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Confidence: A People Magnet

It works!

It works!

Confidence is a people magnet. It’s also good at drawing emotionally healthier people to you.

And, it’s healthy to have confidence even when you are alone.

But how do you get it?  Read the rest of this entry

Why Do I Care What Others Think?

Trumpeting our successes

Trumpeting our successes

Most people trumpet their successes and hide their failures.

When we win a race, a game, or an award, public recognition gives us a boost. We want to spread the word — and we hope that others will, too.

But when we fail at a project… or basic stair climbing… we hope no one sees the fall. And if they do, we hope they won’t gossip.

Rejection and humiliation make us think we’re no good.

But why do we care? Read the rest of this entry

Abuse evaporated my self-esteem 

You are good enough, even if you don't know it

You are good enough, even if you don’t know it

By Lily Mendez

I was the girl that everyone called a slut. Or that everyone thought would be pregnant by age 16.

That’s what I would say when people asked me what I was like, growing up. Obviously, I didn’t feel real good about myself.

And my low self-esteem was reflected in my relationships with boys.  Read the rest of this entry

Women Slut-Shame More Than Men?

19TIER_SPAN-articleLargeStereotypes and evolutionary psych say men slut-shame because they want to know that their partner’s babies are not some other guy’s.

But women are actually more likely to promote the double-standard. Here’s one study of shaming in action:

McMaster University psychologists told college women that they were studying female friendships. They actually wanted to see how women respond to sexy vs non-sexy women, as pictured above. Read the rest of this entry

From Being Bullied to Being a Star

126b979840ed6dc2c6bc37ef9db24320Young Brittany Mason was bullied relentlessly. And then she grew up to become a star. And an anti-bullying advocate.

Her torment began her first year of high school. Kids teased her, slashed her tires, and threw Barbie doll heads, or red paint, all over her yard.

Homecoming week was the worst. Some students created a giant poster with her picture on it, took it to a pep rally and chanted, “You are ugly.” Afterwards, they chased her from the bleachers and drenched her with water guns.

Britney tried to kill herself, but failed. Thinking back, she adds, “Thank God.”

After the suicide attempt she chose to do home schooling.

She says the experience was scarring and still haunts her.

But since then she has worked to make the best of her life, and that experience.

Kids said she was ugly?

Read the rest of this entry

You’re Better Than You Think

Are women too hard on themselves when it comes to their looks — and everything else?

A Dove ad campaign called “Real Beauty Sketches” has gone viral. In it, women describe themselves to a forensic artist who sketches them from behind a curtain. Next, strangers describe them.

Women used more negative words to describe themselves:

  • (My chin) kind of protrudes a little bit, especially when I smile.
  • My mom told me I have a big jaw.
  • I have a big forehead.
  • I have a fat, rounder face.

Strangers made more positive assessments:

  • Her chin was a nice, thin chin.
  • She has nice eyes. They lit up when she spoke.
  • She has a cute chin.
  • She has very nice blue eyes.

Afterwards, the women were surprised by how much more attractive they appeared in the eyes of strangers who — tellingly — yielded more accurate results.

In fact, Dove’s campaign was inspired by research finding that only 4% of women believe they are beautiful. Meanwhile, beauty can be a huge source of self-worth, which is unfortunate when there is so much more to women — and so much that is more significant.

“Good Morning America” did the same experiment and got the same results.

Last summer’s HBO documentary on supermodels, “About Face,” also found plenty of self-criticism among women who are thought the most beautiful among us. For instance, Carmen Dell’Orefice disliked one photo because it showed her feet, which she deemed “unattractive.” I looked at the photo and saw nothing wrong at all. Perfectly normal and natural looking.

We can be our own biggest critic.

But self-criticism doesn’t stop with our looks.

I’ve noticed that I can be pretty tough on myself. But when I consider how I would advise another person in the same situation I’m much more generous.

Being too harsh on ourselves can be a problem because low self-esteem limits us. When we lack faith in ourselves we don’t try, or when we do try, we are less likely to succeed. Or, we may put others down to feel like we’re better than someone else. But as they say, you can’t love until you love yourself.

If we were more self-accepting and self-loving everyone would likely be better off.

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Girls Walk Fine Line Between Attractive, Slut

OPINIONS_slut_martin_original_original_original_mediumWomen and men both use sexual allure to raise their status. Men may try to “score” with as many women as possible, with each conquest boosting their place among men.

For women it’s more complicated. Many college women think that being “hot” is the most important thing in the world. That’s because self-worth is so attached to beauty. But Elizabethe C. Payne, Director of Queering Education Research Institute (QuERI), explained in the Huffington Post that girls can face a double bind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” as society tells them they will only be loved and held in high regard if they show off their bodies – but they’d better not do it the wrong way:

Girls have to “straddle an often unclear line in appearing sexually attractive (desirable) and receptive (thus not “gay”) yet unavailable (not “sluts”).

She says that middle school girls who simply dress attractively and wear makeup—or who develop breasts before their peers – may be labeled “sluts.” And any girl who actively pursues a boy, defying the double standard, can get slut-shamed too. She needn’t have sex, she only needs to be assertive:

Many young girls who have never had sex or anything close to it — at all — have been marked as “sluts.” Once marked, young girls are repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment, threats and taunts.

But the pressure on young women to constrain themselves moves beyond sexuality and sexual allure. Middle school girls can also be labeled as sluts, bitches, whores or gay for acting assertively or challenging male authority – including the authority of boys.

Girls and boys both slut-shame. Girls, because they feel threatened by attractive young women, especially when they feel they cannot be attractive, themselves. And boys might sustain the male privilege to act and be free while girls must hold themselves back.

Which brings us to another double-bind. Women and girls who criticize a system that judges us only by our beauty, and who seek, instead, to work for equality can be labeled “feminazis.” But if they smile and take it they still lose.

If you’re going to lose either way in the short-term, you might as well work toward long-term freedom and empowerment, I’d say.

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Lose Virginity, Lose Self-Esteem?

When women lose their virginity, they can lose self-esteem, too, experiencing a small drop. That’s what a recent Penn State study reveals.


Women college students were surveyed over time. Before sex the women felt increasingly good about their bodies. But after first sex they felt worse. Looks like when they’re in bed women start worrying about whether they look good enough. Masters and Johnson tagged the phenomenon of watching yourself from a third person perspective instead of focusing on sexual sensations or your partner, “spectatoring.”  Women are much more prone, being the objectified. Then, feeling they don’t measure up, self-worth drops.

Other usual suspects may also affect self-esteem, including the double standard that provokes worries about labels like slut and whore. Tracy Clark-Flory over at points to a 1995 study that found “women were significantly more likely to report that their first sexual experience left them feeling less pleasure, satisfaction, and excitement than men, and more sadness, guilt, nervousness, tension, embarrassment, and fear.” Even now women continue to experience that bind.

The double standard strikes again when women feel used, unappreciated, and worried about reputations after short flings or one-night stands.

Meanwhile, a study I recently posted finds 35% of women in strong partnerships feeling sad, anxious, restless, or irritable, after sex. Researchers don’t know why. Commenters, speculating on their own experience with the phenomenon, fingered sexual repression or difficulties with orgasm (which are related to repression) as culprit.

Studies repeatedly find that women are less likely than men to enjoy sex. Other research suggests the problem is not biologically based, or inevitable. Women in sex-positive cultures enjoy sexuality a great deal.

We are going to have to move beyond sexism for women to reclaim their sexuality. That would benefit both women and men.

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Men’s Mags Celebrate Varied Body Types

From time to time men’s magazines exalt body types that vary from the tall, skinny, buxom shape they typically flaunt. True, the lovely ladies on Maxim’s and FHM’s “Hot 100” lists look pretty much the same, but it’s nice to see a little branching out now and again, so let’s celebrate what we can.

Small Busted Bombshells

While buxom breasts are a highly appreciated part of the female form, Mila Kunis was just named #3 on Maxim’s Hot 100, which considers their picks “the definitive list” of the world’s most beautiful women. Mila also made #9 on FHM where male readers vote for their faves. Also on that list are Kristin Stewart, Paris Hilton, Pippa and her sister Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. And Keira Knightly once made FHM’s #1 hottest hottie.

“Un-Skinny” Stunners

Slim figures are also admired, but Kim Kardashian, along with Scarlett Johansson and pear-shaped Jennifer Lopez, made FHM’s top 100 this year. And, Christina Hendricks, “Joan” of Mad Men, was picked as a “Girls We Love” covergirl.

When women see men gaping in appreciation of Joan’s full figure, I’m sure they are better able to appreciate their own curves. And when Mila Kunis asked Justin Timberlake if her breasts were too small in “Friends With Benefits,” I’m sure plenty of women were happy to hear him respond, “They’re breasts, aren’t they?” No problem. And then he falls in love.

Opening up the ideal is good for both women and men, even if there is still far to go.

When a woman sees herself as beautiful her self-esteem rises. It’s also easier to feel sexy. And when she feels sexier her interest in sex rises, too. She isn’t distracted, wondering if she’s attractive enough. And, women tend to get aroused by feeling that their partners see them as alluring. Plus, when men see that the ladies they love resemble Maxim’s Top 100 in some way, they can more easily see the beauty of their partners.

I suspect most women overestimate how harshly men see them and I suspect that most men are more accepting of women’s bodies than women are, themselves. So that’s good news ladies.

Our society’s ideals don’t have to determine our self-esteem, but they usually play a heavy role both in how we see ourselves and in how others see us. And so while we can work to move beyond the superficial, we’d all benefit if our culture expanded its notions of beauty, too.

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Why Did Nancy Garrido Help Kidnap Jaycee Dugard?

jaycee-dugard-4Jaycee Dugard told Diane Sawyer in an ABC interview that after kidnapping her, Nancy Garrido was intensely jealous. So why did she do it? Beyond the question of how she could commit such an atrocious crime, I’d like to focus on why Nancy Garrido made herself miserable by actively acquiring a sexual rival.

I don’t know the specifics of why. Nancy clearly wanted to please her spouse, even if that entailed personal anguish. But in asking why Garrido assisted in her own torment, we might as well ask why women too often stay in distressing, and even abusive relationships, in some ways imitating her – if on a lesser scale.

Everyday women mimicking Garrido?

In one section of Why Women Have Sex, psychologists Cindy Meston and David Buss talk of women reluctantly agreeing to bring other women into their relationships in order to keep their men. As one put it:

Right now, the guy I am with is into swinging. I am not comfortable with that lifestyle… I just pretend he is my master and I am to follow his every command and it makes it easier for me to get through the night… He keeps asking me to have a threesome with my best friend and I keep acting like it is okay, but I am dreading it.

Others tolerate the incest that partners inflict upon their children. Some endure marital or relationship rape and battering.

That’s quite a range. But all of these women are allowing their hearts and souls to be hurt, and sometimes they are letting others be harmed, as well.


They may feel they love these men. More than they love themselves – or anyone else for that matter. A sick sort of love swimming in injury.

They may think they have no better options. They don’t deserve much and can’t expect better. They aren’t lovable or attractive enough, or they can’t survive on their own. They can’t find a better man. And their partners willingly prop up the downbeat assessments. And so they desperately try to please, and appease, their men in hopes of gaining love.

Poor self-esteem anchors their submission.

But they also hold their own sex in low regard. Women who endure pain to give their men pleasure see men as better-than and more deserving than women. And so they sacrifice so their men may have all.

Some stay in relationships due to “sunk costs.” Having invested so much – emotion, all of the work gone through to create only small changes in partners, resources – they can’t bear to give it all up with nothing to show.

But if we’ve learned something is the cost really sunk? We could take what we’ve learned and move on.

For whatever reason, too many women don’t realize they don’t have to put up with crap.

Too bad Nancy Garrido never figured that out.

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