Girl Talk: Who Wants to RAISE Their Self-Esteem?

Interview with Dr. Carol Langlois by “Out of Ink”

In her new book “Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image” Dr Carol Langlois seeks to provide teenage girls with the tools they need to RAISE their self-esteem. Here we chat with Dr Carol, teen self-esteem expert to find out more about her work and the importance of healthy self-esteem development in teenage girls.

Self-esteem issues can corrode many aspects of our lives. Eating disorders, lack of direction, hopelessness, depression, binge drinking and suicide are some examples that have a high association with low self-esteem.  In Australia, suicide amongst teenagers and young adults is one of the leading causes of death, second only to motor vehicle accidents.

Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image” is a compilation of interviews with teens girls – their stories, their challenges, their choices and their journey towards self-discovery and empowerment. Throughout each interview, Carol helps the reader to breakdown the issues discussed, offering points of reflection and an effective and practical guide designed to RAISE (Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment) teen self-esteem.

What initially drew you towards researching and working with teenage girls and their self-esteem issues?

I’m a trained therapist, academic researcher, educational consultant and writer. My primary area of interest is in female self-esteem development among teens.  During my training, I counselled hundreds of clients in one-on-one sessions as well as in group settings, mostly working with 18/19 year old freshman. They tended to have one of 4 issues when coming to speak with me – identity development challenges, an eating disorder, binge drinking issues, and/or poor choices/lack of direction. 

Some teens go to college fearful of change. Their identity in high school may have been strongly defined by their friends, sports teams or some sort of label (like the cool girls, or the popular girls) so when they get to college they don’t know “who they are or who they want to be.” 

College is the perfect time for exploration and discovery; however, some girls are too fearful to even explore. Afraid to make a mistake. That’s where I see a lot of the eating disorders and binge drinking coming to play. They don’t know where to begin. They are frozen; lost. It’s frightening. This is very different  from a girl, who is comfortable enough with herself and her self-esteem to try figure out who she wants to be in college…to explore. To try new things. To succeed…to fail..to grow.   

For more from this interview click here.

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Girl Talk: Interview with Author Dr. Carol Langlois About her new Book for Teen Girls.

6V0TMg_Q5vjyDX905DSgR6lLNxBXApclLF8qhPSQxvQYour Teen Magazine Interview

We’ve loved Dr. Carol Langlois’s advice for Your Teen readers over the years, so we were excited to hear about her new book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies & Body Image. We caught up with Dr. Carol to find out more.

Tell us about the approach you took with this book?

In total, I interviewed (and taped) about 160 girls from 10 schools in the Bay Area. After sharing my taped interviews with a few other writers and editors, they suggested that sharing (their stories) from a first person perspective would be very powerful. In the end, I chose 10 stories of ten girls who’s challenges with self-esteem were relatable and transcended culture, race, and socio-economics.

What’s going well for girls these days? 

I would say that their access to and utilization of information is abundant. They can educate themselves on so many topics more easily today. If they want to learn about puberty, smoking, pregnancy, healthy eating, etc.—they can. They know the risks and the pro and cons of most things to make better informed decisions. Many teens today have strong opinions about drugs and alcohol, the environment, or global warming for example because of information from the web. This is incredibly beneficial in helping them make smart choices.

But many are struggling? 

For the book, I interviewed quite a few girls who were dealing with or had survived through some form of an eating disorder, which I think is worth noting. More abundantly were issues of perfection and anxiety—not necessarily unrelated to eating disorders.

Stop the critical self-talk. Instead, model positive self-acceptance around girls.

Teens are stressed out more than ever. I call this  the “duck syndrome.” Think about the duck who looks very serene, calm, and pleasant floating along a lake. Then, if you look under the water she is paddling frantically. That is the duck syndrome. Too many students on the outside appear calm, cool, and collected while on the inside they are completely stressed out. Its a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality. For many, they want to be the great student, the great athlete, and well-liked by peers. But what price do they pay? Proving you can do it all has transformed into an ugly state of unattainable expectations and extremes, which are unhealthy for teens at any age. I’ve seen this further progress into eating disorders for the perfect body and drug addictions to manage the high pace and stress. This is a recipe for disaster.

- See more of this interview here.

Mom as Role Model. The Importance of Modeling Positive Self-Acceptance Around Your Daughters.

What girl hasn’t grown up noticing how she’s noticed?  If she is frequently praised for her looks a girl will quickly realize that’s how she is valued.  And if a girl grows up hearing her mother complain about her own body and her appearance, a daughter will also learn that that’s just what women do — be critical of themselves and never enjoy the strength and beauty of their bodies.  How mothers model body acceptance and body awareness can have a profound impact on a daughter’s self-esteem and future understanding of her own adult body.  Constantly hearing critical self-talk, especially around the subject of weight, bonding with other women through dieting and denial, along with automatic cringing in response to a glance in a mirror is a certain way for the cycle of body hatred to continue within a family.

About a year ago the article, “How to Talk to Little Girls” went viral on the Internet as the author mentions, “This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat.”  Author Lisa Bloom suggests concrete ways to connect with young girls besides commenting on their looks.  Interestingly, she also published parallel advice in an article entitled, “How to Talk to Little Boys” which steers (often well-meaning) adults away from stereotypical topics that don’t give boys room to express other interests.

There’s no doubt that most women in America have absorbed conventional definitions of beauty that are presented by the media – being model-thin, tall, with polished skin and long hair, and often a frank sexiness.  The fact that this type of woman represents a fraction of how average American women look is often left out the equation yet doesn’t diminish the aspirational influence created on the pages of national magazines.

Media messages about how girls are taught how they ought to look are ubiquitous, and hard to filter, hence the importance of teaching media literacy early on, as one model recently did, emphasizing that what is seen in magazines is different from what is seen in real life.  But what about the messages girls receive from one of the most important people in their lives — the one who can most influence her ideas about her appearance and convey, by example, what it means to love one’s body.

When a girl grows up hearing her mother commenting negatively on her appearance when she passes a mirror with “I look terrible!” or “I’m too fat,” or bonding with other female friends through dieting or negative body commentary girls learn that this is what she’s supposed to do as well.  In a recent media cycle, this honest writer insisted that her “mom body” stay in her childrens’ pictures and received a huge outpouring of support about changing the dynamic of what’s okay to have represented.  And other writers have recently spoken out, courageously, about demonstrating to their daughters that their “mom bodies” are strong and worthy of admiration.

What to do in face of so much pressure — for moms and daughters alike? It can be very hard to know how to change the conversation.  One simple way to start is to stop the critical self-talk.  Instead, model positive self-acceptance around girls. Eat balanced meals that include dessert; show your daughter that you aren’t “bad” or “good” for eating certain foods, but human.  Exercise together as a way to model what a strong, powerful body can do.  Show your daughter that you take pleasure in moving — dancing, running, lifting something heavy and resolving problems.  No one can be a greater influence on a daughter’s developing body — and mind.  It may not be “perfection” that they, or you, see — but it will be normalcy.