pregnant to Snooki getting into bar fights and hooking up, are lavished with attention and paid handsomely for their appearances nation-wide. The message tells us that those women and girls who are celebrated are not those who do great things but those who entertain us, look the part, and do what will get ratings.  Step out of line and you will be denigrated. We need our girls to align themselves with real, unscripted mentors and leaders who can show them what true strength, perseverance, and courage looks like.  No matter what other people say.

(7) Asking the wrong question: Many girls and women allow themselves to get sidetracked and shut down on their path to success when someone doesn’t like their idea, doesn’t want to help them, or has a bad attitude.  Girls often wonder; “How can I change her mind? “ They begin to ponder; “if only she were different, then I could…” They allow the power to rest in their challenger rather than within themselves. No. Leaders take control. They accept the fact that a barrier exists and then ask themselves; “how can I get what I want or need even if this barrier is standing in my way?”

And while there needs to be an education process—to show men and boys what girls and women can offer without the *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* that statement often is slathered with—I refuse to say that the end-all-be-all answer to more women leaders lies in the hands of changing the minds of our men. Yes, as a mother of a boy I have a responsibility to raise a man who respects women—but I also must be accountable for the type of gutsy, focused, authentic girl I raise too. Not to mention, I must show her an example of what it means to be a female leader in my own life.

Who the heck do I think I am?  I’m her mother.

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PS. My friend, Amy Jussel, wrote an outstanding piece regarding what people are doing with social media and education to celebrate International Women’s Day…here.

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Anderson Show: Plastic Surgery & the Pressure to Be Perfect

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Plastic surgery is a booming business. In 2010, there were 296, 000 breast augmentations, 252,000 rhinoplasties, 203, 000 liposuctions procedures and 116,000 tummy tucks.  I imagine you can guess who are the most likely consumers of these procedures: women.

And it’s not just for adults. The latest figures from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that the number of such procedures performed on youths 18 or younger more than tripled over a 10-year period – from 59,890 in 1997 to 205,119 in 2007. Liposuctions rose to 9,295 from 2,504, and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold, from 1,326 to 7,882. (Info here from my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It)

In the above video, I’m speaking on The Anderson Show about body image and how, in a society where plastic surgery is becoming the norm, we can build positive body image in our girls and young women.  This can be particularly complicated when, in one of the families featured on the show, the father is an established plastic surgeon who performed plastic surgery on his daughter when she asked but is now saying no to addition procedures.

Fathers are so integral in how they shape their daughter’s self concept and body image. They are the very first man in their daughters’ lives.  They answer the questions for many girls; “Am I beautiful?” “Am I valuable?” “Am I enough the way I am?”

When parents are watching the program today, I hope you’ll come away with this nugget: Tell your daughter over and over that she is beautiful just the way she is.  But don’t let beauty be the only thing you compliment.  Remind her that she is strong, powerful, talented, and valuable for all the things that make her uniquely herself.  Even if you think she isn’t listening, she is taking your opinions with her everywhere she goes—from childhood to adulthood—and if you are really consistent, those opinions will be what helps to shape a very powerful, healthy, and positive self concept and body image in your daughters.

More to come! (Additional info on the Anderson Cooper Website)

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