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Existential GPS

Boosting self esteem and body image in boys

By Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

The phrase “poor body image” is typically thought to be a term exclusive to women or adolescent girls. However, in recent years we have seen a growing number of adolescent boys and even adult men reporting poor body image. How can you help teenage boys develop a positive outlook with the way they feel about their physical appearance?

Talk about it. Don’t pretend as though he’s just “going through a phase.”

The effects of poor body image among boys tend to be internal and are usually associated with reduced confidence and low self-esteem. Poor body image is often much more difficult to identify in boys than in girls. Teenage boys’ issues are usually not physically apparent or outwardly excessive, although some may engage in extreme exercise and/or develop an eating disorder.

If you suspect a problem, ask questions. Then be patient and listen without judgment, criticism or using minimizing statements such as, “You just need to stop always comparing yourself to other people,” or worse “Be a man and suck it up.”

Indicators of a poor body image in adolescent boys are often subtle and may include:

  • Unrealistic expectations for body type.
  • Excessively conforming to others expectations.
  • Having low energy.
  • Poor diet.
  • Becoming withdrawn or demonstrating a low mood for an extended period of time.

Model healthy behaviors. We’re all in this together.

Kids and teens gain knowledge from their surroundings. They observe much more than we give them credit. Consequently, make every attempt to model healthy behavior by eating a balanced diet and making those foods available to your kids. They may not want or like them, but you are setting the bar for how they forge their relationship with food and themselves. In addition to focusing on his nutrition and physical activity, pay attention to his exposure to media.

Just like girls and women, the media exposes boys to continuous messages about an ideal body image. During the teenage years, this can be damaging because teen boys are undergoing dramatic body changes. They are vulnerable to holding themselves to unrealistic standards and often feel bad about who they are because of what they look like. Obviously there is no way to escape all media influence, but you can engage your children by teaching critical thinking skills without passing judgment on them or others.

Talk with your son’s doctor or a professional counselor.

If in doubt, or if you notice your son is growing more obsessed with body image, talk with your teen’s doctor about your concerns. He or she can discuss these issues with your son, such as what is the meaning of body image, proper nutrition and skin care, and what should his expectations be for himself.

In Good Health,
Don

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Existential GPS

Turning Dreams and Goals into Action

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

What’s on your “bucket list?”

Writing a novel?

Traveling through Europe or Asia or both?

Learning how to paint or play piano or dance the Tango?

Goals and dreams give us hope, make life interesting, and provide us with a source of everlasting motivation and meaning. Often they present a sense of balance in a seemingly unbalanced world. Naturally, realizing your goals and dreams requires action.

You know all the tired, self-generated excuses as to why your goals are “impractical” or “will have to wait until a better time.” You’ve justified these reasons enough that they have become the only response to your ever-patient, ever-waiting life dreams. Here are a few thoughts that might turn these excuses into accomplishments and help you realize the potential of your life’s goal:

  1. What do I really want? It seems like a simple question until you begin focusing on what is important. What gives me a sense of connection, purpose and meaning? What is my “calling?” Do I possess talents and abilities that I have told myself are not practical or unimportant? How many of my negative thoughts about my dreams and goals are self generated?
  2. How will I get there? What do you need to connect the dots between Point A and Point B. Map out each step you might take on your journey. If you don’t have some plan in mind, you will likely find yourself struggling with frustration and uncertainty.
  3. What if my dream were already happening? Successful performers, sports figures and entrepreneurs report they are able to visualize their achievements far in advance. The use of positive visualization does not make automatically your dreams or goals come true, but it does provide a healthy nutrient for the soil in which your achievements can take root.
  4. What can I control? Staying focused on your goals and dreams without allowing others to interfere can be difficult at times, but not impossible. Do NOT allow others to dictate or influence your goals and aspirations. Becoming caught in others opinions or good intentions often times is the proverbial pin to your goal balloon. Remain in the present, knowing that you can only control what is happening at this moment, and only what is happening with you.
  5. What if I fail? Every journey will have its share of stormy weather. Treat any rejection or misstep as a learning moment toward realizing your dream and goal. Most everyone can agree that they will regret what they DIDN’T do in life versus what they did do.
  6. Is it even realistic? Perhaps not, but are you willing to try? Be persistent and flexible. Know that you will have to “roll with the punches” from time to time. Perhaps you will be surprised over what you discover about yourself on your journey.

Get going – now! Tend to your dreams and goals. Your journey can begin with a first, small step.

In good health,
Don

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Hello Universe

Shadow, Light and Latte

by Aurora Starr

Sitting in the coffee shop I watched with fixed curiosity as a thirty-something woman entered from the rain-soaked sidewalk.  Her choice of attire; a colorful skirt and solid blouse with smartly matched leggings and subtle make-up simply shrieked of someone who was poised and full of purpose. As she carefully ordered some variation of a flat white, caramel, green tea infused what-the-fuckuccino I took note of her face. Was she rushed? Flustered? Indecisive? No, shit, she looked beautiful and confident, didn’t she? One might even say that she appeared to be brimming with self-assurance. I quickly adjusted my sweater, smoothed out my skirt and then thought about shifting my attitude.

Mean Girl – Table for One

My thoughts can quickly leap from that of cool, calm Zen goddess to the founder and CEO of Imposter, Inc. Self-sabotage is something that I’m sure most women and girls are familiar with, but we rarely talk about it. Yet, the inner-mean girl seems to always be waiting just on the other side of the locker room and she is not happy. How am I certain of that? Well, if my thoughts suddenly shift to, “There are people far better and more talented than you. Life comes to them naturally and everything for you is a struggle. You’re going to fail so why even try?” then I know I am committing self-sabotage.  My personal favorite from the Mean Girl Greatest Hits Compilation, “Who do you think you are? Don’t be too happy. You lucked out and people will see through you soon enough.

The Great Pretender

What I just described is known as impostor syndrome and it is produced by feelings and thoughts of worthlessness, insecurity, and devaluation of self. In fact, even high-achievers often fear being exposed as frauds. It can occur when trying something new or even when doing something familiar. It is a constant threat of “being exposed” on a professional and/or personal level as a con-artist, and a belief and bias that most of what you do is all about the timing and people will find out.

Self-awareness can be a frustrating quality to possess. I know these things, but what do I do with them? Talk to a friend, a therapist, a priest? What good will any of that do? Then the light-bulb goes off, no amount of thinking will change anything. I’m caught in the same self-defeating, help blocking loop that brings me full circle when it comes to self-sabotage. Something must change, and I’m the only one with any control over that realization.

I am not an impostor or a fraud. I am here because I’ve worked for it. There will always be others doing it better than me, but there’s only one me. Period. I have a voice that is my own, and I want to share it with the world. It’s not about being selfish or egocentric. It’s about affirming my right to be alive and engage with others in a meaningful and helpful way. Doubting my self-worth will do little to help.

Now if this is beginning to sound like one of those self-help books or seminars, let me save you the trouble. Stop reading. I won’t mind, really. I am the first one to call bullshit on all the women and men who profess to have the answers to life and happiness and peddle their reality as truth and common sense as some sort of universal awakening.

Being Perfect in My Imperfections

When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and goals that are based on what we think others want then we are drafting the blueprints for self-sabotage. Instead, begin to focus on the value of what you’re doing rather than how you’re doing it. In other words, determined action is far better than perfection. Ask yourself, what value can you find in the things you do? And don’t compare yourself with others, especially on social media. Those outlets are little more than masturbation, fun for a moment, but not a substitute for a real face-to-face encounter.

Allow for the time to honor and take inventory of your professional and personal achievements without shrinking away in self-deprecating negative talk or minimizing your efforts. Again, there will always be someone, smarter, richer, prettier and more talented, but that shouldn’t stop you from being a creative beast and contributing your efforts to the world. Big or small, your accomplishments and hard work count. Be proud – smile and say thank you when you are recognized for an accomplishment. Above all, own it.

Our life journey should not be one based on comparison. It really is not a competition. I am no better or worse than the person next to me. Our life situations are different, and we are unique, but we are no better or worse by comparison. It’s all relative.

As for the woman in the coffee shop? I watched her exit as composed as she had entered, quickly hailed a cab and made her way into the rainy cityscape. I wished her the best on her journey and then wished the same for myself.

Shine bright,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you.