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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: beauty

15 Oct

Does this image offend you?

Current Events 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

This is the image I’m referring to in the title. I’m not posting it here for two reasons. One, I’ve asked if it offends you, implying that it might, and my intent is not to offend. Two — and, honestly, way more importantly — it’s copyrighted.

And maybe there’s a third reason, now that I’m thinking about it: I’d love for you to check out all of the images in the gallery, not just one.

Okay, are you back?

The other day, I shared that image on my personal Facebook via Jade Beall (you remember, I told you about her) the other day, and I was honestly shocked to receive a comment from a dear friend stating that she “hates images like this” and feels that modesty is beautiful too and that: “They are asking for people to judge and objectify them – and every human is above that and worth more than that!”

To be honest with you, I was floored when I read this. I had ball of anger well up in my chest, and I wanted to respond immediately. But I didn’t.

Instead, I reflected on what my dear friend said, and I held my typing fingers.

A few days passed, and I realized that I still felt generally the same way. So this is how I responded:

I’ve reflected on it the past few days and see where you are coming from. I have a different perspective though. I agree modesty can be beautiful, and the point of this particular photo project is to highlight the reality of cancer, how it can ravage a body but not a soul, and to illuminate the beauty in individuals whom mainstream society might not generally consider beautiful. I think that it does that when I look through the gallery, at least for me. I also don’t think that anyone can make another human being judge or objectify them. They, as adults, have chosen to share their human form with the world (and I think have done so in a stunning, artistic, and tasteful, non-sexualized way) and others can choose how to respond. If others choose to “objectify”, then that’s on them. Objectification is a process that occurs in the observer. If we start to say that we’re “asking people to judge and objectify,” I fear it comes far too close to “blaming the victim” and putting the onus for discrimination on the discriminated. Those are just some of my initial thoughts.

I hit “reply” and it was done. I felt strongly about what I had responded, and I could have gone further – much further. But I refrained because I worried that maybe I was missing something.

And so I ask you, dear readers, to help me reflect even more on this issue.

I go on and on about the sexualization of youth and how women are portrayed in the media and how we need to have respect for our own bodies. Could supporting images like this actually perpetuate the objectification of women and girls? Maybe it’s not different just because they have cancer?

But when I look at these images, I see women with respect for their bodies — even their “imperfect” ones. I see women who are defying the cultural norms of hiding behind layers of cloth and are taking a stand to acknowledge that their bodies, the home of their soul, can be a vehicle for inspiration.

And I think about how we’re all scarred, even if not physically. And how brave and vulnerable it is to share those scars with the world.

But again, I have this nagging feeling that there’s more to the story. And I want to hear what you think. So, if you will, share your thoughts in the comments below.

05 Apr

The cost of beauty privilege

Advocacy, Ideas to Consider 8 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{via pinterest; originally here}

This post is one that has been brewing in mind for a while. After I watched Brene Brown’s recent TED talk on approaching shame, I was settled on writing it. And then I read Gala Darling’s amazing post on whether she’s a radical self-love hypocrite for wearing five-inch heels.

What both of these inspiring women talk about is the concept of privilege. Brown claims that we cannot talk about race relations in this country without talking about shame, the link being the acknowledgement of white privilege. I whole-heartedly agree. To really address race, we have to address privilege, and we have to address shame.

Gala Darling points outs the fact that just as those of us who are white are granted certain privileges in our society, so are those of us who are attractive, or who ascribe to the norms laid out like inalienable laws in our culture.

Think about it. I’m sure that you’ve had the experience of being decked out in a pretty dress, high heels, and a face full of make-up, and been treated oh so slightly better than when you showed up in your hoodie and flannel shorts. One example that I can think of is running into a grocery store to pick something up before a party and being asked by several different staff if they could help me find what I was looking for. Wow, I thought, what service! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same experience when I walked in a week later after a sweaty run and no shower. Granted, the first time it could have been my hurried expression and the second time my smell to blame, but I’d put money on the beauty privilege idea.

This type of treatment isn’t relegated to grocery stores, unfortunately. Watching The Voice recently, my husband and I were commenting that the judges seem to place a value on physical attractiveness in selecting the winner of the “battle-round” (when two contestants face off in a singing duel). This is particularly ironic because the show is based around the idea that one should be advanced and selected based on the quality of their performance. In fact, it’s what makes the show so engaging is that individuals with non-stereotyped body sizes, physical appearances, or styles, are actually given a chance to shine. In the beginning, it eliminates beauty privilege. But as soon as the judges can use visual information to help them make a decision, we start to see the insidious pull of attraction. Just think of Susan Boyle’s rise to fame.

It’s not just the judges that are engaging in this. Just wait until the live shows when the American public can vote. I feel quite certain we’ll see more beauty bias at play. And to be honest, there’s good, biologically speaking, reason for this.

Back in the 1970’s, some social psychology researchers identified the “what is beautiful is good” bias. What they and subsequent researchers found was that attractive people are assumed to be better employees, smarter, happier, and have more positive personality traits. These same biases operate for lower versus higher weight individuals as well.

What’s interesting is that, while these ideas are not necessarily founded, when they are true it could also be due the cycle of privilege. When someone is born attractive, they are treated differently from the get-go. They are regarded well by peers and possibly interact more frequently, thereby developing more charisma and confidence. They are favored by teachers and might end up enjoying school more for this reason, so suddenly they are excelling in their courses.

The point is, the idea of beauty privilege is complex, and the solution is unfortunately complex as well. It’s not as easy as just stopping giving pretty people all the good stuff. Our evolution-driven wiring to seek out what is attractive is not going anywhere. So what we are left with is the task of recognizing and talking about the idea of beauty privilege.

Just as with any form of privilege, we hold back from discussing it because it can bring about shame. But we know that approaching shame and sitting with it in all its discomfort is part of the work of becoming more authentic and happier human beings. If we want to live in a world where our politicians are the best people to run the government, our singers are actually talented, and our children don’t feel they have to wear make-up in pre-school, then we have to acknowledge and start dialoguing about what is hard to talk about.

How have you seen beauty privilege? 

28 Apr

If I lived by women’s magazines for a day

Media Literacy 22 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Ever pick up the latest issue of Vogue and feel just a little bit, well… underdressed? Or read Shape and noticed your self-esteem dropping in direct correlation with the number miles you did not run today? Ever peruse Good Housekeeping and wonder just how other women seem to have time to clean their gutters, plan a dinner party for twelve, teach a yoga class, negotiate a raise at work, and make mad, passionate love to their husbands, all before getting in bed promptly at ten o’clock? Yeah, me too.

As a bit of an experiment, I took a peek at some of the latest issues of the most popular women’s magazines, just to find out exactly how I should be spending my time. With circulations nearing seven million, one would imagine that the information therein would be of the absolute highest quality, right? What better source to determine just how to plan my day! Here’s a rundown of what’s on my magazine-inspired agenda:


I would start my morning by working to make my eyes as big, bright, and sexy as possible. I’ll need to devote at least twenty minutes to follow the recommended routine applying moisturizer, high-end eye cream, brightening shadow, special liner, and $65 mascara on my Latisse-enhanced lashes. No one likes small, dull, unsexy eyes, right? Psssh……




I’d then move on to finding the perfect jeans for my bum while I apply the rest of my make-up for flawless skin. If I started to experienced any body anxiety about living up to these unattainable ideals, I’d just use some of the techniques I learned in… oh, wow… the same magazine. Now how can that be….




After heading to my totally fabulous 9-5er, checking emails and sipping my non-fat latte, I’d start wondering if perhaps I shouldn’t do something more meaningful with my life, like returning to school to free my brother from prison. I start googling online LSAT prep courses…




After work I’d head to the gym to take off what I packed on and develop some flat, sexy, abs! Just because I lost weight while eating out at lunch doesn’t mean my abs are going to be toned enough to make good sex great. All that core work will definitely pay off in the bedroom later…

women's health


After my intense workout, I’m starvinnnng and so whip up shortcut dinner of portabella mushroom stroganoff. I used to think frozen pizza was sufficient, but now that I’m supposed to eat organic, vegan, raw, clean, and 100% taste-free, I’ve had to make some changes.




Once the dishes are washed, I can reflect on my long day of primping, working, exercising, and meal planning. And I realize I’m totally in the mood for bad girl sex, of course. Who cares if I’m more Natalie Portman than Kim Kardashian?




But before I corner my partner, I start wondering, “how many men is too many?” Struck by the perpetual female conundrum – to be a prude or a whore – I start tallying… And anxiety ensues. Maybe I’ll hold off on the midnight romp for another night. Instead, I’ll just read about the latest diet that, while reportedly dangerous, really works. I mean, they say it does on the cover, right?

marie claire



Okay, so I hope that we can all have a little chuckle. I don’t hate these magazines, nor do I think that they don’t often have super helpful tips (e.g. saving on grocery bills), important health news (Glamour got me to finally make SPF a priority), and inspiring stories (some of these cover girls are rock stars! – in the coolest sense of the word).

But it’s all too easy for the tips and advice to make us feel like we can’t measure up. Maybe you just can’t afford that $400 handbag or don’t have time for a daily yoga lesson. Hey, It’s OK! It doesn’t mean you’re not totally amazing.

If magazines are getting you down, it may be time to cut them up and, say, make a beautiful vision board. Decide to be your own cover girl and decide on all the headlines you’d want on the magazine of your life. [FYI: You’ll see no mention of flat abs or long lashes on mine!].

How would you want your headlines to read?

21 Mar

Does self-acceptance mean “letting yourself go?”{On the move..}

Guest Post 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Have you ever wondered if therapists, body image cheerleaders, and the like worry about how they look? Ever struggled to know if your elaborate skin care routine suggests obsession? Ever wondered if it’s possible to both love yourself unconditionally and still want to want to change certain things about yourself?

I’m addressing these questions and more over on the fabulous Rosie Molinary’s blog today:

Does self-acceptance mean “letting yourself go?”

Check it out and leave comments letting us know what YOU think!


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