Friday, April 23, 2010

Word to the Wise

I like to think people have our best interest at heart when offering unsolicited advice, but deep down, I don’t really believe that they do. I encourage each of us to take a buyer beware approach before accepting and acting upon something we didn’t ask for in the first place. You see, some offer ‘helpful hints’ merely as an excuse to intimidate us. Some do it perhaps because they feel threatened that we may, in fact, hold a bit more power than they do and are attempting to undermine that power. Some do it because they truly feel they are more intelligent and enlightened than everyone else on the planet. Some merely do it for kicks and giggles. In the end, though, they really are nothing more than an annoyance, one we must rise above and completely ignore.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m big on seeking advice. I’ve surrounded myself with an incredible team of ‘advisors’ whom I bother every day. These are people I trust, of whose opinion I hold in high regard. They live well, laugh often, and don’t sweat the small stuff. These are the people who truly have it together – why on earth would I ask the advice of someone who doesn’t?

There are certain instances in which we must provide much-needed help. Discreetly let your friend know she has lipstick on her teeth. Quietly make her aware that she has toilet paper stuck on the bottom of her shoe. Gently yet quickly walk her to the car if she’s had too much to drink. If someone offers you a mint, please know it’s her kind way of letting you know that your breath is less-than-minty-fresh.

So whose ‘word to the wise’ must we remain wary?

The mom who walks into the classroom and says to the teacher, “You know what you should do?”

The alleged friend who tells a woman, “That dress looks horrible on you,” knowing full well the dress isn’t bad at all. In fact, the dress is a knock-out, as is the woman wearing it.

The manager who delegates most of his work, then explains to those he’s delegated it to just where they went wrong.

The blogger who adopts the ‘I’m a little bit smarter than you, dear reader’ attitude, in spite of his deplorable grammar and stilted writing technique.

The armchair quarter-back. This is the guy who merely sits there, munching Doritos, and tells you where you’ve gone wrong while you’re trying to accomplish something more substantial in life than sitting in a chair and munching Doritos.

So, how do we rise above it all? Confidence, my friends – that’s the key to it all. It’s coming to terms with who we really are and what we want out of life. It’s establishing a clear vision for ourselves and remaining true to that vision. It’s getting over our ‘people-pleasing’ mentality, and realizing that we’ll never please everyone. We don’t have to. As long as we’re happy, and as long as we’ve got support from those who really matter, we’re going to be just fine.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weighing Heavily On Me....

The following is not intended to offend. It's intended to enlighten and inform about the importance of healthy eating and exercise. It’s intended to shed light on certain prejudices and assumptions. It’s intended for us to stop, think, and get real about things. I’ve worked with numerous women, young and old, in this particular area. Please know that it is written out of love and concern…..

Marie Claire magazine now has a section entitled Size Matters. This month’s focus, called Big Girl in a Skinny World, offers slimming hair and makeup techniques for ‘full-figured gals’. That’s all well and good, and I do not have a problem with the article whatsoever – it’s well-written and informative. I do take issue, however, with the Big Girl in a Skinny World title. I find the Skinny World reference ironic given the fact that the obesity rate in this country has skyrocketed. We don’t live in a skinny world; if anything, those of us on the thinner side of the spectrum now face certain prejudices and all-out snarky comments because we don’t fit in to what now seems the norm.

I know what it’s like to be a big girl. My weight fluctuated for years due to inactivity and poor eating habits. It was difficult to lose the weight, and it’s not always easy to keep it off. I made a commitment about ten years ago to live a relatively healthy lifestyle, one that requires me to rise each morning at 6am, work out for at least 45 minutes, and repeat the process the next day. Yes, that’s seven days a week. I don’t do it merely to stay thin; my focus is on wellness, and we are not well if we are carrying extra weight.

Now, I’m not a food prude by any stretch of the imagination. We all have our vices (I type this as I sip my third cup of coffee). I enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. Should the state of Texas decide I must be executed, you can bet your sweet boots that my last meal will be the biggest enchilada platter CafĂ© Adobe can provide. For the most part, however, I stick to the good old veggies, fruits, protein, and healthy carbs method. It’s all about moderation when it comes to food and drink.

With that being said, let me get back to what I’d originally wanted to say: we are far too focused on weight. For the most part, our weight and our general health are choices. Please don’t tell me it’s genetic; one may be prone to weight issues from parents who also suffered weight issues and was not taught at an early age moderation and the importance of healthy eating. Please don’t tell me it’s because you’ve recently been divorced, widowed, dumped, or fired – those are merely excuses. Please don’t tell me it’s because you don’t have time to exercise, particularly after having relayed to me what’s happening on Dancing with the Stars, The Apprentice, or whatever else consumes your evenings. Wellness, and maintaining a healthy weight, are choices that require a commitment on your part.

As women, we do see fluctuations when we step on the scale, thanks to childbirth, menopause, and that special, full feeling we get prior to Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. Again, we must focus on wellnes, rather than a number, and wellness includes good nutrition and exercise.

And how about the reaction that thinner women receive now from some of our heavier sisters? Accusations of eating disorders get tossed about, as do snide comments about easily being able to shop for clothes (FYI – it’s not easy, for any of us, thanks to sizing and manufacturing these days – don’t trust the number on the tag – try it on, and prepare to have something about it altered!) I’ve been on the receiving end of such comments from virtual strangers in the gym locker room to know this for certain. These types of comments are just as hurtful as any that have been thrown the way of a full-figured gal. No one wants to be called scrawny. No one wants to be questioned about why she’s thin, as if it’s a fault. No one wants to feel bad simply because she’s made the choice to live healthfully.

Big Girl in a Skinny World. How about Nice Girl in a Healthy World? Let’s stop focusing on numbers (particularly those that belong to other people) and focus on living healthy, happy, and well, shall we?

Beth Newman
Image Consultant/Life Coach
Newman Image
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

online consultations and mentoring available!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And the Horse You Rode In On

I think as a society it’s time for us to lighten up, don’t you?

Everybody has a cause these days, or some sort of message, or perhaps an agenda to try to get others on board with their way of thinking. I’m all for supporting certain causes and I’ll certainly listen to your message, but I may be wary of your agenda, so you’ll understand if I take a moment to process it all before getting back to you.

You see, many people are complex individuals who require both sides of a story before proclaiming ‘Yes, I’m down with that!’ Politics comes to mind. I make it my policy to never discuss my political views with someone unless I know her really well. I will tell you, though, that I do support gay marriage, but I ask kindly that you allow me my constitutional right to bear arms. That goes to show you that I’m all over the place, politically. Red flags pop up when someone tells me he’s a die-hard- this or a die-hard- that. I would never take to the streets in order to promote or protest something; I feel my vote and a prayer are sufficient. (Side note: I often wonder what would happen if those who did take to the streets protesting certain issues actually spent that time volunteering in an adult literacy program in order to assist others in comprehending information and thus allowing those people to form their own opinions about certain things…..)

Next up: Religion! I grew up a Southern Baptist, and am grateful for the foundation it provided (you know, the Golden Rule and such); however, it took me a long time to overcome the hypocrisy I witnessed within the church. It also took me a while to overcome the images I held of ministers yelling at my 10-year-old-self from the pulpit about how I was destined for hell if I didn’t do right by the Baptists. Jesus never yelled….why did these guys? Sometimes, the messages shouted to us had the opposite effect: to the preacher who actually said it was our duty to go out and ‘kill a queer for Christ’ please go back and review my stand on gay marriage. (Yes, he really said that, and if you don’t believe me, you can call my mother and ask her – she questioned him about it, right in front of the congregation. She didn’t like for me to watch Boy George videos, but by golly, she knew when to call somebody out on something so utterly hateful and backwards!)

I guess the point of this little musing is this: we must have the confidence to stand for something (or we’ll fall for anything, goes the old clichĂ©). We must take the time to inform and educate ourselves about big and little issues, and we must be willing to allow others to possess their own opinions on these big and little issues. We must get to know ourselves really, really well in order to know how we feel about things. Then, we just need to let the way in which we live our lives serve as an example to others.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bogus Self-Esteem

Did you hear the one about the child who received an award every year at school? It wasn’t necessarily won due to merit. The school’s policy dictated that every student must win one each year.

Or, how about the one whose parents placed their child smack-dab in the middle of their universe? Every party, every outing, and every activity at home centered on their child.

Are you aware of the twenty-something, so used to getting his way and receiving pats on the back just for walking into the room that he can’t quite wrap his head around the fact that he’s not landed a CEO gig, even though he is a college graduate (by two months, mind you).

My-oh-my. What a sense of entitlement.

I love children, and have devoted a number of years toward educating them, nurturing them, and enlightening them. I do not, however, condone pandering to them, nor do I think it’s a good idea for them to get the impression that the world revolves around them. It doesn’t, and the sooner they learn this lesson, the better off they will be.

When I was growing up, I had my share of ‘kid stuff’ in the form of birthday parties, sleepovers, and such. However, my parents lived their own lives, and I was dragged along on many adult-centered adventures. Most of our vacations took place in the quiet stillness of the mountains, rather than at amusement parks. My parents hosted parties while my sister and I played with Barbie dolls in our room. I knew my parents loved me, but I also learned quite early that they were more than ‘just parents’. They had their own friends and enjoyed their own kind of fun – the kind of fun that did not include children.

I did win a few awards in school, but believe me, I had to work hard for them.

I graduated from college and ended up working at a radio station full of men, some of whom had been in radio longer than I’d been alive. I didn’t expect to land prime air-time, and I certainly didn’t: I got my start working midnight-6am while only insomniacs and perverts listened. Did I complain? No. Did I beg for sweeter air-time? No. Did I get sweeter airtime when I proved myself capable of handling it? Yes.

Fast forward to my career as a classroom teacher.

I joined the staff of a very new middle school. At the end of the year, my principal informed me that every child in my homeroom was to receive an award. “Just make something up, if you have to,” she said. So I did. I think about the little stinker who received “Improvement in Communication” merely because he’d stopped swearing so much.

I fell to my knees in gratitude when the school came to the profound conclusion that every child winning an award might not be in the best interest of the child or of the school. “What if,” an administrator said, “we gave awards based on merit only?” Gasps flew throughout our little school community, and you can bet we were all taken to task by crying children and their angry parents afterwards. Most of them finally got used to the new policy; others, not so much….

I will never forget Mr. Motivation, whose son was in my 8th grade homeroom. I refer to him as Mr. Motivation because he fancied himself as a motivational speaker, author, and self-esteem guru. Junior Motivation was a nice kid, but not a stellar student. He missed a lot of school for various reasons (headache, lactose intolerance, paper cut, Grandma took him shopping – I’m not making these up). He didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities. He claimed to be on the tennis team, but rarely showed up for practice. Anyway, Junior wasn’t acknowledged during the awards ceremony, something his father could not fathom.

Mr. Motivation stormed into my classroom, demanding to know why Junior wasn’t recognized. I pulled out the guidelines set forth by the school that stated, in great detail, the requirements for receiving awards.

“But he’s such a good kid!” Mr. Motivation proclaimed.

“Yes, he certainly is,” I agreed.

“This has irrevocably damaged his self-esteem! I hope you can live with yourself!” and with that, Mr. Motivation stomped out of my room, his face red, fists clenched, seemingly on the verge of a nervous breakdown.


We don’t get it with a constant barrage of atta-boys. In his seminars, education specialist Nathan Levy refers to the Bogus Self-Esteem movement that’s overtaken our parenting techniques and school systems. I’ve seen it first-hand throughout the years. Sure, we want our kids to be rewarded and recognized, but we’ve lost sight of the fact that they must actually put forth a little effort in order to truly succeed.

When I began my consulting practice, a young woman approached me in need of help. She’d just graduated from college and was working in retail. She couldn’t understand why some major corporation didn’t snatch her up and pay her six figures right off the bat. I had to take a tough-love approach and point out the following to her:

1. She was on the verge of being fired from the retail job due to tardiness and insubordination.

2. Her flip-flops and crop top didn’t necessarily scream President of the Company

3. She didn’t know how to shake my hand, nor could she make eye contact with me during our first few meetings

4. She had difficulty expressing herself verbally, her speech peppered with ‘uh, oh, um’

I discovered that she had received a great deal of recognition in school, as did her classmates. He parents split up after she left home because they shared nothing in common anymore (“They really did dote on me,” she revealed). I also learned that this young woman was incredibly bright, possessed an awful lot of potential, but had never acquired the tools in order to truly succeed in the world.

I worked with this young woman for a while, and am happy to report that she did eventually get it all together. She’s not a CEO, but seems pretty happy in her mid-level-management position. Had she learned the value of hard work, responsibility, accountability, and good manners while growing up, she could have tackled it all much sooner.

As adults, it’s our duty to provide our children with the proper tools to help them get though life. We must show them that working hard will pay off in some sort of fashion. We must insist they get involved in the community. We must let them know early on that they won’t always be recognized for their good efforts. We must reveal to them that, while they are important to us, they don’t rule the world.

I ran into Mr. Motivation not too long ago. He grumbled a terse ‘hello’ and kept on walking. I’m tempted to write him and tell him his lack of acknowledgment ruined my self-esteem. I’m being facetious; my self-esteem is just fine, thank you very much. I don’t need Mr. Motivation’s accolades.

Beth Newman
Image Consultant/Life Coach
Newman Image
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

My e-book, First Style Guide for Girls, is on sale now! Proceeds to benefit Citizens for Animal Protection.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April's Good Buys

Jokes abound on April Fools’ Day, but none of them are near as bad a joke as the idea of bathing suit shopping. Yet now is the time, dear friends, to unbundle and give it a go. Yes, some of us are still winter-pasty and some of us have yet to lose those few pounds gained back over the holidays, but April is honestly the best time to score the best suits of the season.

Swimwear shopping is like no other; you must prepare yourselves. I’ve got a few tips I’d like to offer to help you get through it:

1. Use some kind of self-tanner – apply it a few days before you shop. Even a minimal shade will make a world of difference.

2. Fix your hair and apply your makeup – it sounds silly, I’m sure, but when you’re in a changing room with just your body and bad lighting, bad hair and no makeup will only dampen your mood.

3. Wear shoes with a slight heel – this elevates and elongates the legs, and forces your posture into position. Good posture = confidence, and boy, do we need all the confidence we can get when trying on swimsuits!

4. Don’t shop if you’re suffering from PMS – Crankiness and bloating can devastate even the most confident shopper. Stay home and eat chocolate that day.

5. Avoid hairy-scary situations – you won’t sell yourself on the suit when you’ve a forest sprouting from your legs, armpits, and other bits. Shave or wax; you’ll feel much better about yourself.

Other items to seek out this month include skirts and summer shoes. It’s a big month for summer shipments of almost everything. Take inventory first of what your really need, make a list, and stick to your budget. Good luck and have fun!

Beth Newman
Image Consultant/Life Coach
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

ps..My book, First Style Guide for Girls, is now available! Proceeds go to charity. Details on my website!