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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  • Becoming withdrawn or demonstrating a low mood for an extended period of time.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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Part 4: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 4 of 6 – Ways to Increase Healthy Communication as Part of Developing and Reinforcing Long-Term Relationships.

Consider the following to further increase healthy communication:

  1. Consider the messages you were given throughout life and how each assists and/or hinders in communication. Then reflect on the deeper impact of your quality of life and your relationships. Positive messages support a healthy balance in building quality relationships.  Internal relationship issues that have not been worked through and processed have the propensity to lower quality of life and increase difficulty in developing the relationships and the connections individuals desire.  At times, mental health issues, (i.e., social anxiety, anxiety, depression, and/or trauma) will bring ongoing difficulties to communication and therein, quality of life.  Each of the mentioned factors are important to consider when working to uncover internal difficulties with communication. Many times, seeking out the support of a therapist will assist in overcoming difficulties, minimizing symptoms, and increasing coping capacities towards stronger communications patterns.

 

  1. Consider how others perceive your communication. Through each interaction verbally, using body language, and facial expressions, you are sending and receiving messages. Having a level of awareness of yourself and others is essential to developing healthy communication skills. This minimizes disconnect and increases healthy and productive dialogue. At times, partners in romantic relationships will invest the time into couples therapy to improve communication even if no issues exist. This is a proactive and preventative approach.  Considering the vast time spent together, this increases quality of life long-term.

 

  1. Proactive Listening- how well do you genuinely listen to others? Listening with the intention of hearing first and then articulating your point is essential. Additionally, developing the capacity to listen whether a person is excited, grappling with an issue, or discussing what happened throughout the day is a mindful process. For some, it’s difficult to quiet the mind. There may be underlying mental health issues, anxiety, ruminations, and/or a combination of issues with temperament and personality that would benefit from therapeutic intervention. Many times, once an individual seeks out therapy to develop the behaviors to adapt in an array of environments, symptoms become more manageable, which assists with decreasing layered complex issues in the future that are difficult to address.

 

  1. Humor is essential to life, without it, life lacks fun and is void of a beneficial and unique layer of human complexity. Engaging in humorous manners increases comfort and enjoyment.  Yes, there are vast differences in the types of humor individuals enjoy.  However, humor as a whole is beneficial in an array of situations and environments. For some, it takes time before you’ll have the benefit of seeing one’s humorous side. I use humor in my personal life, with clients, and in the classroom. I enjoy the development of building a genuine rapport with individuals, and developing a cohesive group environment in the classroom.  This assists with the learning process and allows individuals to show facets of who they are as humans and academically, which includes encompassing a level of humor in the process.  It takes comfort, mutual respect, and understanding communication styles to engage in humor. There’s a level of genuineness in humor that is difficult to find in other areas of life.  Coupled with the factors mentioned throughout, humor is a way to reinforce healthy communication and essentially build a deeper connection.

 

  1. Trust and safety are vital and once broken, difficult to repair and rebuild. It’s import for each person to be able to trust one another within each area of the relationship, including individual strengths and weaknesses.  For example, supporting the other through difficult times and vulnerability builds trust and safety. Additionally, feeling a sense of appreciation and pleasure for others during the achievement of goals and when positive aspects of life occur are healthy to the longevity of relationships.  At times, clients grapple with how to engage in communicative behaviors that support giving and/or receiving trust and safety.  There have been times where clients struggle with past relationships where there was a void of positive and supportive communication, manipulation was present, emotional neglect and/or harsh and abusive communication was experienced. Each are a source of pain and evoke self-protective behaviors.  Self-protective behaviors are a way for individuals to cope through pain and trauma.  Through therapy, individuals have the opportunities to begin to heal, learn how to set healthy boundaries, and develop trust in the self and overtime, other individuals- to work towards deeper, more meaningful, and fulfilling relationships.

In addition, it’s beneficial to have relationships where you’re able to share you as a whole human with many facets to unfold and share.  Self-disclosure and sharing personal information is difficult for many, it’s also an important factor in investing in relationships. Each person has a story to tell, and over time, sharing more facets of each person’s story with the other is meaningful to developing intimacy through the elements of self-disclosure, building a strong source of support, and investing in meaningful relationship where trust and safety are present.

Lastly, trust and safety assist in developing the capacities to compromise in healthier ways and with less verbal conflict, increase mutual problem solving, engage in healthy reflective behaviors, and increase intimacy through open communication.

In conclusion, article 3 of 6 and article 4 of 6 in the series encompass the importance of healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Communication is complex, individual to each interaction, at times, difficult, and in the long-term, immensely beneficial. Each area discussed are important aspects of healthy communication. In any relationship, communication is vital to the quality and longevity of a relationship. COMING SOON: article 5 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5
eTalkTherapy

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5. Photo by Alexander Stanishev at UnsplashRead the Winter 2018/19 edition of The Accidental Existentialist, eTalkTherapy‘s quarterly online magazine now or download the PDF to read later. In this issue you will find great articles and new works by Point Park University journalism student Derek Malush, mental health professionals Támara Hill, Morgan Roberts, and Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk. Leave a comment to let us know what you think – Enjoy!

The winter sunset looms. The darkness gathers quickly, and the cold winds blow, but there kindles inside us a hopeful side to the long winter months. A flame remains in spite of its obscured existence. So here is my challenge to you, Dear Reader, stoke the flame.
May you head into the New Year believing you can make it a great year. Most  importantly, may you head into 2019 with a plan.

Great things in life seldom happen without resolve, energy and a creative spirit. The good stuff is the result of vision, strategy, hard work, and patience.

There’s some truth to what naysayers spout about resolutions, but the concept of resolutions is a good one. Used well and with good intent, they can provide the focus needed to turn goals into that ever elusive “new normal.”

We all have answers to what we want out of life. The problem is that we ask ourselves the wrong questions. Instead of asking “How?” or “Why?” try “When?” or “Where?”
Many people who’ve lost weight were rarely successful on the first or second try. Yet, they persevered.

If a goal is worth dreaming, it’s worth relentless effort and passion. Perseverance and resolve are key. Little in life is accomplished without them. So rather than abandon your New Year’s resolutions, add this one: “I resolve to keep my New Year’s resolutions.” Create a life worth living. Navigate those uncharted waters and stop being your own worst critic. Commitment counts. Remind yourself frequently of what you hope to achieve, and pursue it with urgency. Life is indeed short, with no guarantees. When does it start for you?

Have a Healthy and Happy New Year.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


King. Me.
by Derek Malush

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Life is habitually referred to as a game. Numerous pieces, various rules, and the board on which we play is the ground we tread on.

Take chess for example. An intellectual’s game, which entails limitless hours of
practice to mature one’s strategy. I often amused the thought of chess as just
being an old person’s game. That when you see chess being played, it is, as
sappy indie films tell us, usually two older folks trying to out-duel one another
using their ripened wit and arduous tactics as if the rusted gates had just
dropped down on the beach of Normandy…Read more


Managing Family During the Holidays: 5 Roles to Avoid
by Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, Owner at Anchored Child & Family Counseling

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How do you plan to spend the holiday this year? Are you dreading the family gatherings? If so, you are not alone.

Research suggests that the holidays are often a time of intense grief and feelings of loss, existential discomfort (discussed below), revisiting of traumatic experiences, overwhelm with materialism and commercialism, and the dispiriting conversations around the table…Read more


Midterm Elections 2018: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

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2018 saw a historic midterm election. Though, let us be honest, every election is historic. It shapes our government for years, and possibly generations. I am looking at you, Senate, for confirming known-assaulter Brett Kavanaugh.

However, what we saw was a glimmer of hope, the realities of a rigged system, and you know, white people just being themselves. You are probably reading this, hinting at my personal bias here…Read more


Navigating the Holidays & Associated Emotions with Awareness
by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

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During the holiday season, images of a crisp snow covered lane, with the view into the frosted window of a warm and cozy home, the scene of a blazing fire, a long decorative table filled with scrumptious holiday delights, and loved one’s surrounding the table brings feelings of dissonance for many. The holidays absolutely have the potential to bring feelings of intimate experiences filled with belonging, exhilaration, sharing, and gathering with loved ones.

For many, however, there are increases in stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, difficulties with grieving and loss, conflict, and contemplation…Read more


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.

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Part 3: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 3 of 6 – How to Increase Healthy Communication

Have you ever experienced someone in life that you connect with and enjoy talking with immensely- on all levels of communication? There are feelings of mutual understanding, it feels natural, safe, supportive, and you find that you’re able to share more and more facets of your being with another human.  It’s a wonderful experience- one of value. Someone that knows the deeper meaning to your life events and experiences, that’s there for you, that you’re there for, makes you laugh, and you’re able to give to genuinely.

The Desire to Connect

Communication stimulates and engages on a cognitive level. It’s important to consider that the desire to connect as a human is natural. Consider how many people you meet within a week, a month, and a year.  How often do you connect in a deep and meaningful level? Many times, clients indicate the level of difficulty in communicating with others and developing deep and meaningful relationships.  An individual’s innate desire to connect taps into one’s internal strength reserves to  work through fears and evoke increases in vulnerability with the goals of moving forward towards healthier communication; which brings the associated benefits of developing satisfying long-term relationships.

Appreciation and Value

In addition, it’s vital to appreciate the individuals you’ve developed strong communication with. Ask the difficult question- do you appreciate and value the relationship(s) you currently have? To assist with your decision, reflect on how each individual relationship has shifted and developed over time.  Consider what expectations you have of the relationship and whether you’re able to give back in similar manners.

Additionally, ask- are you feeling consistently frustrated? This is a difficult environment to engage in. Consider whether or not you are stuck in a cycle of unrealistic expectations. If so, honest reflection in regards to how realistic it is for the relationship to change over time and/or whether or not the relationship will be a beneficial experience long-term is vital.  At times, there is internal work an individual will benefit from in a therapeutic relationship to assist with developing realistic expectations and building awareness of the complexity and differences.

When Life Becomes Significantly Difficult- and it will

Life, at times, becomes stressful, difficult, and perplexing. Healthy communication doesn’t necessarily mean that there is void of conflict or disagreement; especially during stress, grieving, and difficult times.  Consider how individuals engage during the good times and during more difficult times.  This is where having developed a sense of value and appreciation for having strong communicative relationships is beneficial.  During difficult times, many relationships suffer and eventually break down or cease completely.  Most times, with pain, confusion, and many unanswered questions. The more time that passes without directly addressing the issues that break down the relationship, the more difficult it is to return to a sense of balance and satisfaction.  However, there are ways to minimize the damage and pain. With healthy communication, individuals will have a higher probability of increasing the strength and connection through difficult times, which develops a stronger connection, reinforces trust, and commitment.

Strong Connections

At times, a person engages in a relationship built over years with a strong connection. The relationship has deeper meaning, higher investment, and is much more difficult to cease. Moreover, if the relationship is a healthy one, it’s critical to understand the gift of this type of connection throughout life. Consider romantic relationships, family members, friends, professional connections, and/or connections on social media.  It’s important to reflect on how comprehensive and significant this list is. Ask yourself- how many individuals do you feel intimately connected with? Even with the numerous individuals you engage with, there is only a segment that encompasses what individuals innately desire- mutually healthy, strong, consistent, intimate, and beneficial relationships where growth, change, vulnerability, love, and communication are supported and desirable for each person.

Note: Article: 3 of 6 discussed the benefits of increasing healthy communication. Article: 4 of 6 will discuss ways to increase healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Furthermore, Article 4 of 6 focuses on the messages you received in life, how others perceive your communication, proactive listening, humor, trust and safety, compromise, and the risks of being open. The two articles in the series partner with one another to encompass a wider range of elements regarding communication.

In conclusion, communication is vital to each individual experiencing the relationship and to the relationship as a whole. Communication is complex, it involves investment and work to develop a level of vulnerability through tapping into strengths and reducing fears.  Developing quality relationships with healthy communication patterns is vital to mental health, connection, enjoyment, and well-being. Communication increases the capacity for relationships to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, positive interactions, and veering well during difficult times. COMING SOON: Article 4 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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Part 2: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 2 of 6 –  How Respect & Appreciation Increase Rewarding Relationships.  

This is the second in a series of 6 articles relating to developing quality relationships.  Developing quality relationships is complex, layered, and many times, grappled with throughout life.  Respect and Appreciation are the focus of today’s article.

Respect is an important factor in each relationship throughout life. First, consider the importance of respect for yourself.  A strong presence of respect centered internally assists with understanding and valuing yourself and others; and dually, with developing quality relationships.  At times, an individual may grapple with respecting one’s self; if this occurs, it’s important to invest time and the work associated with learning ways to develop a high level of respect for one’s self. In addition, this process assists with developing capacities to give respect in each relationship and in a variety of environments.

At times, it is important to consider the differences and many similarities in regards to how each individual gives and receives affirmations of respect and appreciation.  For example, showing appreciation for a partner fixing the vehicle and/or making dinner on a busy evening is an important aspect of daily life.  Therefore, giving your loved one positive verbal affirmations assists in showing respect and appreciation; for others, physical engagement, a hug for example, or an act of encouragement supports this intention.  In each relationship, it’s important to take inventory of your thoughts, feelings, reactions, behaviors, and words; and to ask yourself where the motivation for your words and behaviors are coming from.

Consider the following:

  1. Seek out relationships with a give-give ratio: Having respect for one’s self assists in setting healthy boundaries and seeking out healthy and enjoyable relationships. Consider if you feel supported by and support the other individual. The deeper meaning here is that each person supports the other’s gifts and differences- each person has a different set of gifts in life. Respect and appreciation assist in supporting, nurturing, and balancing values, goals, and the complexities of change throughout; even positive change has the propensity to be difficult without each.
  2. The flexibility to grow as a human-being, with mutual trust, support, respect, and appreciation throughout life’s natural changes: Change is inevitable and extremely difficult for some. For many, this brings an uncomfortable awareness and vulnerability. During times when a person has difficulty with feelings of vulnerability and/or experiencing fear and the unknown, engaging in disrespectful behaviors erode the relationship.  At times, the trust and safety factors an individual desires to feel are diminished over time; which destroys the relationship. Many times, each person is left confused as to what happened. Engaging in a consistent respectful dialogue and behaviors, while showing appreciation during change and stressful times, increases feelings of trust, safety, and love, while strengthening the relationship long-term.
  3. Disappointment, Fear, & Frustration: In a relationship it’s important to refrain from engaging in critical, blameful, and harming behaviors where the probability of pain and isolation is evident. The mentioned behaviors destroy individuals and the relationship as a whole. Each person may experience loneliness, and engage in the relationship while tolerating stress and frustration. There are times however, where difficult transitions may assist in grappling with deeper issues, which has potential to increase awareness, life satisfaction, and create new opportunities moving forward.
  4. Implement a balance of strength: At times, it’s vital to express feelings and emotions even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult. In other situations, a level of graciousness and acceptance is inherently beneficial to the self, the person being engaging with, and to the relationship as a whole. With this, it’s important to ask the difficult question of what is driving the decision to share or avoid sharing. The motivation in itself has the potential to change the outcome of whether to share and in what manners.
  5. Respect and appreciation ‘look’ different for each individual and has shifts throughout the lifespan. Reflect on each relationship; if you’re in a relationship where respect and appreciation are lacking, it’s important to address the issues and move forward from there. Many times, this involves adjustments in how a person approaches her/himself, how each individual approaches the other person, and by learning healthier ways to communicate. Therapy is beneficial to assist with working through current and/or old and outdated behaviors that are void of benefit and hindering to growth and the development towards giving and receiving respect and appreciation.

In conclusion, developing respect and appreciation are part of a complex process of behaviors that work towards increasing the quality of intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, mutual understanding, support (including during difficult times), and enjoyment.  When coupled with communication, a relationship has the capacity to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, and positive interactions. COMING SOON: article 3 of 6 in the series: How to Increase Healthy Communication

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi