Have U Heard had the honor of speaking to Jess Weiner, author, self-esteem expert and media personality before she heads to New York to host the Allykatzz Tween Summit this weekend.
Jess opened up about and gave some tips on how to improve your daughter’s self-esteem and spoke about those hard to have conversations that a number of moms (myself included) try to avoid but REALLY need to address. Yes – we did speak about S-E-X and today’s youth.
Jess also had some helpful advice for the media and celebrities. Check out the interview below:
How did you get started in speaking out about Girls and Self esteem?
That started for me about 17 years ago when I was struggling with all through my adolescence from tween age years into teenage years and even into college. I struggled with eating disorders, depression and low self esteem. I was wracked with a lot of insecurity as a teenage girl yet I was also an over achiever. I was living kind of a double life. I really understood once I got help that there was more to it than what was going on.
I developed a career out of my own experiences. I started speaking about it and writing about it and realized it was a great use of my passion to help young people and their families talk about the things that are really hard to talk about during adolescence.
How did you get your “break”?
I made my own breaks to begin with. I started a non-profit theatre company write out of college. I wrote plays and brought them to schools, I was a small business owner at 21. I wasn’t thinking about the media at that point. I was thinking about getting the message out. I grew as the media grew. When I really came on the scene was after the Columbine shootings in 1999. I got a lot of publicity for that (that wasn’t the goal) and people started catching on to what I was doing with my program.
Way before anyone knew what I was doing – I made up what I was doing, I created it.
You have an advice section on your website – does your ability to give advice come from firsthand experience??
It is just an opinion. It is not in replacement of medical advice or a professional opinion. Usually the girls that are writing in are looking for the place to start. You don’t have to study these issues academically to be effective in this field. There are lots of ways that people can make an impact on girls. The biggest thing I find when you are a young girl struggling with your own identity is just hearing about it from someone who has been there too.
How does a parent change a child’s opinion of themselves?
You can’t change the opinion of your child. What you can do is give her the tools to expand her opinion of herself. We’ve been doing it in a backwards way thinking that we can override the voice of insecurity. As moms, we want to be able to do everything. It’s natural to have doubts and questions and fears. You need to expand the view of themselves and blow out emotional vocabulary. We need to use other words besides fat, ugly or stupid. Expand their vocabulary – allow them to articulate – I am really angry right now, I am really upset right now. These are words that moms and dads could do something with.
When you say I’m so fat – that’s usually not the issue – the issue is I feel alone, I feel rejected, I feel sad. I think that’s a big tool that we can give our kids is a wider emotional vocabulary.
And the other is not to negate those feelings but not to focus on it soley either. Then it becomes a way that they know they get an identity by having these feelings about themselves. Push them to develop new skills and have new experiences. Those experiences replace these kinds of thoughts. Distract and deflect a bit. Do something that shows them they are beautiful – volunteer.
I loved your appearance on Oprah where you are discussing how blasé tweens have become about sex – as a parent what can we do to change that perception?
Admittedly, I have a fairly unorthodox way of handling sex education with girls. I believe in full disclosure, full information and full lessons of empowerment. What I mean by that is what happens when girls go through puberty and when their bodies start to change we get a little freaked out about talking about it. Everybody gets hands off…….but this is the time when we actually need to dive in. We need to teach about the glorious part of her body and a lot of that is sexual desire. We do ourselves a massive disservice to not talk to girls about the reality of what could feel good with their bodies. Why am I saying that?? It is not to promote promiscuity at all. Studies show that healthy sex education actually diminishes promiscuity because girls get in control of their body. Having a healthy conversation about masturbation. Using proper words for the sexual parts of the body. Talking about boundaries and limitations. And it’s okay for girls to want to experiment and to be curious about sex. When we put our heads in the sand that’s when teen pregnancy rates go up. If she hears it from home repeatedly and with direct focus she will know that that trumps any information she’s getting from her friends. Rather than being led by her friends I want to raise girls that can lead the conversation. With this area information is power. What happens with girls they are not connected to their bodies at all and they let boys dictate the pleasure of their bodies. Or they feel like they can’t own any kind of language around their bodies. So the boy is trying to push them into something sexual that they’re not comfortable with. They don’t even know they can say no because what if it did feel good? I think we have to get into the grey area around this.
My 11 year old wants a facebook acct – all of her friends have it – what are your thoughts? At what pt is it okay?
This is a matter of opinion. It’s based on the emotional maturity of your child. I don’t know the golden age it makes sense. I wouldn’t have my daughter online until she’s 15.
What is your ultimate goal?? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now??
I am building a really lovely business that has a big mission to it. The mission to my business is to build a world of confident women and girls. I am going to be building all parts of my business. I am going to be writing books, I am going to still work in media and try to create programs that match that mission statement and I let that mission statement guide my business. I hope to continue to grow in the next five years.
I hope to build my family, travel a lot and keep growing as a person. Those are the areas that I focus on every day.
What is your favorite television show?
Glee hands down!!
I am a country fan. I love Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw.
If you had to describe yourself in five words what words would you use?
Authentic, goofy, emotional, passionate and smart
Who is your favorite celebrity?
My super duper favorite is Meryl Streep. She’s brilliant at what she does and she has managed to have a family and not be in the spotlight. I’ve always looked at her as being classy and smart and really good at what she does.
I love Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, Drew Barrymore – they are totally outspoken, passionate, and totally kick butt.
Who would you love to meet??
Meryl Streep. I would love to have a good margarita with her.
Advice for Media?
It’s all a cat and mouse game. The only reason we know about them (train wreck celebrities) is because the media chooses to cover them. Let’s try and tell better stories about girls that aren’t train wrecks. I would love to find a way to try to celebrate interesting, good news around celebrities.
Advice to Celebrities
To the younger group – as much as it looks like a formula – you have to get a dui or date this person or whatever is getting covered (by the media)…pick the world less traveled. Keep focus on your dreams and don’t play into this stereotype, you can still be successful being exactly who you are. You can achieve success without selling your soul.