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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: self-esteem

08 Apr

Fat Talk, Old Talk, and All That Other Self-Deprecating Talk

Ideas to Consider 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


These days, a few hours spent at a baby shower, a salon, or another female-dominated locale can start to sound like an episode of Real Housewives. From bemoaning the flab on one’s arms to debating the merits of Botox, groups of women often seem to have an endless supply of topics that share a similar theme — how darn flawed they are.

The fat-talk is almost a given, but what research is now revealing is that “old-talk” is sweeping in, and with similarly detrimental results.

Carolyn Black Becker, a psychologist at Trinity University, and her colleagues recently published an article in the Journal of Eating Disorders about the new wave of “old-talk.” They recognized that as the Baby Boomers have gotten older, the incidence of self-deprecication around age has increased. Not only that, but it’s correlated with body image disturbance and eating disorder pathology. A quick look at the magazine stand reflects this reality as well. Cover stories, ads, and products abound about how to look younger and hide the signs of aging.

While the large population of Baby Boomers might seem to be driving this phenomenon, old-talk is actually, well… old. Women – and men – have been lamenting aging for centuries. Perhaps it’s related to our fears of mortality, but chatting about the losses associated with getting older is one way that we connect.

And therein lies the problem.

My question is this: “Fat” or “old,” why is it that we have to criticize the realities of our physical selves in order to establish connection?

My guess is that these seem like safe topics in mixed company. With politics, religion, and sex usually on the taboo list, most women feel pretty safe talking about diets and their crow’s feet in just about any social situation. We figure that others can relate. Doesn’t everyone want to change themselves?

I suspect it also has to do with a key element in the way that women relate to one another. Ever cautious to come across as conceited or, heaven forbid, powerful, women use fat-talk, old-talk, and other self-deprecating talk in a delicate social dance. The dance says, “Don’t worry. I don’t like myself and I’m flawed. I’m not a threat, so you can trust and connect with me.”

Well, I personally think this dance is a little outdated. I’d like to see women establish connection in other ways, ones that don’t require negative self-evaluation. I don’t think it’s necessary to complain about my thighs or my sagging breasts in order to generate rapport with someone. I know this because I’ve focused on not doing it over the past several years (since learning more about fat-talk) and have managed to find plenty of things to talk about in groups of women.

So my challenge to readers is to do the same. See if you can’t go an entire day – or week – without fat, old, or negative self-talk. When you’re interacting with other women, share what you love about yourself or something that recently made you proud. Can you imagine the revolution that would transpire if we all committed to doing this? We’d feel better about ourselves and promote others in feeling better about themselves as well.

Now that’s the kind of talk I like to hear.

26 Feb

10 Tips on Accepting a Compliment

Ideas to Consider 7 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

As my belly has expanded over the past nine months, I’ve experienced total wonderment looking at my changing body. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

Pregnancy has brought with it an attention that I never would have imagined. With pregnancy, I’ve learned, everyone feels particularly compelled to comment on your  physical state. Let it be known that I’m not complaining about this – I just find it fascinating. In a culture that tends to be so uncomfortable with the idea of weight gain and so quick to bash the belly, pregnancy is a totally different story.

If I added up the number of times I’ve been told I look “cute” in the past week, it would certainly be larger the sum total of the times I’ve been told that across the course of my life. Meanwhile, while I adore the experience of pregnancy, as a full term pregnant woman, I can’t say I always feel cute (though sometimes I certainly do!).

While my inclination at times is to tell the complimenter how I really feel (be it swollen, icky, sore, etc.), I’ve been using this experience to master the art of accepting a compliment. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned that rejecting someone’s expression of praise hurts the person, me, and the relationship. Who wants to be told their wrong (directly or indirectly) when trying to be nice?

I’ve come up with the following tips for accepting a compliment, and they’ve made the art of graciousness much easier.

1. Say, ”Thank you.” Then stop. That’s it. With accepting compliments, less is often more. This is particularly useful when you have a strong urge to negate what the person has just said.

2. Say, “Wow, aren’t you kind! I appreciate that.” This response expresses three things, all of which help in further developing a relationship. It accepts the compliment. It reciprocates the compliment (telling the person they are kind). And it communicates how you feel to receive it (appreciative).

3. Practice with people close to you. Sometimes it’s easier to challenge yourself to accept compliments from those close to you, before moving on to the cashier at the pharmacy or your c0-worker. Let your family or close friends know that you’re working on accepting compliments so that they can call you out when you slip (or, hopefully, praise you further when succeed!).

4. Clue the person in to the details. If someone says that she loves your belt, spread the love by telling her about the great thrift store in your neighborhood where you picked it up. If someone compliments how you incorporated humor in the presentation you just gave, let him know how you were inspired by a particularly great speaker you saw last year. This kind of response helps establish a nice connection.

5. Respond by saying, “That makes me feel _______.” Possible emotions could be appreciated, understood, happy, honored, touched,  and so on. Letting the person know how their words made you feel will make them feel better. And who doesn’t love that kind of feel-good loop!

6. Acknowledge others if appropriate. If other people were involved in what you are getting praised for, share that! First, thank the person, and then clue them in to who helped out. For example, “I really appreciate you saying that! I worked hard, and I also couldn’t have done it without my team.”

7. Practice in the mirror. Cheesy? Totally. Useful? Totally again. Some people I’ve worked with didn’t realize that they actually cringe when given a compliment until they started watching their own reactions in a mirror. Once they were more aware, practicing their responses while having to face themselves only made them that much more comfortable.

8. Compliment the other person. But don’t overdo it. It’s great to turn the love around, but just make sure you’re not doing it at your own expense or being over the top. Do not respond with a comparison (e.g. “Thanks for saying you like my haircut, but yours is honestly so much cuter!”). It diminishes their compliment (it’s almost a way of one-upping, actually) and makes you look uncomfortable and potentially ungrateful.

9. Say, “It’s great to hear that because I respect you so much.” When it’s appropriate, and true, this is a great response. It offers a reciprocal compliment, but doesn’t negate what the person is saying nor take the focus off of you.

10. Focus on the body language. Accepting a compliment doesn’t stop at the words — body language is especially important too. Notice your stance and facial expressions when you receive praise. If you’re crossing your arms, folding yourself smaller, looking down, or (please no!) rolling your eyes, your body is not accepting the compliment, even if you’re mouth is.

What is it like for you to accept compliments? What other tips can you share?


08 Jan

Who Believes in You?: Assembling Your Dream Team

Ideas to Consider 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{image via pinterest

We all need someone to believe in us.

It sounds like a line from a sappy ballad, but it makes the sentiment no less true.

Studies of people who overcome difficult circumstances point time and time again to the crucial nature of social support. This means that people who are the most successful at making positive changes and surviving challenges are the ones who can identify a positive support network around them.

It’s true from people dealing with depression to death of a partner to cancer to eating disorders to infertility to divorce. These troubling events and conditions can bring a person to his or her knees, but can be overcome, research tells us, if a person is supported. In fact, we can thrive and grow from these experiences if the right conditions are in place.

What’s so interesting though is that many of these studies are actually looking at a construct called perceived social support. This is distinct from received social support in that the people in the studies are being asked how supported they feel, rather than researchers actually assessing how much support they are getting regularly.This is an important distinction because it turns out the many of the positive effects of social support can be garnered just from believing yourself to be supported, regardless of whether someone is actually wiping away your tears. Maybe an imaginary shoulder is as sturdy to lean on as a real one?

This isn’t to say that we can all live in fantasy land and forgo our efforts at building a tangible support network. But it does suggest that creating a feeling of support around us could potentially be within our control – even when it seems other people aren’t.

One way of doing this is to — and don’t laugh — build your dream team of social support. And I mean DREAM!

In a recent article in O Magazine, life coach Martha Beck mentioned that when she needed positive voices to infuse all the negative chatter in your brain, she first turned to famous people she admired, like a 2500-year-old Chinese philospopher. Eventually, she was able to identify people she knew personally; in the meantime, however, her old philosopher helped to defeat her inner critic.

In the same way, we can create start with our own fictional – but no less real, in terms of benefit – support group. Mine would include people like Maya Angelou, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Ellen DeGeneres. When we’re feeling hopeless, helpless, and insecure, we can take a virtual trip to our support group and garner what we need. Maybe it’s inspiration, maybe it’s information, or maybe it’s a good laugh. Think about what you need from others when you’re struggling. Who do you admire that can give that to you even when no one’s around.

If I’m having trouble visualizing how my imaginary support group might respond to my situation, I might need to bring them to life – whether that’s through their books, movies, or interviews, or it’s by doing something to connect with their wisdom, like writing a letter.

It might sound silly, but the ultimate goal of support systems – real or imagined – is to internalize the sense of confidence that they inspire. Whether this comes from Oscar the Grouch or your friend Sheryl might not matter.

Who would you elect to your dream team support group and why?

25 Aug

You Should Know :: Body Loving Homework

Book Review, You Should Know 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Okay, so I’m a little late to the party. But hey, I like to make a statement, so it’s cool.

If you’ve been an avid follower of the self-love mecca, Medicinal Marzipan, (and why wouldn’t you be?), you may already know about the cool renovation project over there. Mara has done more than added a fresh coat of paint – she’s totally revamped her space and launched a stunning new site – – that is as resourceful as it is beautiful.

One of the coolest things about the whole she-bang is that Mara launched a fantastic new e-book along with the site. It’s called Body Loving Homework and it’s a collection of writing prompts that inspire you to create your own personal narrative. My professional, personal, and every other kind of opinion is that writing is one of the most powerful tools we have to access our truest selves (which was the basis for the Self-Discovery, Word by Word project and is also why I kicked off the Start Write Now series recently).

A collection of writing prompts sounds a little boring, and Body Loving Homework is anything but. Consider it your jump start to digging into the most important material in the world – what’s already inside of you. It’s an invitation (and roadmap) to incredible self-discovery. It covers topics from your emotional body to sex and intimacy to unraveling a media-fueled education (awe-some). Not only that, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. No, really. You have to see for yourself to know what I mean. So consider this your kick in the butt to check it out.

Have you come across any great self-love tools lately? Been writing as a means of self-discovery? Do share!

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