How To Repair the Emotional Trauma of Social Media with Renee Engeln [Episode #689]
This week’s topic is: How To Repair the Emotional Trauma of Social Media with Renee Engeln
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Renee Engeln, who isa psychology professor and body image researcher at Northwestern University. Listen in as Renee shares if your worth is tied to your appearance, what Facebook and Instagram is doing to your overall well being, social media detox tips, and so much more!
Your worth and if it’s tied to your appearance…
Tips for detoxing from social media…
Glamorization of cosmetic surgery…
Intermittent reinforcement and your self-image…
Is inclusivity of all different kinds of beauty possible?…
Healthism and being worthy of value, dignity, and existing in this world…
About Renee Engeln
Renee Engeln is an award-winning psychology professor and director of the “Body and Media Lab” at Northwestern University. She is the author of Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women. Prof. Engeln’s research and writing focus on issues surrounding women’s body images. Her work has appeared in numerous academic journals and at academic conferences. She is regularly interviewed by media outlets, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune,The Atlantic, Vox, and HuffPost. Her TEDx talk on Beauty Sickness has garnered over 750,000 views.
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Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Kimberly: 00:01 Hi loves and welcome to our Monday interview podcast, where we have a very interesting and powerful conversation today with professor Renee Engeln. She is an award-winning psychology professor at Northwestern university and runs the lab called the body and media lab where she does research on things like the impact or the detrimental impact. Should I say of social media, especially on girls and women. She’s the author of the book, Beauty Sick, how the cultural obsession with appearance hurts girls and women. So today it’s not all doom and gloom. We do talk about the state of affairs as far as many people, women in particular, but people across the board, I will say tying their worth to appearance in our world, which increasingly seems to become more image driven. But yet there are solutions and there are ways that we can shift things starting with each and every single one of us.
Fan of the Week
Kimberly: 01:01 So I am very excited to share my conversation with Renee with you today, but before we get into it, I wanna shout out our fan of the week and her name is Cher Hale and she writes grounding and accessible. Even though Kimberly has a supplement line, I never feel like the information she offers in her on her podcast is inaccessible. In fact, I always walk away with a tangible strategy that makes me feel more grounded centered and well, she’s a wealth of information now that makes me so happy to hear share hail, thank you so much for being here on the podcast as a guest, as a listener, a guest, as far as our fan of the week and being part of our community. And yes, Solluna does offer offerings across all of the cornerstones. So food body, emotional wellbeing and spiritual growth, including our free guided meditations, which I’ll point out, which are on the free Solluna app, they’re called practical enlightenment meditations, which you can check out.
Kimberly: 02:07 We have the supplements for your body. We have tons of articles and online resources and many, many things because as we talk about in the podcast as well, I do believe the way in which we, we create real health and wellness is from this holistic perspective and honoring the whole selves that we really are. So thank you so much. My love and thank you for being here. Appreciate it so much.
Please leave a review on iTunes
Kimberly: And for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week, please take a moment and leave us a review on iTunes, which is free easy. It could be one sentence long, and it’s just a really great way to support the show. And please also be sure to subscribe to our show and that way you don’t have to think, you won’t forget. <laugh> you just get this influx of information and positivity
Kimberly: 02:58 Coming into your life without having to make that decision without having to do something else in your busy life. And also, please be sure to share our show with anyone you think would benefit could be a simple text or taking a screenshot and sending it along. But we don’t know how we can really help others through sharing. Sometimes we can make an enormous impact from something as simple as sharing a resource. And I remember when I started my career back with a free blog, that was the core intention and it enormously opened up my life in so many ways. So I think when we’re generous, we really experience that beautiful expansion that benefits us as well.
Get Your Copy Of YOU ARE MORE
Kimberly: 03:53 And finally, I’ll mention that our new book, when I say our for the community is out called You Are More More Than You Think You Are – Practical Enlightenment For Everyday Life. I encourage you to pick up a copy. Wherever books are sold, it is very practical. It is designed to be readable. And as Cher says here, accessible because the chapters are short, they’re information driven, they’re full of tools and techniques to help you better your own life, which is my true intention with this book. So I look forward to hearing how it benefits your life. Okay. Let’s get right into our interview now with Renee England, let’s say that last line again. <laugh> all right. All that being said, let’s get into our interview today with professor Renee Engeln.
Interview with Renee Engeln
Kimberly: 00:01 Thank you so much for being here with us. For Renee. I am so excited to talk to you. And you just mentioned there was air conditioning, which is so funny because I know you teach at Northwestern. I almost went to Northwestern. You did. I ended up going to Georgetown, but I remember thinking, oh, I don’t know if I can deal with those winters, but it sounds like the summers are beautiful.
Renee: 00:25 Well, the summers can be brutal too. We get a little bit of everything here. <laugh> uh, the winters are, are long and cold, but, uh, yeah, we, we do. Okay. I always think you can’t love the spring if you don’t make it through the winter. So
Kimberly: 00:40 That’s true. That’s a good perspective. Well, I came across your work Renee a couple months ago. I think it was, I was doing part of my book tour for my new book that came out, which is called you. You are more than you think you are, which is about connecting inside. And I did this good morning America segment. One of the ones I did was talking about how our worth isn’t tied to appearance mm-hmm <affirmative> and it seemed like such an obvious thing to me, but the feedback I got was like, oh yeah, maybe you’re you’re right. And it was like, especially with these young women, it was like this concept of, huh. Yeah. And I thought, oh my goodness, we are in a world now where that is not an obvious statement. And I was just, I’m getting goosebumps, even as I talk about it, because it seemed like it would be to me. Right. But now in the world, that’s even more increasingly appearance focused. And I’d like, you know, I’d love to talk about the work in your lab in just a moment. But, you know, with all the images and the social media and everything, it’s like, we’re going in this direction. That what should be a, a, a truth inherent for all people and especially, you know, women is not anymore.
If your worth is tied to your appearance
Renee: 01:56 Um, I’m not sure it has been for a long time. Um, so like, I’m sorry. I was a little afraid to do this podcast. I think this is a very like feel good podcast. And the truth is, um, a lot of what I study. Isn’t great news, right? A lot of it is about documenting yes. Some really difficult things out there that that girls and women in particular are facing. Um, and it’s one thing to tell women in particular, that your worth should not be determined by your appearance, but we live in a world that gives us the opposite message over and over and over again, everything we see in the culture. And you mentioned social media. So particularly there says the opposite. It says, no, your value is determined by how you look. And that in particular, it’s determined by looking a very specific way, right. By meeting this sort of yes, really narrow set of ideals. Um, and there are many ways in which people profit off their appearance, right. And there are many ways in which people’s lives are made very difficult when they deviate from our beauty, from our beauty norms. Um, whether it’s, uh, because they’re not thin because they’re not white because they’re not able bodied because they actually show signs of aging. God forbid. Right. So, um, it’s a, a pretty complicated, toxic mess out there.
Kimberly: 03:18 Yeah. Yes. Well, thank you for saying that. And I just wanna clarify when we say the feel good podcast. I know sometimes people think feeling good is I’m happy all the time. We define it really as self connection. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so you’re, you’re connected. You’re aware you’re connected. Okay. I feel so today here’s the ways in which I can care for my body or you’re connected to what your body needs for nourishment, whether that’s mentally or emotionally, um, or physically, or spiritually. And also this month in our Solluna Circle, our theme is integrating the shadow, right? So we talk about, um, wholeness and this idea that to really be the light and to be whole, you have to see the darkness, you have to see the shadow, otherwise mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, you’re just sort of like you said, deflecting or pushing down or not really feeling that wholeness of seeing everything.
Kimberly: 04:05 So I, I am very drawn to your work because I think it is an important topic. And so that we can see, oh, this is what’s going on. And then also hopefully just give some, um, you know, I ideas or, or, you know, points of introspection about what we can do, if, if anything, or at least just to be aware, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So tell me about how you are drawn to this work, Renee, like you said, it’s been going on for a very long time, long time, in different ways across society. And now, you know, with social media, with all these added layers of, of mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, just things that are thrown in our face, it’s become even more complex.
Renee shares what drew her to this area of research regarding appearance
Renee: 04:46 Right. I have people tell me all the time, well, don’t you think it’s getting better now and have to laugh? And I say, no, right. Social media has, has made this much worse for a lot of people. Um, and I got into this area of research because I was worried about my students. Um, I teach psychology and, uh, we have many more women than men who study psychology. There are a lot of women in my classes, and I was just struck by how much they could have a whole day ruined by worrying about how they look or how, how paralyzed they felt sometimes by their appearance concerns or, um, how they felt like they, they couldn’t take steps in their lives or take on new challenges or new opportunities until they could look just the way they wanted to look. Um, and that’s what got me studying this because there was something that seemed so unfair about that.
Renee: 05:40 It, it just seemed like there was this wall up that young women were running into that that was keeping them from meeting their full potential. It was keeping them from becoming the people they want to be. Um, since then I’ve studied all ages of, of women. And so obviously, no, it’s, it’s not a young, a young woman thing, right? It’s, it’s just part of our culture’s fabric, right? That we, we start in girlhood teaching girls that their source of power, their source of social currencies is being cute, is being pretty. Um, and a lot of people carry that with them through their lives in ways that that really hurt. Um, and I think we have to find a balance between saying, how can we turn that down while also acknowledging that we don’t live in a world that treats people the same based on their appearance, you know?
Renee: 06:31 Yeah. So it’s, it’s, I wanna be really careful to say this. That it’s very easy for me being the person I am to say like, oh, we should all worry about appearance less because the truth is I don’t have the kind of appearance that really draws attention. Right. I, um, I’ve never had to live in a body that people, you know, stared at or made public comments about or never lived in a body that made people wanna not sit next to me on the bus, for example. So, yeah, I think it’s important to discuss the psychology of this. Like how can we change how we think about this? Um, but we also need to recognize that there are real structural barriers in place for people too.
Kimberly: 07:10 Yes. It’s interesting. You talk about, you know, it’s, it’s so personal to each of us, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I think about my experience, Renee, growing up in, in high school, I was so focused on being thin and my body. And it was this just obsession to the point where I got eating disorders. And then later, now what I teach is, you know, our four cornerstones, which is food body, emotional wellbeing and spiritual growth. And I think it was part of why I was driven to become a nutritionist. Initially my career was to heal that part of me. And then I could see in my clients, the more, you know, we meditated or, you know, did journal all these different practices to connect inside. For me, that was a way to focus less out here mm-hmm <affirmative> so I don’t, I don’t know that it’s ever gonna go away.
Kimberly: 07:56 Like you said, we’re aware of what we look like, but you know, you just, I don’t really brush my hair, do my nail. I don’t have the same hyper attention because you can find a way to connect to yourself in a different way. And I know that can sound lofty without practices and more teachings and ideas, but that’s, you know, one of the reasons I’m very motivated in my work because I’ve seen it heal myself and I’ve seen it with others because if you don’t know who, you know, this formless part of you, this energy, the intuition, your unique, your intelligence, whatever you wanna say, you tend to live so much out here. And then you’re drawn into the social media, which really hyper fixates mm-hmm <affirmative> on the outside.
We discuss what turning down the volume looks like
Renee: 08:38 Yeah. I try to use the metaphor. Lot of turning down the volume, right? Yes. It’s. We’ve always cared about how we look, meaning humans. We care, our culture cares. We receive a lot of cues for our, from our environment. That’s prompt us to think about how we look. I don’t think we can shut that off. I don’t, I don’t think we need to. I don’t think most people want to, but I think we can turn the volume down and a real problem. I think that’s a threat to our, our mental and physical health. Is that a lot of what we do is turning that volume up. Yeah. So we spend a lot of times having conversations with other people about how we look, how other people look about needing to lose weight, about needing to get in shape. Um, or we consume a lot of media.
Renee: 09:20 That’s very appearance focused, right? That, so we do a lot of things that turn that knob up and then we feel worse. And so it’s, it’s a, it’s a strange thing, cuz we’d think, well, why would we keep doing this? If it makes us feel worse, but I think there’s, there’s this lie we’re sold as women, which is, if you just engage enough with beauty culture, if you just buy one more product, if you lose 10 more pounds, if you learn this new makeup technique, if you get Botox, if you get fillers, right. If you get a personal trainer, if you do enough of these things that, that somehow you’ll come out ahead in this race and what I’ve spent sort of years trying to tell women at this point is you cannot win this race. Nobody wins. Right. Nobody wins this race except for the people who are making money off of you. Yeah. Um, and so we can’t always like get off this treadmill, but if you can try to step off and I think the more you can just say, I don’t wanna be a part of this competition, um, that the more you have time to think about what your values actually are and then try to shape your life in a way that reflects those values instead of other people’s values.
Kimberly: 10:31 Yeah. So when you say turning down the volume, it sounds, you know, multifactorial there’s imagery, there’s going on social media and I believe correct me, please, if I’m I’m off here, but one of the studies I read about that you was part of your research, was it seven minutes on Instagram was found to be mentally just seven minutes, please tell us about this. So people are on their way more than seven minutes,
What 7 minutes on Facebook and Instagram can do for your wellbeing
Renee: 10:57 Right? So we did this study a few years ago. Um, and as, as I’m sure, you know, young people today aren’t so into Facebook, like they have accounts, but they use them for other things. But, um, the people in our study were, uh, young women who had both Facebook and Instagram accounts. Okay. And so we randomly assigned them. We gave them an iPad. So they had to use our iPad and they either had to log into their Instagram account, their Facebook account, um, or they got to play be jeweled if they were in the control condition. I don’t know if you know what that is super fun matching game, kind of like candy crush without the nonsense. So, um, it was the most fun control condition I think. And so they had to spend seven minutes just doing whatever they wanted, whatever they normally do, just scrolling, commenting anything.
Renee: 11:40 Um, and we gave them mood measures and body satisfaction measures before and after. Um, and all it took was, was seven minutes for people on Instagram to feel much worse. Um, and it was worse than Facebook too. Facebook is not great for people, but, um, at this point it’s much, much less image focused. Um, yes. And I think that’s part of the issue. So what we saw is that women did a lot more of what we call social comparison when they were on Instagram. And that’s when you, you try to figure out, well, how good looking am I compared to those people? So you’re, you’re doing that constant comparison. And everyone knows that Instagram isn’t real, right. It’s the highlight real. We all know that, but it doesn’t stop us from thinking she’s thinner than me. She’s cuter than me. Her hair looks better. She has better vacation. She has more friends, she has more fun. Right. And so we do a lot of that comparison and, um, there’s a famous quote. I don’t, I don’t even know who’s responsible for it, but the comparison is the, the thief of joy.
Kimberly: 12:40 Yes, yes, yes.
Renee: 12:42 It truly is. It truly is.
Kimberly: 12:44 So when we talk about turning down the volume, I, I think to myself, oh my gosh, you know, we, we say, oh, batch your time on social media, be on their less or fire follow only inspiring people. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, these are some of the things we try. I try to tell people, but the truth is people may still compare to their friends and people that they’re following. And can you be on their less than seven minutes? I mean, I probably have <laugh>, you know, I, I scheduled the content because I like, I feels very chaotic to me, but what can people do if it’s so little time, right? What do you think, Nate, do you think there’s detoxes or breaks or what do we,
How to detox from social media
Renee: 13:21 You, people who can do that, that’s great. But I think as it’s important to be realistic, that people do also derive joy and connection from social media. If it were all bad, we’d stop doing it. Right? Sure. So, um, also social media platforms were designed to keep you coming back to keep you scrolling or clicking or doing whatever it is you’re doing. Um, so it’s very easy to say like, oh, just do it less. It’s very hard to do. Um, and there are a lot of people who have written about ways that you can help. I mean, you can put your phone out of site. You can, you can turn it off so that you have to go through that extra step of starting it up. You can put your social media on the last screen so that you have to have that extra friction of scrolling through to get to it.
Renee: 14:05 You can put limits on your phone, but everyone I know who’s put limits. It’s really easy to hit the like ignore for today. <laugh> I have limits on how much news I can consume on my phone. And I still regularly say ignore and I keep going. So in terms of when you are on social media, I think you need to be really harsh task master with yourself. The minute you find yourself feeling bad about a post unfollowed unfall yes. Like just don’t do it. Um, I think there’s a sort of gossipy part of us that really likes to see will who looks cute and who doesn’t and what are these celebrities up to? If it’s making you think about how you look all the time, if it’s making you feel bad about yourself, just stop. Like I tell people all the time, your world will be okay if you don’t know what Kim Kardashian is up to, like really you’re gonna be okay, like it’s it’s yes, you won’t miss it. Yeah.
Kimberly: 15:00 And, and then there’s that, you know, another subtopic is this sort of glamorization of cosmetic surgery. Mm-hmm <affirmative> are starting to look the same way. And is that something, a research has studied as well, where people are seeing all this stuff on social media and they wanna have the lips or the.
Glamorization of cosmetic surgery
Renee: 15:18 Whatever, right. There’s a term that some plastic surgeons have coined, which is, um, they called it Snapchat dysmorphia or Instagram dysmorphia where you’d have people coming in feeling like their faces were hideous because their faces don’t look like they do when they’re filtered, um, on the apps. And I, I think this is a real problem. We have always compared ourselves to celebrities or models or, you know, people we found beautiful. I think that’s, that’s been around for very long time. Um, and we also compare ourselves to our friends, our peers, right? The people we see every day, but the incredible heartbreak of comparing yourself with a version of yourself that isn’t real. Um, that’s, that’s just devastating to me, um, that when I see how many young people spend so much time trying to post these images that look nothing, like they look in real life. I think it’s a recipe for losing connection with yourself. Yes. Um, for, for feeling like you’re performing in every second of your life, instead of being, instead of connecting, instead of yes. Actually seeing the world around you, um, if you’re posing all the time, right. Then, then you’re not being authentic. You’re not seeing what’s around you. You’re
Kimberly: 16:37 Not, you’re not living,
Renee: 16:37 Sharing who you are. You’re really not. And I feel old when I say that, right. Like, I feel like, like, oh, you young people, you stop all that performing. We all perform sometimes, right? Like if I’m in front of a big class, of course I’m performing, right. I’m performing the role of professor. Um, that’s gonna happen to some extent, but when you’re, every moment is being documented on social media, um, I, I, I just wanna ask people, would you have done that thing if you couldn’t have shown people on social media? Yes. And if not, then why are you doing it? Right? Why are you doing it? Um, like, could you have fun with your friends out somewhere? Cool. Um, if you weren’t taking constant pictures of each other and tagging them and doing all these things, I,
Kimberly: 17:22 And taking like 700 selfies or pictures to get them one, you know, but it Al it feels like, um, you know, it’s, it’s people are, it’s so transitory, right? So people find that post and then they get some attention, but then it’s so fleeting that, oh, now I have to right. Come up about the next thing to post. So you were saying these, these platforms are designed to sort of that king, that carrot keeps dangling and all that whistleblower information that came out on Facebook. Right. So is it designed in a way to just make like the dopamine, like, how is it designed to keep us on there even though we may feel that?
Renee breaks down what intermittent reinforcement is and how it can make you feel about your self-image
Renee: 18:01 Yeah. So it’s, it’s what we call intermittent reinforcement, which is a really old term from behaviorism. And it’s where you never know when the next reinforcement is coming. It’s what keeps gamblers gambling. Oh, right. You always think like the next time, the next time it could be good. So even if you’re scrolling through and you’re feeling like crap, well, maybe you’re gonna get a hit the next time. Right. Maybe you’re gonna get a, like, maybe someone’s gonna tell you you’re sexy. And you know, I’ve had like some high school students tell me, but it makes me feel good. And people tell me I’m hot on Instagram. And first of all, I think, well, it can’t be making you feel that good, or you wouldn’t have to keep doing it. Right. You would do it once and then you’d be done and you’d be like, oh, look, people think I’m hot.
Renee: 18:40 That’s the end. Um, but that’s not what happens. Right. You get very short burst of pleasure from that. And then what follows it is even more focused on how you look. And we know from years and years and years of research, that the more women focus on how they look, the worse, they feel about how they look. Because every time you think about how you look, it’s a little image in your head of how you should look. And so it’s, it’s leaving you sort of drowning in that gap between where you are and where you wanna be. Um, and the only way to get out of there is just to think about something else altogether,
Kimberly: 19:16 Exactly. To shift the attention away. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> now in the, in the nineties, we, I remember the, the super models back then were really, really thin. Right? And now you have the Kardashians with the curves and the, the bot, the butts, right. And everything. What does it take to, to shift beauty standards over time? So
If it’s possible to shift beauty standards
Renee: 19:38 I don’t find this argument that compelling. I have people say this all the time, like, oh, models are more curvy now. No, we have a few examples of those models. Um, in fact there was data
Kimberly: 19:47 Celebrities. Yeah.
Renee: 19:49 Yeah. There was some data that just came out this year that basically looked at, uh, fashion models and eating disorders, um, and found that many, many flash, uh, fashion models are still significantly underweight. Right. Like at a, at a weight that threatens
Kimberly: 20:02 Their okay, well, it hasn’t changed that much.
Renee: 20:04 It really has not changed that much. We have a few key examples. Right. But even the way we talk about those people marks them is different. Um, and we can talk about like, those Kardashian curves, if you want, but those Kardashian curves still come with no visible cellulite with a completely flat stomach with a tiny waist. And with them peddling ads for diet products to little girls. Right. So yeah, if you look at that big picture and then you try to tell me like, oh, things are better now. I don’t think so. I think we have a few brands that are doing a much better job with body size representation, with racial representation. Like, I think that’s happening here or there. Um, but I, I also know maybe I’m giving away stuff about myself here, but I get a lot of athletic ads online. Right.
Renee: 20:52 Yeah. Um, and I I’ve noticed that Athleta has started to show more body size diversity in their ads. And I like it. Right. I like it. And I still, I don’t know why I do this. I think don’t look at the comments. Don’t look at the comments, but I’m a researcher. Like I want the data I always wanna look. And so when I see a woman as a bigger body in one of these ads that look at the comments and without fail, there’s a bunch of FA shaming. Right? Yeah. And, and so the idea that somehow we’ve moved beyond as a culture, it’s just not true. Um, that that’s not how most people are experiencing things.
Kimberly: 21:26 <laugh> so, yeah. I remember I, I recently went into target and I did notice that the mannequins were different sizes.
Renee: 21:32 Yeah.
Kimberly: 21:33 So I just, what does it take? Is it like this slow snail of society or, you know what I mean? Like, what is it gonna take to create real acceptance inclusivity of all different kinds of beauty instead of these narrow standards, do you think, as a researcher.
Inclusivity of all different kinds of beauty and if it’s possible
Renee: 21:50 Don’t think you’re gonna like my answer, right. Um, you say there’s no, there’s no. When we talk about beauty and by that, I mean, physical beauty, which is what, what most people mean when they say that, um, the truth is beauty is powerful because it’s rare because it’s exclusive. If you let everybody in, if you start saying all of these things are beautiful, we’ll just find a new word. We’ll just find a new word that means beautiful, and it will be exclusive. And it will be a standard that very few people can meet. Um, and a lot of the elements of our beauty ideals, like thinness are very hard for most people to meet now. Um, yes. And that’s part of what makes them powerful. Um, so I don’t think we’re gonna see a culture where, where everyone is considered beautiful. I don’t think that’s how it works.
Renee: 22:36 It’s um, and it’s not that I don’t wanna see more representation. I, I absolutely do. I think that matters in ways for psychology that are extremely powerful. And also, I think if you wanna buy clothes that you ought to be able to see how those clothes look on someone with your body shape and size. So just as a, as a practical, basic practical element there, I think that’s cool. Um, but I don’t think we make people feel better by saying you’re beautiful and you’re beautiful. And you’re beautiful. What I think we need to do is say, I don’t care. I don’t care if you’re beautiful. Right, right. I, I care about other things instead. Um, I think there are a lot of people pushing for us to talk about beauty in a different way. I get that. I totally get where it’s coming from. I don’t think it works. I think we need to talk about it less. Um, now I should say that’s controversial. A lot of people really disagree with that statement. Um, and I understand it’s hard to balance wanting to see more representation with saying like, Hey, let’s talk about beauty less, but yeah. I, what I, what we see in how our minds work is when we talk about beauty, even if it’s to embrace a, a, a more diverse, more, a broader beauty standard, we’re still saying what matters is beauty? What matters is how you look
Kimberly: 23:52 Mm-hmm <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative> now recently, I, I read about sports illustrated, put a, uh, plus size woman on the cover. And there was a lot of, lot of,
Renee: 24:03 A lot of Jordan Peterson of that. Maybe that pleasure thinking about,
Kimberly: 24:08 Yeah. That’s was he a psychologist or researcher?
Renee: 24:11 Uh, he is a psychologist.
Kimberly: 24:13 Okay. Okay.
Renee: 24:14 Yeah. Yeah. You
Kimberly: 24:15 Feel about that. Yeah,
Renee: 24:16 But there
Kimberly: 24:16 Was, so there was, you know, that camp saying, sorry, not beautiful. These are like defying symmetry land or whatever he was saying, but then there was a, then there was a group of people saying, but this, um, celebration of, of bigger body types is saying, okay, it’s okay to be in, um, you know, position to perhaps have diabetes down the road or heart disease. Right.
Renee: 24:40 Not, I’m just saying
Kimberly: 24:42 There’s, there’s that argument too, as like, if you celebrate people that are on some, I’m not saying this woman was obese. Right. But let’s say it gets more and more towards that. There’s people saying, but then we’re celebrating potential illness. Right. I’m just,
Healthism and being worthy of value, dignity, and existing in this world
Renee: 24:56 You know, have two big things. I wanna say human response, please can respond to that, please, please. Um, you know, first is, I dunno if you’ve heard of the term healthism, but I think you are worthy of value and dignity and existing in this world. And being seen, regardless of whether you’re healthy, like, I, I don’t wanna be in a cult that says if you’re healthy or at least working really, really hard to try to be, then we think you’re a human being, but God forbid you have diabetes. Um, you know, then you’re worthless. That’s, that’s not the kind of world I wanna live in. It’s it’s inhuman, it’s degrading. And also by the way, if we are lucky enough to age, if we are lucky enough to get old, we’re all gonna get unhealthy. At some point, if we’re not already there, um, health is a privilege and it’s not needed out fairly.
Renee: 25:48 So that’s the first thing is I don’t wanna hear about whether someone’s healthy or not. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> the second thing is there’s no evidence that treating people like human beings and with kindness, even if they’re fat makes them more likely to be fat, right? What causes weight gain from a psychological perspective is actually the reverse. The more shame people feel, the more stigma people feel, the more they engage in eating disordered behaviors, the more difficult healthy behaviors become. So for these people who claim to care about health, I don’t think they do, cuz I don’t see them worried about anorexia. Right? Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So for these people who claim to care about health, I would say, well, one of the most important things you can do to support women’s health, who aren’t then is to stop with the stigma and stop with the shame. Um, I don’t think it’s about health, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> I don’t. I think it’s about self-righteousness. I think it’s about fear. I think it’s about stigma. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> so I’m, I’m not convinced. And then when it comes to the people who just wanted to say, oh, I don’t think that’s beautiful because of symmetry and because whatever, sorry, I’m I’m a little in all this. I, I have a really sort of immature response to that, which is who asked you, right? Who asked you to publicly evaluate women’s bodies, right. Who asked,
Renee: 27:18 Who asked you what you think about this and what kind of person are you, what kind of person are you that this is what you want to add to our public conversation, right? Yes. This is your contribution is calling someone ugly. I’m not interested in people who make those contributions. I don’t think they’re intellectually interesting. And I don’t think they’re kind
Renee: 27:42 That was a rant. Sorry my no, no. Renee, you talked to a professor, you’re gonna get a lecture. <laugh> I love this.
Kimberly: 27:48 So let me ask you a question, right? So we said, we wanna shift the conversation away from using beauty as a different, in a different way. Like everybody’s beautiful. Right? Which is when I wrote this book with Deepak Chopra a couple books ago, it was about this idea of inner beauty. Right. But you are, you know, it is an uphill battle to an extent because it’s talking about beauty in the spiritual way, which there’s a strong cultural bias towards the outer beauty. But anyways, I remember again, when I was back in high school and there was this fixation on numbers, like what my body, how much I weighed. But it also translated Renee to grades and being the number one in my class. And it was this achievement based perspective. So let’s say, we wanna say to women, what is the healthiest message to women? Because if we move away from beauty, then it’s like, then we’re competing on grades or intellect. Right. It still numbers mm-hmm <affirmative> it still scales versus this uniqueness, right? Yeah. Like, so what, what is the message?
What is the healthiest message when shifting the conversation away from beauty
Renee: 28:49 So here’s the way I try to think about it. If you put all of your effort and your focus and your energy and your time into beauty, you’re on a, a really unstable foundation, right? That’s not a stable foundation for your life. All it takes is once that’s subjective. Yeah. And like one stranger on the internet can yank it away from you. Right. That’s all it takes. And, and like I said, you’re going to age and, um, sorry to pick on Kim Kardashian today. I don’t know Kim Kardashian, but I do know that she was just quoted as saying that she would literally eat feces every day for the rest of her life. If it would keep her looking young. Right? Oh, like when we, when we live in a world where we’re hearing these messages, what you’re telling women is that this is your power.
Renee: 29:30 This is your strength, the ability to not age, the ability to stay beautiful forever. That’s so wobbly. That’s such a wobbly foundation, but it’s scary to step off of it. If you feel like that’s all that’s holding you up. And I think it’s the same thing. If you feel like getting the perfect grades, being the smartest, being the most successful, getting the most likes on social media, that’s also an unstable foundation. And so I think if, if we wanna grow, if we wanna feel better, we need to think about what that foundation is that we’re standing on. And we need to build it in such a way that other people can’t take it away from us. Yeah. Now how do we do that? I think you start by thinking about your values. And I think the term values has gotten hijacked politically. <laugh> over the past few years, but when I say values, I just mean what’s important to you. And so if you think about what’s important to you, and then you devote your energy to those things, maybe it’s learning about something, getting better at a certain skill. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s your friends. Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s making the world a better place in a really specific way. If those are your values, make a foundation based on that stuff. And people can’t take it from you then right. Then you get more powerful as you age instead of less powerful.
Kimberly: 30:49 Wow. I love this. So that your values create your relationships, dictate your conversations. Mm-hmm <affirmative> right. So again, it’s just moving away from some of the surface stuff that can go on and maybe some of your friendships might shift a little bit like,
Renee: 31:06 Right, right. Like I, I have friends I spend less time with now because they wanna talk about dieting or they wanna, you know, make fun of who’s gained weight or because they’re always talking about how they hate their own body. And at a certain point I’m like, ah, it’s hard enough to live in this world. Yes. Like I don’t have it all figured out. I’ve I’ve occasionally done an interview where people be like, how did you learn to always love your body? And I’m what, like, I’m a 46 year old woman. You think I always love my body. That’s insane. What I think is that it’s not my job to love my body, right? Yes. What’s my job. It’s to teach and engage students and try to make them informed careful thinkers. It’s my job to care for my family members who I love so much. It’s my job to be a good friend. It’s not my job to feel good about my body if I do. Yeah. Great. But I don’t have to, and it’s not really anyone else’s business. That’s kind of how I think about it.
Kimberly: 32:04 Right, right. Wow. I mean, that’s, that’s a powerful, um, you know, I’m really taking that in that idea about building on our values because there is this contradiction. We say we value these things, but if we’re always just hyper fixating and, and spending all the time on these social media accounts, it really it’s this discordant energy mm-hmm, <affirmative>, isn’t, it is constantly coming into our life, starving us almost. And just, just draining us of energy.
Renee: 32:34 It is, I’d say it’s worse than starving you cuz starving is you don’t, you just don’t have enough, which is bad enough, but it’s, it’s emptying you out and then filling you up with poison basically. Right. So it it’s going another step it’s for so many of us, social media moves us in a direction that is farther from the person we want to be. Um, and we we’ve gotta find a way to start to fight that right. To make more conscious choices. Think about what you consume on social media in some ways is like food, right. You’re putting it in your body. Yes. You’re you’re taking it in. Um, and if it’s unhealthy, maybe stop,
Kimberly: 33:15 Right? Yeah. So would you say relentlessly unfollowing or muting if you don’t wanna hurt people’s feelings yep.
Renee: 33:22 All for
Kimberly: 33:22 That going through and then maybe overall the, the truth is spending as little time as possible on there.
Renee: 33:29 So I think what’s hard is we just say do it less, do it less. Yeah. Um, I think what’s easier is to say, do this more. So go back. Think about what those values are. Think about what’s important to you. What do you want to be doing more? Um, so for me I have a bad habit of looking at my phone while I walk and I have like a half hour walk to work. It’s it’s terrible thing to do. I’m gonna fall one of these days. Um, so I can look at stupid stuff on my phone while I walk to work for a half an hour or I can call my mom.
Kimberly: 34:00 Yeah, boy,
Renee: 34:01 She really likes it. When I talk to her on my way to work, she wants me to tell her about, about what am I seeing? She can hear the birds, she can hear the construction equipment. Right. She can tell her friends that her daughter called. Right. There’s all, all kinds of good things that, that come from that. Um, that’s a choice where I’m gonna come into work, feeling better. Right. Instead of worse. And there was a study that came out, I think last year, it wasn’t from my lab. But um, the researchers found that people almost universally felt after having spent a bunch of time on social media, that they had wasted their time.
Kimberly: 34:38 Yes.
Renee: 34:39 Right. So nobody gets off and is like, oh awesome. I just spent an hour mindlessly looking at dances on TikTok. Don’t get me wrong dances on TikTok. I’m sure fun. But nobody looks back. Like I talked to my students a lot about how their future self will think about their past self. Right. And your future self is never gonna be like, Hey, past self, really cool that you spent four hours on social media today. Loving it really put us in a good position for the week. Really made us feel more human. You know? Like the future self is never gonna say that. Never, never, never.
Kimberly: 35:15 Well, it’s so funny re Renee, because when I first met my husband, I was like, oh, you kind of scroll a lot. Right. Cause it was just like, get it away from me. And he was a little defensive. He’s like, you know, it’s how catch up with people. That’s how I see news. He, he works in wellness space. So he was following like 2000 people. And then a few weeks ago he saw me just do this big cleanse. And he sees, I’m not, I’m not on there hardly at all. So you know what he did Renee. He went through, he unfollowed everybody. So now he just follows me and his company and this, um, like this, whatever, this one hashtag he follows four people. He went from 4,000. So now he doesn’t have anywhere to scroll. And he said, he feels so much better. He just got rid of it. What, what he thought was an important source of news or catching up or whatever it was turned out not to be at all.
Renee: 36:02 Not also, I think that we have this sense that, you know, if you are not a news professional, you don’t need to know about the news. The moment it happens. Like I think in some ways that you need to step back and say, Hey, you know what? We are actually not that important.
Kimberly: 36:18 Yes.
Renee: 36:18 Like I am actually not that important that I need to check my phone every 10 minutes. I’m not like a doctor on call. Right. Like, okay. So I missed an email from a student with a question about their assignment. They can wait an hour or two <laugh>. Right. Like there’s um, exactly. If you’re not on call, don’t be on call. Right. This is anyone who has to be on call for work will tell you that it is an incredibly difficult way to live. And I think we’ve basically, you know, made our lives so that we behave as though we’re on call. And part of that is the Mirage that what we’re doing is more important than it is.
Kimberly: 36:55 Yes. It’s true. Now, Renee, with, with your work and your advice, let’s say we’re advising on the macro scale to businesses and all these companies. And we were saying, get it away from beauty. Right? Cause we think about the dove campaign that was, you know, all these women are beautiful, but if we’re saying, and you talked about representation of different races and different body types, but if we’re saying let’s get away from the word beautiful and keep talking about what would companies ideally talk about in your
Renee: 37:25 Well, here’s the thing. Um, I always wanna be quick to say it is not the beauty industry or the clothing industry, the fashion industry’s job to make you feel good about yourself.
Kimberly: 37:35 Yeah.
Renee: 37:36 Um, is their job to make money. Yeah. And they will make money however they can. And the easiest way to make money is to either make you feel bad so they can sell you a product that will fix it supposedly, um, or to make you feel acquisitive, to make you feel like you need more and more, um, that’s what they do. We shouldn’t expect them to do anything else. Now I’m still in favor of companies who try to do that in a little less awful way. You know, if we have to choose. Yeah. Um, I I’d like it to be less awful, but in the end, the best thing we can do is just spend money with companies that we think best represent our values. Right? Yes. If you have a choice, right. If you have enough money that you can afford to make those decisions, um, I think that’s a really good thing to do. Um, other than that, I think we need to stop looking for solutions from people who profit off our suffering. Um, that’s, it’s not gonna happen. Instagram doesn’t wanna make you feel better. Mark Zuckerberg does not care if teenage girls feel like crap after they look at Instagram because it keeps them coming back.
Kimberly: 38:42 Yeah. It keeps them selling ads.
Renee: 38:44 We all know this is true, but I think sometimes we like to pretend like it’s not, um, I think if we want a different culture, if we want a different world, we have to build it from the ground up because the, the system out there is already broken.
Kimberly: 39:00 Yes. Yes. Well, you know, you, you started off Renee talking about, oh, you know, I don’t know this is gonna feel good. <laugh> connection, right. To me like, oh, this actually feels really good because we’re talking about something that is stable and grounded. And like you said, people cannot take that away from us. And so this actually does feel really good to me. And it feels very hopeful. Okay. Because like you said, each of us can choose the values in which we wanna live and where we wanna put our focus and our precious energy and attention. And so thank you so much, Renee. I really, I really just love your work and what you’re putting out in the world. It’s an important conversation. And I know you have a book out called beauty sick, how the cultural obsession with appearance hurts girls and women, which we can find anywhere books are sold. I assume mm-hmm <affirmative>.
Renee: 39:48 Yep, absolutely.
Kimberly: 39:50 And how else can we find out more about your, your work and your research?
Renee: 39:53 Let’s see, you can find out more about the research at bodyandmedia.com, which is my lab’s website. You can find out more about the book at beauty, sick.com and I can give you my Instagram handle, but the truth is I hardly ever post nonetheless. And in fact, my students just tried to show me how to do a story. Um, Thursday, Thursday night, we made it happen. Um, but it’s @beauty_sick, um, and Instagram.
Kimberly: 40:17 Wonderful. And also your TEDx talk is called beauty sickness, which we will link to in the show notes as well. So thank you so much, Renee, for again, this empowering message, which isn’t just, oh, let’s change it, but really gives us a direction. I really like what you said about values. And I think that’s something that is personal, it’s unique. We’re not trying to push a certain value, but for each individual to find what resonates with them. So
Renee: 40:42 That’s been my pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.
Kimberly: All right. My loves, I hope you enjoyed this poignant conversation today, which as I mentioned to Renee gives us some direction in focusing on our values in shifting our conversation in building a life around our values and where we want to put our energy. And I think this is such sound important advice for all of us. So let me know what you think. Keep the questions coming. Please check out the show notes over at mysolluna.com for other podcasts. I think that you would enjoy other articles, meditations and so on. I’ll also be on social media where you can also connect with me at underscore Kimberly Snyder, where I try to keep things really value driven and beneficial <laugh> so have a wonderful week until then take great care of yourself. See you back here. Soon. Namaste and lots of love.