Dr. Robyn is Guest Editor for Dove Self Esteem Fund!

dove self esteem fund

Dr. Robyn Silverman

How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Joining Dove Self Esteem Embassador, Jessica Weiner and psychologist and author, Ann Kearney Cooke, I am honored to have been asked to be the guest editor for the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Do you know about the great efforts of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that teaches girls not to get sucked into the media hype about thinness as well as the importance of loving “the skin you’re in?” They do films, workshops, and education for girls, moms and anyone who loves or works with girls.

The question I was asked to answer for preteen and teen girls was: How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Here’s the full article and bio.

Highlights from the article include:

If you asked me about real beauty, you might be surprised by what I say…when I was 14 years old, there was an enormous billboard in our town center of a woman in an expensive dress looking down on the street through heavily made up eyes.  I thought she was perfect; unblemished, flawless, and yes, a real beauty. As I look back, I realize how wrong I was to think that way…she was digitally modified, primped, preened, puffed up and paired down…what’s really beautiful about someone who doesn’t really exist?

We want girls to realize that real beauty is in their best friend– their mom– and in themselves.  So I included passages such as this one:

Real beauty doesn’t need to be all made up or dressed in fancy clothes. It’s imperfectly perfect. It’s your best friend’s contagious zest for life that you see every time she pretends to pose for glamour shots while wearing a fuzzy bathroom and hippo-patterned pajamas. It’s the two of you singing into a hairbrush and dancing to some ridiculous song on the radio– just because it’s fun. Just because you can. Yes, real beauty is in your best friend…

Read the rest of the article!

What do you think real beauty is all about?  How would you explain it to your daughter, your niece, your student, or other girls you love?

Please comment below– we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


9 Responses

  1. I wasted a large amount of my life pursuing someone else’s view of beauty. A developing dancer during the Balancine era, my 5’1″ gymnast-built body simply would not conform to what was considered to be the “perfect” dancer body no matter how many times I dieted, purged, took diet pills, or other types of things designed to take weight off.

    What a waste! Then add that to society’s beauty expectations — I was a short, muscular redhead with pale skin and freckles! That was not exactly the Vogue look! Trendy hair cuts, make up, diets, etc. never delivered the result I wanted. Of course not! I was me — not a bill board or magazine lay out! I spent too much time bemoaning what I did not have and never really appreciated what I did have! 30-some years as a matter of fact! Way too much time. Wasted, painful time that I would never wish upon another!

    Now, I have a totally different body, and the face of a 40-somethng. The scars of these expectations still linger — I have not put on a bathing suit in over 10 years nor been to the beach. I wear oversized clothing to cover the remnants of having 3 children and the fact that diets are no longer effective because of spending too much of my life on them!

    I write this because every day I get to pass on this message to young girls in my gym — appreciate your body and embrace your differences because they are what make you special. I am blessed with a gym full of really special girls who have pride in themselves and when they start to doubt, there are plenty of us who pitch in and help boost them back up. These girls will become strong, confident women who hopefully will not “waste” much of their life wishing they were someone else or looked different. I fortunately have sons, so none of my angst over body image seems to have rubbed off on them (they are all pretty self-confident and do not pursue girls simply because of their looks!).

    Being beautiful is not about perfection or conforming to others’ expectatons, but about embracing the very things that make us unique and special! It is about having pale skin, as well as tanned. Muscular legs, as well as thin legs. Red hair, as well as brown or blonde hair. Being short, as well as being tall! It is about being yourself and encouraging others to do the same. It is about not becoming a “clone” and acting, dressing, and becoming one of the pack. It is about remaining an individual and never, ever, poking fun at anyone else who is an individual! It is however, about learning to laugh at yourself at times, and embrace life with a sense of humor!

    Real beauty is about Real Life — so do not wait until the “perfect time”, go out there and be a participant – not an observer!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful insight, Terry. I love that you speak directly to your gymnasts about body image and being proud of who they are and how they look. I hope you share these insights on “real beauty” with your girls so that they understand that you went through some struggles but were able to rise above to ultimately accept yourself. That would be extremely valuable!

    How fortunate these girls to have you as their role model– someone who cares, who has “been there”, and who is sensitive to the issues that are pressing girls today.

    Thanks again for commenting- come back soon!

    Dr. Robyn

  3. This comment just came to my email box, and I wanted to share it with all of you:

    Dr. Robyn

    Dear. Dr. Silverman,

    I just read your article about The Reality of Real Beauty. I can reeeally
    appreciate it from a personal standpoint. But I came about my love for my
    natural self in a slightly different way. I am 44 and was adopted and
    raised by a woman from the WWII era. She was not much younger than I am
    now when I was adopted at 4 mos. old. I really struggled as an adult due
    to the culture and age gap between her experiences and those of mine in an
    entirely different world. She is not the reason I became as much of a
    natural girl as I am. In fact my love for nature extends itself to a
    spiritual level. My mother and I couldn’t be more opposite in almost
    every way. She promoted a very made up and almost sexually alluring look
    as I was in my early adulthood. She tried to put me through modelling
    school of all things instead of trying to promote my thought processes. I
    am 5′,5″. I look back and think about how many times I looked like some
    kind of a call girl when I should have been concerning myself with who I
    was on the inside. I ended up so confused and just plain screwed up in
    the head that I never succeeded at anything. My mother told me when I was
    a sophmore in High School after asking her about college, “Oh, Judi, just
    marry a rich man! He, he, he.”

    I look back at my teen years and realize that I developed my sense of
    natural health and wellbeing from a boyfriend who was a body builder and
    taught me the value of exercise and healthful eating. Today, I am 120lbs
    and capable of a great deal of energy output and weight resistance. I’m
    in better shape than many girls half my age, (which in itself I feel is a
    rather sad fact) I haven’t worn makeup since my wedding a decade ago.
    About 6 years ago, a man approached me at a bar while I was on my way out
    and said, “You are a real natural beauty.” You have no idea how wonderful
    that made me feel.

    I think your message is terrific, and I am so happy that people like you
    realize how important a mother’s influence is. I wish I had a decent
    influence. My mother and I do not get along to this day. I resent the
    fact that she misguided me so badly that my life is essentially screwed up
    because of it. When I returned to her house after a very abusive live-in
    relationship (I ran away after my father died when I was 16 and went to my
    mother when I was 20 wanting to go back to school) I was getting straight
    A’s, then my mother, instead of encouraging me said I was too old, and
    ought to be working. Today, I have only a couple years of school under my
    belt and no degree. I have seen a bizzilion counselors because my rotten
    mother needed one. To this day I still detest her. Harsh? She blames me
    for all my failings. It will take a long time for me to find the strength
    I need within myself now, for I have been diagnosed with Lupus 6 years
    ago. Two of my beloved three children (one girl) are with their fathers
    because I have ill health and a house that doesn’t have hot running water
    or a real bathroom. I live in the mountains of NW Montana. My life I
    feel is a shameful waste. I thank Goddess for women like you and for my
    own insightful self assessment that I/we may make the path to a healthy
    productive life for so many girls who are approaching adulthood. I am the
    lesson of the past, with a glimer of hope for the future. Thank you for
    you. Goddess Bless.

  4. This from the Dove.com site where the article is posted:

    Wow! I just realized that the only time I’m truly happy is when I’m with the people I love. When I’m laughing with my best friend over crazy, silly, meaningless things we don’t even remember what made us laugh in the first place;when I listen to my Mom tell stories about when I was a baby and how she can still picture what I looked like the very first time she held me; those are the times I can honestly say that I’m totally happy. I’m not happy when I look at celebrities and magazines and movies and comparen myself to them– so I just won;t do that anymore. If I have to be perfect by those standards for everyone to love me then I’ll just be me, imperfect as I may be, and I’ll be happy to be loved by the people who love me for who I am not for what I look like.


  5. Another comment from the Dove site:

    I have two things to say…one, I have cloud pj bottoms not hippo ones 🙂 and two, great article! I feel that as I’ve gotten older, I too have realized that real beauty does come from within. I just hope that the teens of today realize it as well.


  6. Robyn

    Congrats on the Dove appointment. How cool. Anything we can do to help teens is so important. One of the ways we are helping is through the Hue-Man Being Art Project which asks students to draw pictures of people of various hued skin interacting in harmony. We also ask them to write a few sentences on why they think it is important to not judge each other negatively because of the “hue” of their skin.

    We also are asking teens to send us the name of the celebrity that they think exhibited behavior that was the best role model for 2008. The celebrity that receives the most nominations will receive the coveted U G L Y Celebrity of the year award. We have designed an entire media literacy program around this project that we avail to educators and organizations for free. As you know, awakening in teens and tweens that inner voice which can help them discern good role models from those who exhibit behaviors that might be construed as negative is so important.

    Let us know how we can be of service to you. We are here to serve and help our youth.

  7. Congrats Dr. Robyn! You definitely deserve the honor!

  8. […] is: I don’t. But that doesn’t matter. As you can imagine, I find it important enough as a mentor to children  to parents, and a well-balanced person and family member, to do it anyway. It makes […]

  9. […] it comes to shape and size.  When I was interviewed on this topic several years ago regarding the DOVE campaign and how I felt about it being in the top women’s magazines I said “well, it’s a start.  But […]

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