The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons why you want to be yourself Copy

A teen was saying the other day how they were tired of changing their personality to match their friend group and just wanted to be themselves. Have you ever thought, “if I act like myself how will people react?” and “what if they judge me? Changing your personality or the way you behave in order to make friends and fit in will likely leave you in inner chaos and feeling completely dissatisfied.

​If you want to feel good in your skin and be yourself, even if it feels like a scary possibility, consider these 10 reasons below on why being yourself is best.

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10 REASONS WHY BEING YOURSELF IS BEST

1. More to Offer – If you spend your time and energy trying to act like everyone else, your thoughts, feelings and personality get lost in the mix. Being a copy of someone else is like eating the same food every single day; it can get to be kind of dull. When you stop putting all that energy into changing who you are, you will be able to let your unique personality shine through and you will have so much more to offer.

2. Independence – Part of being a teen is starting to gain more independence and a sense of self. Getting to know what you like, believe in, and think is an important part of growing up. The more you get to know and show this part of yourself, the more agency you grow. That’s your ability to act independently and make your own free choices. Sounds good right?!

3. The Best of Friends – When you change who you are to fit in, you are not likely to be spending your time with “your people”. It might be hard to get along with your friends and you may realize that they are not true friends. When you start behaving like yourself, it is like a compass finding the best kind of people and best kind of friends in your life.

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4. More fun– Being guarded or watching what you say, think, or feel takes a lot of effort. It’s like putting up a fortress around you and constantly watching for chips or cracks in the foundation. Letting that guard down and being yourself means you can focus your attention on doing the things you love and having fun doing them.

5. Discover Your Talents – Everyone has skills and unique talents to share with others. In order to develop them, you need time to discover them. Being yourself allows you to figure out what it is that you like and what you’re good at. Everyone benefits from that!

6. Within Your Control – Spending your time constantly worrying about what others think is like throwing money in a shredding machine – it gets you nowhere. There is a much bigger impact you can have on yourself and others, and that is to recognize what is outside of your control and what is within your control. For example, others thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are not things you have any control over. You may be able to influence people, but ultimately their choices are theirs. Now, your own thoughts and behaviours are definitely something that are within your control and within your ability to choose. Your response is also within your control. You choose how you want to respond to others and to situations. Would you rather be worrying all the time or having fun with people who like you for you? You get to choose.

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7. Boost Your Confidence – Being yourself might seem risky at first, but this risk is worth the effort. Your confidence depends on your ability to take risks. The more risks you take that move the needle towards the person you want to be, the easier it gets and the more it boosts your confidence. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard or scary, but it does mean it will be worth it.

8. Dust Yourself Off – Part II of boosting your confidence. I don’t want to sugarcoat things so I am going to say that sometimes acting like yourself might feel like a total bust or a failure. If that happens, know that failure is something that everyone experiences and it also boosts your confidence. How you handle failure is the key. So, if being yourself means you lose a friend, gaining a new true friend is now a possibility. If being yourself means you stop participating in a certain group, finding a new group who like the same things will now be an option.

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9. Discover Your Hobbies – Changing yourself to fit others molds is kind of like sitting on the sidelines instead of being in the game. If you commit to being yourself, you will start to find things that you enjoy and get to do those.

10. Live Adventures – Speaking of sitting on the sidelines, getting to know who you truly are (and you are changing all the time) allows you to be living your life instead of watching it go by. Adventures and experiences that you might see others having on social media or in your peer groups can be yours to have. Or even better, you can be creating your own adventures. And I don’t know about you, but living my life sounds much better than watching others live theirs.

It’s not always easy to be yourself. It starts with taking the first step. A mentor once told me, “be yourself and the world will adjust” and I think they were onto something pretty good.

Sincerely,

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Encouraging Good Grades: How to support your teen succeeding during a pandemic Copy

A parent was saying the other day that they wanted to motivate their teen to get better grades and they were asking if they should be punishing them for bad grades and how often to check on their school work.

With the current conditions and restrictions of the pandemic, teens may be struggling more than ever to see academic success. As a parent, watching your teen struggle with motivation and success can be really difficult. Your mind might go to that place of seeing failure in their academics as something that will screw up their future and lead to lost opportunities, leaving you stressed out and fearful.

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If you want to support your teen to succeed in their school achievements, but don’t want it to be an uphill battle, here are a few questions to consider: 

1. Should I punish my teen for bad grades?
Punishing for bad grades, whether that’s consequences, screaming or lecturing, can lead to increased anxiety and low self-esteem. Pushing too hard for the grade may backfire.  Before you punish or give consequences for grades, consider what factors are leading to the low grades. A different course of action will be taken if your teen is struggling to understand materials vs. your teen is spending hours on-line and not creating enough time to study and complete assignments. Even if your teen is spending hours on-line, that in itself can be a coping mechanism to deal with a lack of organization and time management skills, learning difficulties, or a lack of understanding the materials. Be curious and take the time to inquire about what is contributing to the poor grades.

If you do choose to implement consequences, it is much more effective to curb the behaviour and not the grade. For example, if your teen wants to do their homework in their room and this is leading to distraction and incomplete work, you can remove the privilege of doing homework in their room to curb the behaviour of distraction. If your teen is on-line for hours and not getting their work done, you can remove the privilege of screen time until a set amount of school work is completed. By curbing the behaviour, you foster opportunities to increase effort and skills such as organization and time management skills, that are useful for life. Punishment and consequences will not build those skills – see more in question 3.

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2. Should I reward my teen for good grades?
Along the same wavelength as punishing, rewarding is much more effective when it corresponds to the behaviour. In this case, it’s the behaviour you hope to see your teen master such as, effort, focus, engagement, planning, and preparing. Communicating your expectations around accomplishments is very important. Be specific and goal oriented, where it is clear and achievable for your teen. Clear and Achievable😊. Instead of the expectation “I want you to get a minimum of X in all your subjects”, you might have something like, ‘I want you to read every night for 1 hour” or “I want all homework complete prior to free time”. Praise the efforts when you see them. You may also have incentives in place for some specific accomplishments. Again, I would focus on the behaviours over the actual grade. If going out for ice cream or their favourite latte is the incentive, acknowledge the effort and the prioritizing of their time that you saw over the actual grade.

Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash

3. How can I help my teen achieve academic success?
Part of this is the bigger picture stuff. Consider the value you hold around the grades. What does this represent for you? Values drive people to believe things, so take some time to reflect on what your values are around the good grades- e.g. lifelong learning , education, contribution, success, status, etc. Share those with your teens. Teens still rely on parents for guidance, modeling, and making sense of the world.

Be clear and collaborative when it comes to expectations and goals. Have an open dialogue where there is room for sharing expectations, problem solving, and setting goals for academic accomplishments. Getting your teen’s input here allows them to be more invested in the process- you really want to have some of the motivation be intrinsic (motivated by personal reward).

Get to the root of what’s happening. Know the difference between contextual issues and more global issues. If your teen is struggling with math (Oh did I ever!), brainstorm ways you can help like getting a tutor, allowing for more regular time to work on math, working with their teacher, researching ideas of presenting the materials that work for them, etc. If your teen is struggling with more global issues such as organization, time management, focus, and study skills, you can help by coming up with a study plan together, sharing time management and organization ideas, and having them test out tools such as apps, reminders, and alarms. Need some suggestions? Start here for app recommendations or here for study ideas.

In the end the greatest reward will come from your teen feeling competent and capable in their accomplishments and achievements.

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Do you trust your teen: talking parental controls Copy

You know those apps that allow you to block, see and track your teens digital usage?

I’ve heard from many teens that parental controls feel restrictive and kinda disrespectful. Teens are bright and find creative ways to get around or disable these tools.

Ok.
Are you freaking out a bit?

It’s simply not a clear cut answer of whether you use them or not. What it boils down to are your intentions and how your decisions are supporting your teen to develop-

  • Critical thinking
  • Responsibility
  • Choice making skills

Photo by Tim Massholder on Unsplash

If you want to have a respectful relationship with your teen, even if they won’t like all your decisions, let’s dive into this parental control idea.

Imagine this analogy: When you go tobogganing (living in Canada here, thinking of snow!) you will see kids with snow pants, no snow pants, helmets, no helmets, some taking insane jumps and others sliding down cautiously.

Internet safety is a part of parenting to help teach your kids the behaviours you think will line them up for safety and success just like any other potentially dangerous activity.

DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

Online communities are like in person communities in that there are responsibilities social norms and folks that behave in all kinds of ways. 

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Educating your teen on digital citizenship starts with You. Understand the 7 key areas:

  • Empathy
  • How the Internet works
  • Understanding user data
  • Practicing digital literacy
  • Acknowledging the digital divide
  • Practicing digital wellness
  • Securing digital devices

Chris Zook goes into more detail on each on these here

​By having conversations with your teen (yes multiple conversations ) about the online world, you are building trust, responsibility and their ability to make informed choices.

And listen they’re gonna mess up because that’s how humans discover, learn and grow in this world.

AGE MATTERS

Conversations on how to use the internet safely need to begin as soon as your kiddos start using technology. Now of course, what you will say to a 4-year old is going to be completely different then talking to your 13-year old.

Talk to your teens about what they are seeing, who they are interacting with, and what is catching their attention online. This is a huge insight into their world and what is important to them right now.

Photo by Julia Coimbra on Unsplash

Ask yourself, “what’s my intention?” If it’s to block all potentially disturbing content and track your teen’s online behaviours, you may see this backfiring on developing a respectful relationship with them.

Perhaps you are in a situation where parental monitoring is a big challenge right now? You have your specific reasons for considering parental controls.

Photo by Michael Jeffery on Unsplash

It is so important that you consider what actions you are going to take to continue building trust and develop your teen’s ability to make smart choices and take responsibility.

Talk to them about why you are making internet use decisions and be prepared to hear their concerns. Help them by connecting your reasoning to their hopes and goals (e.g. if they wanna get good grades, sleep and reduced tech use before bed will help them reach this).

Consider flexibility within the controls.

No matter what decision you make, you will Stay in your teen’s squad if you approach it relationship first.

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Teen Attitude – How much of it is typical and what can be “corrected”? Copy

The snarky No’s and endless attitude of living with a teenager can be hurtful and hard to take some days. What if you have 3 teens or 5 for that matter! If you are looking to survive the teen years, while hanging on to the great things in your relationship, read on:

Don’t take it personally– Don’t Read this when you are arguing with your teen because otherwise you will skip this post altogether.  The eye rolls, attitude, sarcasm, testing limits, it’s pretty much all typical and expected. **Note I didn’t say easy.

Some parents have asked me if they should let their teen know they don’t appreciate the tone or the behaviours. For the most part, I recommend letting it be and deciding which are the battles worth fighting for. I think you can bring it up if you are saying it from a neutral place (so maybe the next day). There may be a chance that they hear that and think twice next time, but that’s a bonus, not the goal.

Self-Care for youYou are the adult and you have more experience and more access to your fully wired brain (most of the time). The more you take the time to care for yourself, the more you are able to let things roll off your back and it pays off for everyone. I have a pretty non-negotiable morning routine that includes meditation and a workout to help me be more even keeled throughout the day. What do you do ?

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Practice your ABC’s –

  • Attentively listen
  • Boundaries
  • Connect

Hear your teens’ concerns, ask about them and really listen. Stick to your boundaries. You are going to have some hard No’s based on your values and beliefs as a parent. If you are coming from a place of love they are important to have. Above all, connect. Let them know you hear the suck and the struggle.

Know all of this is part of an important developmental milestone– Teens develop important skills like cooperation, problem solving, and negotiation by essentially acting out to some degree. For better or worse, you are the identified safe ground to try out these skills. To get the thinking brain at work here you can try a paraphrase once in a while, “so what I heard you say is everyone you play games with is fine with being cursed at and talked down to”.

Photo from Canva Pro 

Allow yourself thinking time– It’s ok to say “we are not having this discussion right now with us being so angry”. It’s ok to walk away (maybe not storm away) and come back to things, even if it’s the next day. Don’t ever let nagging cause you to cave on things that you have a hard line on.

Keep these in mind to help you shift your perspective and know your teen may be having a hard not giving you a hard time. Let the weight drop off you like sandbags and embrace self-love as a parent choosing to show

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Thought Distortions: You Have the Power to Choose Happiness

Sometimes, your brain can play tricks on you and create thoughts that bend the truth, or alter reality. These kinds of thoughts are called Thought Distortions. They can also be called Thinking Traps or Cognitive Distortions.

Having these thoughts doesn’t mean you can’t trust your brain, but you may want to ask yourself how you can look at these thoughts differently… The ability to find happiness in your thoughts and experiences is already within you. There are techniques and strategies to activate what I call your ‘Happiness Pill’.

Photo from Canva Pro

Getting Hooked

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has between 12,000 – 80,000 thoughts A DAY! over 6,000 (can we please reference) thoughts A DAY! Your brain brings your attention to some of them more than others; the thoughts you believe in the most..

Giving your attention to some thoughts can be helpful – like if you think you are a great artist, or you believe you have good support in your life. Of course you want to believe these thoughts! They make you feel really good. You want to let yourself believe in them.

However, there are other thoughts that can get you hooked or hijack your brain and don’t serve you as well. Things like “I”m going to mess this up. I ALWAYS make mistakes here. People don’t actually like me, they just feel bad for me.” These thoughts can make you feel really down, or bad about yourself, and they impact your behaviour negatively. You might not step up and do the things you want to do because you’re stuck in your thoughts (or trapped). It happens to all of us!

These thinking distortions are kind of like those mirrors at the carnivals, you know the ones that are curved, and wobbly. They make your body look bizarre, and wonky; distorted. Your thoughts will sometimes do things like that – they will distort reality.

The difference between the mirrors at the carnival , and the thoughts in your head is that sometimes you don’t know you’re looking through the wonky mirrors, so you believe what you’re seeing/believing is true.

The key to seeing through thinking distortions is to recognize times when you are standing in a mirror like this; when you are hooked on a thought. To bring awareness to what it is leading you to think and feel about yourself. If you look into the mirror and see something you don’t like, then maybe that’s not a thought you want to hold onto. You have the power to choose which mirror you want to look into.

There are many different types of Thought Distortions. Here are the six most common ones I hear from the teens I work with:

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Six Types of Thought Distortions

  • Catastrophizing is when you think about something that has happened and immediately jump to the worst case scenario – “I got a bad grade, so now I am going to fail the whole class. I said something that wasn’t cool, so now I’m never going to have friends; everyone is going to hate me.” 
  • Minimizing is when you take your accomplishments and your successes and dismiss them. If you believe you aren’t good enough, you minimize any thoughts that could prove that wrong. Like if you got a part in a play, or a new job and you say things like “Oh, I only got the part because the teacher didn’t have other options” or “My friends works there, that’s why I got the job.” You dismiss that any successes may actually be because of you! Who you are. Your personality, characteristics, talents, skills, etc.
  • Labelling is when you put a label on yourself, about who you are, rather than it being something you did, or that may have happened. You label yourself as something, rather than labeling the behaviour.

    Photo from Canva Pro

    Instead of thinking “oh, I made a mistake” you’re thinking “I AM stupid, or I AM lazy.”

  • Mind Reading/Jumping to Conclusions is when you think you know what another person is thinking or feeling, without having any proof of that; nobody is actually saying that. Let’s say you’re at a party, and you’re feeling a little awkward, so you’re hanging out in the corner, not really talking to anyone. Mind reading could look like: “they all hate me, nobody wants to talk to me. Everyone here thinks I”m so weird.You jump to conclusions!
  • Black & White Thinking (AKA all or nothing thinking) is when there is no grey zone in your thoughts. It’s either/or; can’t be anything else. This shows up in ‘always’ or ‘never’ type of language – “I ALWAYS mess up new conversations. I NEVER get picked first for the team.” Oftentimes, you might have thoughts that begin with “everyone” or “no one”… If your thought begins with some of these, you’re likely in all or none thinking.
  • Personalization is when you make a situation about you, when it isn’t really about you. You take the blame for things that have very little to do with you or are outside of your control. It is different from taking accountability or responsibility for something you’ve done; this is where everything is your fault.Let’s say you and some classmates at school got a bad grade on a group presentation. A personalization thought would look like “this is all my fault because I didn’t draw the poster well enough. I caused everyone to have a low grade, because I was so terrible at presenting.” The truth here is likely that everyone had a part to play in the low grade.

 

Photo from Canva Pro

Alternative Thinking

Now that you can recognize the different types of Thought Distortions, you can begin to notice when you are thinking in this way. Here are some questions you can ask when you notice these thoughts:

  • What situations are these types of thoughts showing up in? ( E.g.: do they show up more when I’m at school, or when I’m with my friends?)
  • What are the most common thinking traps for my brain? 
  • Is this actually true? 
  • What’s the evidence for this thought?
  • What’s the value in standing in front of this mirror? Why do I want to stand here? 
  • DO I want to???

Photo from Canva

The next step is to think of alternative thoughts – if the thought you’re currently thinking is a possibility, what else could it be? Ask yourself:

  • How does this thought make me feel? Is this how I want to feel? 
  • What is the behaviour – or the way I am acting – because of this thought/how it makes me feel? Is this the behaviour I want?

If your answer is no to either of these questions, what could be an alternative, another thought that would lead to a different feeling or behaviour?

For example, you could be thinking “I didn’t get invited to the movies because nobody likes me” which is making you feel really crappy about yourself… You may choose to stop talking to your friends (the behaviour), or isolate yourself from others. Or instead, you could think: “what else could it be? Could there be something else that is true?”

You want to find thoughts that may lead you to feeling better, or taking a different action.

Imagine all of your thoughts in a day (12,000+, remember!) are all in one big glass house that is covered in the mirrors we talked about earlier. Which ones do you want to stand in front of? What is a mirror you would rather look into?

Photo from Canva Pro

That could be a mirror of confidence – if you want to stand in front of that mirror, ask yourself what would it look like?

A mirror of confidence might look like: “They didn’t invite me this time, maybe they didn’t know I wanted to come to the party/find it fun. I really like hanging out with people and can’t wait until the next opportunity to join them!” Where does thinking these instead lead you to feeling? It may help you feel better; motivated, and confident.

Your actions will look different when you feel differently – you might go talk to new people, or be active in the social media group your friends are in.

Being aware of your thoughts, asking these questions, and thinking alternative thoughts is the power you have to make a choice about what you think and feel. It is how you find happiness in your experiences – your own ‘Happiness Pill.’

This work is not easy. There might be a lot of mirrors in front of you with distortions and images you don’t like! You have to work to find mirrors without the distortions, the ones that will support you. It takes effort and work, which can be discouraging. But I promise – it is so worth it!

The Happiness Pill Program is a program I created just for you and all the other teens who are also feeling anxious and thinking worried thoughts. It is a program designed to give you the power to find, create, and choose your own happiness. You will get to connect with me personally to map out the life you want, and build a friendship circle (online) of friends who are building the same skills as you are. Send me an email for more information – you can feel light, and free with the things you will learn in the program!

You can also follow me on TikTok (@therapywithchantal) or Instagram (@therapywithchantal) for daily tips, resources, and quotes.

As always, reach out any time!

Love,
Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Six Things That Will Make You Think Twice When It Comes To Your Body Image

Do you ever find yourself looking in the mirror thinking “I wish I had …..[bigger, thinner, longer, better ____________]”?

Every day youth are bombarded with images and messages about their appearance and the impossible beauty standards put forth by society. Measuring your worth by how your body looks is a slippery slope of negative self-talk, body bashing, and self-loathing.

What if you could use your appearance to tell a story, to share your uniqueness, to uplift your self-image and stop the negativity in its tracks? 

If you’re ready to think twice about how you feel about your body image,  read on.

Photo found on www.medium.com, an article by Juliet Torrisi.

The Difference Between Self Image and Body Image

Self-image is a larger term that includes how you see yourself in relation to yourself, other people, and to the world that you live in. Basically anything that is involved in ‘self’ impacts and is a part of your self image – values, beliefs, memories, experiences, thoughts, feelings, physical appearance, spirituality etc. Your self-image and sense of self is always evolving and changing.

Saying that, there are some core messages, or beliefs,  that develop when you are younger (like under the age of 10), when we are generally very reliant on the adults in our life. They become core to your identity and how you see yourself. Sometimes you might be clearly aware of what they are and sometimes these beliefs might be a little more on the subconscious side. These could be things that were verbally said –  ‘you are so athletic’ or ‘she’s so shy!’ The things you  believe can also be nonverbal – things that weren’t said, and/or behaviours from others that you then internalize as beliefs  about yourself.

Body image is one aspect of self-image that focuses on how you see your self physically –  Your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about your physical appearance. Body image is built on many different things – past experiences, things you see in the world, messages you get from parents/adults, friends, cultural groups, etc. Media is a big influence on how you develop body image as well – what you see and hear on social media, in shows, movies, and advertisements.

Photo from Canva Pro

Ideal Body Image

What is an ideal body image anyways?

The way I see it, it’s about feeling  good in your own skin – with how your body looks, knowing that it is unique. When you’re aware of what your body is capable of; you feel empowered by that. Noticing the power in your body and all that it is is an important first step –  INSTEAD of picking apart the flaws – the things you think are wrong with it, or how it doesn’t meet up to certain standards (standards that are, for the most part, unattainable and quite unrealistic to reach).

An ideal body image supports your wellbeing and mental health.

How can you move towards a body image that supports your wellbeing – and make good choices for your mental health –  in spite of all the different things and people that influence your self-image?

Here are six ways to think twice about your body image:

1. Find Your Body Image Role Models

Surround yourself with people who practice body positivity for themselves. People who love their bodies even with their imperfections, and even if they don’t look like what social media advertises as the body. They love themselves and focus on what their body can do, and on putting things on and in their body that make them feel good, strong, and powerful.

People who may have goals for their bodies – like strengthening their body, increasing their fitness level, or gaining/losing weight – but are kind and compassionate with themselves. They love themselves where they are at, while having their goals.

Photo from Canva Pro

Body image role models can be in the circle of people you already know – a parent, teacher, friend, or other relative.

You can also look for role models outside of your circle too, people you don’t know. These could be influencers or famous people that are modelling body positivity.

Find public figures, celebrities or influencers that look similar to you – e.g. same ethnicity, body shape, or style. It can even be about finding a specific feature – a hairstyle , or something else unique about your body. It’s a great thing to have more diversity and representation of different types of people so you can do this! For me, I also found people who had similar values and beliefs that I have.

It’s important to see and hear others like you, who love their bodies, so it’s easier to see that you can love your body, too.

2. Be Critical of Social Media

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone’s highlight reels” and it is often very true. A lot of media out there – photos, videos, etc. – are not a true depiction of reality.

When you see an image or someone on a show and you notice you’re feeling a little low on yourself, you can do a little check-in and ask yourself:

  • Is this photo really how this person looks? Is it a real life image, or has it been altered? Is it just a highlight moment, or is this how this person looks on the daily?
  • How much time and energy did it take for this person to look this way? Is that something I want in my life?

    Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

  • What do I admire about people in my life that I respect? Do I admire just their looks, or are there other things I respect and look up to them for? What other things could be important?
  • Could this image have been photoshopped? Is there a filter or other edits going on?

It’s really important to be critical of the different things you see. To question the highlight reels being posted on social media vs what reality really looks like.

Every body comes in different shapes and sizes, with different marks, tones, scars and unique features. Your body tells the story of your life! Of who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and how you’ve gotten this far.

3. Know Where to Get Information

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

 

Seek out credible resources – through coaches, teachers, websites for teens etc. Here are a few to get you started:

4. Social Media Breaks

Did you know being on social media increases cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone?

When you’re online for long periods of time, it increases your stress response. It comes with dopamine spikes (depending on what you’re doing), the natural pleasure/reward chemicals, followed by a crash or constant stress, which can ultimately plummet your mood, confidence, and self-esteem – you really begin to feel down on yourself.

It’s important to get breaks from this rush of stress so you can be in a place to make decisions that are going to support a healthy self image. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you will see yourself in a positive light, and take actions that line up with the kind of body image you want.

Photo from Canva Pro

Here’s how this plays out sometimes. Say you were planning to go for a run tomorrow, and were scrolling social media late into the night, you wake up feeling exhausted and totally unmotivated. The likelihood of you going for that run is not

great. Your brain may start telling you things like – “I didn’t run, I’m so lazy, I’m not getting healthy, I don’t look good etc.” and it can spiral so you’re all caught up in your thoughts.

You also want to take social media breaks to distance yourself from the constant game of comparison – constantly filtering through and comparing bodies, faces, and filters, seeing people who look a certain way/look differently than you, etc.

Your brain is running a mile a minute trying to make sense of all this stuff! The more that you are hooked to the comparison machine, the worse you feel about yourself. It’s good to take a break and interact with real life people and the world in front of you to give you a different perspective on things.

5. Practicing Body Acceptance

Body acceptance isn’t simply accepting your flaws. Body acceptance is about recognizing that there is so much more to your body than appearance alone. Practicing body positivity can bring you to a place where you allow yourself to see your body for what it is. Yes, it has an appearance that shows to the outside world. But it can also do all these things, and that’s really important to be curious about and dial into.

What is it that your body is capable of? What can your body do? Stretching, moving, dancing, walking, playing a sport really well… It could also be that your body is really great at being still and chill. There are so many different things!

There is so much more to your body than just looks, and they are ALL unique! No two bodies are alike – even identical twins have differences. It’s quite fascinating!

Honing in on what YOUR body can do allows you to look at your physical self and see all of the things your body is great for… Your body may be able to do things better than someone else – and their body could do other things better than you, etc.

Photo from Canva Pro

Here are 3 things you can do to practice body acceptance:

  • Create a really great feeling about yourself by naming the following things:
    – 3 things your body can do
    – 3 things you enjoy about you body
    – 3 things you enjoy about your personality
    – 3 things you have done or can put on your body (accessories or clothing) that feel good
    – 1 recent accomplishment
    Once you have everything listed, keep the list somewhere safe that you can access any time you are feeling low – a note on your phone, or a piece of paper in your purse or wallet.
  • Make a list of 10 things you love about yourself – you can choose to have some body orientated things on your list, or not. This is also a list you can keep handy to review when needed. Or even hang on your bedroom wall!
  • Download my Body Image Tips guide to have a condensed reminder of all the things you’re reading in this blog article. A reminder of all the things you can do to create a healthy self image.

4. Be Body Aware

Being body aware means tuning into your body and using it as a really cool resource, instead of body shaming and bashing it all the time.

Think about how amazing your body is, and how informative – it’s constantly giving out messages! When you’re nervous or stressed, your stomach might be in knots, or your heart is beating faster. If you’re having a super fun time, or with people you love – your heart might feel expansive, your face might light up with love. The messages your bodies give you are a really cool thing.

Instead of thinking ‘this body is this thing that I must hate, that will never live up to any standards’ do a mindset switch to think ‘my body is actually SO cool and SO unique and there isn’t another one like it… My body is imperfect, and that’s okay! It’s capable of so many things – it is an amazingly beautiful information giving machine that can be a resource for me.’

You can tune into this ability, ideally every day, by stopping for a minute and noticing what messages your body is giving you; what kind of sensations. Is your stomach grumbling because you’re hungry? Are your toes tingly because you’ve been sitting down for a long time? Is your back tight because you’ve been in a hunched over position? Is your body feeling energized? Really good? Sluggish and wanting to move?

There are a few ways of doing this:

Pause for a minute, take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel from head to toe OR toe to head.

Mindfulness meditation practice – focus on just one part of your body. I will sit with my eyes closed and see if I can just pay attention to my left hand and see if I can notice any sensations in my hand, or my fingers. I try to notice the weight, sensations, and temperature of it. Then I’ll draw attention to my right hand and repeat the process.

Tune into your body by focusing on only one thing it’s doing. Focus on just your breaths, or your stomach as it expands and contracts.

As you’re noticing these different sensations, notice what your mind is telling you about your body – the messages that are showing up.

Are there moments when it’s being really kind? When you look in the mirror and think ‘I love what I did with my makeup! My arms are looking toned right now.’ Or is your mind telling you things like ‘this is not looking good right now. I wish I had a body like ________.’

Notice what the ratio is between good and bad thoughts. Are there more bad thoughts or good thoughts?

Go for a 5:1 ratio. Let’s say it takes saying 5 positive things to balance every 1 complaint or negative comment. Try this for yourself! Practice doing it on purpose – for every negative message your mind sends, create five good ones back!

Another thing you can do with these messages is to ask yourself – would I say the same thing to someone I love or care about? To my best friend? If the answer is no, ask yourself what you would say instead.

I want you to know that struggles with body image are not something you are alone in – even when it feels that way. Many, many teens – and adults! – are also struggling. If you’d like to connect with other teens just like you, and learn all of these tools in-person, with tangible things you can use to support your self-image, check out my upcoming Body Image Workshop for Teens.

You can reach out any time.

Love,

Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Quick Tips On How to Help Your Teen with Unhealthy Eating Behaviours

I was prompted to write this blog article when a parent I work with was asking the other day how to support their teen who has been consistently restricting her eating… When your teen is refusing to eat, constantly worried about their weight or body shape, or struggling to get proper nutrition, you may worry that this behaviour will quickly turn into disordered eating.

Disordered eating needs supportive attention immediately from your healthcare team. If you are concerned that this is more than periodic unhealthy eating behaviours, start by contacting your family doctor, pediatrician, or Alberta Health Services.

There are also other resources available to you: incredible books and resources are listed on this website, and there are programs and counselling professionals with expert content to support your teen here.

​If you are noticing some unhealthy behaviors around food, let’s talk about some things you can do as a parent to support your teen.

Photo from Canva Pro

Understanding Some of the Reasons Why Teens Develop Unhealthy Eating Behaviours

  • Media messaging – in our western society, messages about the thin culture and looking a certain way are constantly being fed to our youth.
  • Adult messages (and others in their lives) – the messages youth receive from the adults and role models around them matter. If as parents we are struggling to love our bodies, we are teaching our children and teens what kind of relationship to have with their own body.
  • Activities and their demands – if your teen is part of a club or sport that places high demands on body physique, this can put pressure to achieve this goal through the cost of eating behaviours.

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

10 Ways to Survive the Holidays with Your Bestie During a Pandemic

I was taking a socially distanced walk with one of my best friends the other day and I felt so grateful to see her in person, hear her voice, and laugh and complain about life with one of my favourite people in the world.

It got me thinking about friendships and how important it is to connect with friends and people who bring us up, especially in your teen years! Friends can be the anchors that help you get through everything. They can be the fuel that encourages you to go for it. They can be the rock that is there for you, kind, genuine, trusting, and loving you just the way you are.  With a lot of the country going into some form of lockdown over the holidays, those moments of being together and hanging out with friends are going to be trickier to have.

Photo by Harold Wijnholds on Unsplash

Here are 10 ideas on how you can get through the holiday season with your besties this year (in no particular order):

1. Go For a Walk  Find a spot and go walking or hiking together. You can explore and talk and there’s the added bonus of moving your body which is a great mood lifter.

2. Bake Cookies Together (virtually that is) – Set a time to meet virtually and pick an activity whether it’s baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, painting a picture, making an ornament, etc. Once you have the activity in mind, each of you gather materials or one of you gather materials for both and do a drop off at the other’s house. Hop on-line and let the magic and laughter begin.

3. Try a Class Together  Another virtual option is to try a class together. You can challenge yourselves to a workout, dance, yoga, art class and much much more. You can start here for some upcoming events.

4. Enjoy the Snow – Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating… Getting out there in the snow gives you some face to face
Chantal

Photo By Nicolas Gras on Unsplash

5. Gaming Together – Need I say more?

6. Do Something for Others – Inspired by my friend (thanks Mel!) Helping others feels good and when you do it alongside a friend, it’s even better. Meet up with your friend and shovel driveways together or break up the ice on the sidewalks. You can find ideas that easily allow you to be distanced and safe while helping others. The community will appreciate your good deed. And bonus – you get to hang out with your friend.

7. Start a Group Chat – Having a group chat can be a great way to stay connected. Make it a place where friends can drop funny photos, memes, and quotes to get you through the day. Your group chat can put a smile on your face and let you know you are not alone.

8. Drop Off a Gift – Doing a little surprise drop off for a friend can make their day and let them know you are thinking of them. You can even consider making something yourself, so it’s extra special. There are some great DIY ideas you can start with here.

9. Make a Tik Tok – Make a Tik Tok video and dedicate it to your bestie. You can also make a Tik Tok together or come up with friend challenges that you can participate in together in a fun way.

10. Mail Something to Each Other – You and your friend can agree to write each other a letter or make a card and then send it by snail mail. It can be fun and different to receive mail this way!

Add to the list – Let’s keep the list going! What other ideas do you have to get through the holidays with your friends this year?

If you are struggling with your friendships and you want to learn who to let into your squad of BFF, follow me on Instagram for weekly ideas and tips: @therapywithchantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

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