Val Monroe, former beauty editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and writer of the popular Substack newsletter How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, and Body Relationship Coach Debbie Saroufim, chat with host Carmelita Tiu about how to navigate beauty culture.
To learn more about Debbie Saroufim, visit www.bodyrelationship.com , and follow her on Instagram @bodyrelationship_coach. And check out her Parents Guide, for what NOT to say to your kids if you want them to have a health relationship with their bodies.
Want to feel happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading more about what Val has to say about it. Subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at valeriemonroe.substack.com.
About Your Host, Carmelita / Cat / Millie Tiu
Mom, spouse, coach, podcaster, wordsmith, legal eagle. Endlessly curious about how we can show up better for ourselves – because when we do that, we also show up better for our kids and those around us. Visit carmelitatiu.com to learn more about Cat, and for info on 1:1 coaching, the mom collective, and her monthly newsletter.
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Hi all and welcome to know them. Be them. Raise them. Uh, show to help busy, mindful, and growth oriented moms stay informed and inspired as they navigate their daughter's crucial tween and teen years. I'm your host Carmelita too. And I am so glad you're here. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast visit knowberaisethem.com follow at nobody. Raise them on Instagram. And if you've got two minutes, please leave a review on apple podcasts or Spotify. They mean so much and they do help others find and listen to the podcast. For example, Corinne and organizing expert who goes by @gridandglam on Instagram left a review last week saying "we are so glad we found this podcast. Each episode is packed with inspirational advice while tackling tough topics." Yay. I am so glad you found it too, Corinne. So. In the last episode, episode 51, which you may hear if you just keep letting your podcast player keep rolling after this. But I featured the first half of my discussion with Debbie Saroufim and Val Monroe. Debbie Saroufim is a body relationship coach based in Southern California with a background in personal training. Through coaching virtual workouts and community. She helps women learn to love their bodies, even while they're working on them. Build an immunity to died cultures, negative messages, and establish a healthy relationship with food. Val Monroe was beauty director at O the Oprah magazine for nearly 16 years. And she's considered an expert in the field. She was also an editor at Ms., Red book, self and parenting magazines among others, and has written hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics for various national publications. She also publishes a popular sub stack newsletter. How not to F up your face, philosophical and practical advice for anyone who's ever looked into a mirror. In the last episode, which is linked in the show notes. But again, you can also probably listen to it if you're just going to let your podcast player roll. We talked about objectification and beauty. Mirror meditation, what it is and why it works. The roots of beauty standards and the importance of being able to sit with our discomfort. And how you don't have to feel beautiful to be beautiful. That duality informed the jumping off point for today's episode. So without further ado here is the rest of our conversation.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
So, so two things, I'm hearing. One was this idea of expanding what is considered beautiful. And then another thing that I felt was coming up was trying to distance beauty as the source of our valuation period. So, there's kind of two ways we could improve how we view things or our perspectives or society. one being, expanding our definitions of beauty and the other being, beauty not having the same hold over us in terms of how we see it as the primary source of our worth. Are there ways, uh, whether they're small day-to-day things, or larger efforts that moms, women, especially, you know, being a mom of two girls who are totally on the cusp of this, like already doing the long stairs at their eyebrows, or they're their chins, et cetera. I mean, How can we change the narrative? How can we help encourage our youth to, you know, live into and grow into a different reality?Debbie Saroufim:
well, I, I can tell you some of the things that we are doing in this house. and then I also wanna say like, it's a process, right? Like, I have to continue to, as I discover, sort of where the toxicity of the culture lives within me, I identify more pieces of it elsewhere. Um, so one of the first things I'm gonna say, and it sound it, I almost feel like it sounds too young for someone my age to say, but, I've spent a lot of time really curating what I'm seeing on social media. you know, I think there are these aesthetically appealing social media profiles that you see, and they reinforce this Eurocentric idea of beauty. I have gone out of my way to follow different body types, different ages, different genders, different colors, different, just really just sort of, Eliminating the idea that there's only one way to be. And I think that it's really important to do, not just for like people who look like you, but for you. Like, you know, I always say you don't know what's gonna happen to your body and you know, you don't know what's gonna happen to your face, right? So we want to not only normalize what it's going through right now, and that for me is a 42 year old space, but I don't, I don't want every single day to be another battle, right? So just normalizing the fact that this is what bodies look like because, you know, the kids they're gonna have so much more access to it than I did at that age because of social media. I had this very cool moment for a parent thing the other night we were watching the Celtics game and, uh, a Gatorade fit commercial came on. It was very stereotypical Gatorade in that it's sweaty athletes drinking, and it's normally these, you know, this. Aesthetic. What we identify as healthy looking athlete. And then they showed, um, a fatter bodied athlete and she was drinking. And I'm, I have to say shout out to Gatorade Fit because they're normalizing these bodies. But the cool moment that I got to have as a parent is my daughter goes, oh mommy, this is a commercial you like. And I was like, what? And she goes, well cuz they're showing different body types and in all the shows I watch, everybody's just thin. And so she knew, right? And so just expanding enough to remind ourselves that there is other stuff out there, normalizing it. I think so much of it is sort of, you know, our generation trying to sort of pull away from what our parents, like everything was fairy tales with when I grew up. But we don't wanna pull the, the magic out of childhood. And so how do you do it with, and it can be all of it, right? And so I thought that this was a cool moment and um, if we didn't have that normalizing in our house, I don't think that moment would've happened. So that's my big piece of advice is to just sort of bring in real looking bodies and people and faces, um, including faces that have had work done. And you just wanna normalize all of it, right? You wanna normalize the fact that, hey, if you want to get a facelift, you can get a facelift. You're not good for it, you're not bad for it. You're just a person who got a facelift. This is a person who chose not to get a facelift, right? And you just wanna normalize the choice that you have in participating in the, in the culture. That's my, that's my answer. There you go.Val Monroe:
Yeah, I think that's really important and I, I was hoping that was what you were gonna say. You know, I see a different thing here in Tokyo because Disney has such a huge impact on the culture for some reason I don't really understand. But, um, but Disneyland is a big thing here and Disney Sea, and so, consequently a lot of that kind of sexist, you know, the old kind of antiquated ideas about gender and gender roles, it's everywhere here. And I see it in my granddaughter who dresses up like a princess. Which I think is wonderful, she loves it, but she also likes to play, I think I wrote about this not too long ago, she likes to play the, the prince who vanquishes the bad guys with the sword. So she's getting both in a way. But I kind of worry about the messages that she's getting from the old Disney stuff. You know, I think what Deb was talking about in terms of normalizing differences is really, really important, I just don't know how far that is gonna go. I mean, we'll find out, I guess, how far that that'll go, but basically, because we're fighting against this huge capitalist engine, you know, that's gonna be constantly pressuring our girls to conform, to buy, and then of course to buy into the, the whole culture. Um, I think it's gonna be an ongoing battle. And, and I have to say that though, I'm often overwhelmed by the amount of stuff Deb posts on social media. I think it's super, super important because that's one of the only ways that we're going to be able to reach the kids who are being affected by social media in the ways that we consider negative.Debbie Saroufim:
Yeah.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Just for the record, I am also overwhelmed by how much time I spend on social media. Again, I feel, I feel far too old to be spending that much time on social media, but it is, such an incredible tool in a way to communicate with people. And I think that there's such a limited resource of honest, vulnerable, this is what it feels like. And so then I'm gonna come back to what I said in my last conversation with you, Cat, when we had to talk about how to raise girls with a healthy body image. And I said, you know, we as parents, we get to keep reminding them that we now have information that we didn'tCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
have when kids, right? Mm. Mm-hmm.Debbie Saroufim:
And so, We can comment on the, the gender dynamics and the gender roles, but we can also comment on the beauty standards, right? Like, "isn't it kinda unfortunate that, that all of our shows are still following those really old, old stylistic choices of like the Prince comes to save the princess. That's what they were doing when I was a kid. Now, we know culturally that women are capable of so much more, but I think a lot of people just kinda like these stories." and we can have, it can become a conversation, right? It can be, "it's a bummer that, that people aren't thinking outside of this. We get to think outside of this box!" And then you get to normalize, you know, I'm gonna refer back to what I said before, which is that, um, you can dislike something about your body and that doesn't mean that it needs changing. Which also doesn't mean that you can't change it, right? I'm with Val on, if you, objectively look at your face and you say, "I want a facelift and it's gonna make me feel better, life is short." Totally. but it's a choice, right? can you say I'm doing this for me? Or is this something that I'm doing for the culture? And by the way, if the answer is the culture, that's not a wrong answer. That's just an honest answer. So it all kind of gets to be part of the conversation, which is, we have so much more information for you nowadays than, than I had when I was growing up. I hope I'm giving you the tools to sift through it and navigate it and decide what serves you and what doesn't. Because it was just dumped on me and now I'm still sort of sorting through the rubble. But my hope is that I'm giving you enough to question things, right?" And they're gonna keep questioning things. This isn't gonna be over with my daughter's generation, I'm not even confident that it will be over with her kids' generation or, or her kid's kids' generation. But I am hoping that bit by bit, we chip away at it and continue to normalize you know, feeling bad doesn't mean you are bad, that you're allowed to feel bad, and it is, again, just a feeling that you can move through. And that all feelings, even the good ones pass, right? Like, that's the conversation that needs to be normalized as opposed to this, if you don't like it, Fix it, right? Because then there's this implication that if you don't like it, it's because something's wrong with it, and there is this one way to be, and so I think, I think part of healing is grieving. I think that part of this healing process is grieving that you don't look the way you wanna look or that you're not aging the way you wanna age, or you know, your, your teeth aren't what you wanted them to be, or your stomach doesn't fall the way you wanted it to fall. Grieving is a huge part of making peace and moving on to that next stage of acceptance. So we have to be there to let our kids grieve. We're so afraid of them being sad, but we need to give them space to grieve.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Mm mmVal Monroe:
That just reminds me of something that my granddaughter said the other day when, um, she was telling me a story and I said something like, oh, and I, I recognized as I was saying this, that there was an element of judgment to it. And I said, oh, honey, that's such a sad story. And she looked at me and she said, I can be sad. I'm like, good for you girl. Good for you, baby. Of course you canCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
That's fantastic. Yeah, I, I think, you know, the term media literacy kind of came up in my mind as you've both been talking about how we process what our culture is feeding us and how we encourage our children and also ourselves to work through that messaging. Because, like you were saying, the feelings of, uh, you know, not liking your body, that's doesn't mean that your body doesn't have value. And it's fine to feel bad, but also taking that additional step of thinking through what Val was touching on, like why do I even feel bad about my body in the first place? Like why do I have these feelings? Who's making me feel sad and inadequate? And, you know, I too am not totally confident that, um, we will live to see a time when beauty standards are abolished, but I think hopefully we'll just have stronger individuals who can make mindful decisions around it and be able to navigate it better. That's something I hope for myself.Debbie Saroufim:
I mean, yeah, I mean that's the goal, right? You gotta keep doing it every day cuz the, the messaging isn't going anywhere. So there's also, I think, this myth that if you figure it out, you just feel good from that point on. And I wanna just dispel that myth to anybody listening like, uh, I have plenty of days where I don't feel good. Um, I'm guessing Val has plenty of days where she doesn't feel good. And I also think I kind of figured out that, again, not feeling good doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. Right. Why am I not feeling good? Oh, I'm not, not feeling good cuz I'm not good, I'm, I'm not feeling good cuz of this capitalistic society that has taught me to feel bad. And so, yeah, just having that freedom to know, You're okay. Um, and just to remind, to remind everybody out there, because I know that when you listen to someone talk about this, you're like, man, like she's got it. She's just this. And I, I, I just want you to know like I cry regularly. I have all the same feelings you have, I just have it much more publicly. Which creates the illusion of confidence, right? And that's part of it. If we talk about the social media, this is a whole separate issue. We can do another podcast about it another time. But like this whole, you know, issue of like what does doing it publicly create about the illusion of confidence and whatnot around it. And it's all smoke and mirrors people. It's all smoke and mirrors.Val Monroe:
What? What is smoke and mirrors, Deb?Debbie Saroufim:
SOS is like this idea that it's easy, you know, and that like anyone has it figured out and that if you have it figured out, it's, it looks a certain way. Cuz again, even with what I post, even with the obnoxious amount of, vulnerability and regularity that I post with God again, spends too much time on special social media. But like even with that, you still only get the part of me that the camera's on for. You still don't get the moments of deliberation or the screaming that happened moments before, and then I was like, mommy's making a video. And then I make a, you know, video where I'm like, hi, and I've been thinking about this. So you don't get that, right. It's always just an image. And then we carry our own narrative and our own perspective and put it on that. So, I think it's really easy when you hear somebody on a podcast giving advice and talking about, uh, a subject that they are well informed on and passionate about. It's easy to take that and spin that narrative and turn it into why you are not as good. Um, and so I just kind of wanna say you are as good, again, you don't have to feel like you are as good as me to be as good as me, or Val or Cat or any of us, right? We're. We're just doing it in a public situation, which creates the illusion of knowledge and confidence, and we have just as much self-doubt as you. You're just probably not gonna see it. Um, and so that's just to sort of normalize all of that, right?Val Monroe:
Yeah. I think that's part of the hell of social media is that it hides all of the, you know, the vulnerability. Mostly. Mostly. And then, you know, the people who are being vulnerable. I'm not talking about you, Deb, but, like Paulina, the model, whose last name I can't pronounce without looking at it. Um, she ha posted regularly these, these videos of her sobbing, you know, into her pillow to show her following that she was not a perfect person. And I looked at those and I was like, I'm moving on. I have no desire to watch somebody, you know, sobbing into her pillow. That's something, you know, fine if she wants to do it, but not for me. And I just think it points to the distortion that, so even when you know you're doing what seems like a positive thing, just the fact that you're doing it performatively, I think is weird. You know, it just, um, I don't know. I don't know how, how productive that is in the end.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Yeah. That's a, a crazy topic, but the idea how our, everyone has become so performative because of social media and that that's like the baseline of so many young people's existence is how do I put this out there in a wayVal Monroe:
right.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
I want to be seen and, yeah.Val Monroe:
That's a lot to contend with. And so then again, just making a space to normalize the negativity that, that you'll feel with it. Cuz again, I think, I mean social media is also capitalistic driven, right? And we've all been programmed now to need it and be addicted to it and need it for our business and need it to share our message and all of this stuff. And yet social media makes us feel pretty bad. And social media is amazing. Social media is how I found both of you, right? But it's the double-edged sword. Social media has brought me to some incredible people who I've been able to really grow and learn and heal with, and it's also been a huge part of what I'm growing and healing from. So it's both,Val Monroe:
mm-hmm.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
do either of you have kind of a parting thought or quote that you'd like to leave with the listeners, you know, as they go off into the world.Debbie Saroufim:
I'm gonna highlight the duality of things that we can feel because, um, and I'll use Val as my example actually, and I've said this to her before. Val is someone that I have always just admired from the get-go. and One of the things that I love about Val is that I think she, um, challenges me. She challenges me and I like the way my brain works when she's around. And the challenge also feels scary sometimes. Like, am I enough? And that's mine, right? That, am I enough? Is mine, but I kind of just wanna say that, I think that that's what life is, right? Is the duality of like, Val is someone who, she has been my role model and mentor. I've talked to her about how in many ways she's the same age as my mother. There's a lot of parallels there, and like the way I connect with her is something I don't have in that other relationship. So I def like love is she, you know, I love you Val. This isn't like awkward or anything, but like Yeah. Um, and, and all my stuff gets stirred up around Val and to just sort of say that. That doesn't negate the love and that doesn't, you know, the, the love doesn't undo the fact that all my stuff gets stirred up around Val. And so I'm saying it here because again, I think, this is where we can normalize some of that, right. And just sort of hold that duality at all times and know that one doesn't negate the other. That's, there you go,Val Monroe:
So actually I, you know what I have to say, you know, speaking of beauty, that is a beautiful thing that you're doing. I keep saying, yeah, that's, that's a, that's a really strong feeling, but you know what has nothing to do with me.Debbie Saroufim:
Yeah. It doesn't, it doesn't have anything to do with Val. Um, but that's, that's also important, right? Because like, I think we always think that, that it's about the other person and it's notCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Mm. Mm-hmm.Debbie Saroufim:
it's all about ourselves. So,Val Monroe:
Well, right, okay. So I found, I found the quote here I go. I'm gonna read it now. Real beauty isn't about symmetry or weight or makeup. It's about looking life right in the face and seeing all its magnificence reflected in your own. That's my parting thought.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
I want, I want that to be my parting thought too. Can that be, can thatVal Monroe:
Well, you're welcome to it, you can find it on Good Reads,Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
uh, well this has been magnificent. I'm just honored to have held space amongst the two of you, so thanksVal Monroe:
again. Fantastic. Thanks Kat. It's most wonderful to be with you.undefined:
I just loved this chat I had with Val and Debbie. Here are my key takeaways. Number one. Embrace and promote media that features different body types, genders, races, abilities, et cetera. I know we've touched on this before, but it's so worth repeating when we do this, it helps normalize that there's not just one way to be or look. There's not a right way and the rest are wrong. You can do this by deliberately following certain accounts and having your daughters follow certain accounts on social media, where people look different and different body types of. And different types of beauty and bodies, et cetera, are celebrated. You can also do this by fostering media literacy when watching a TV show or movie together. And noting what works and what could be improved. Not necessarily in a judge-y way, like people who like this type of movie or bad, but maybe making it about how we know better. And we know that this may not be true or the whole truth today. Number two. Remember that we're steeped in messaging created by. Uh, capitalist engine. And I know that sounds scary, but it's the truth. Which pressures our girls and us to conform and to consume. So encourage your daughters to be aware of it. Not to make anyone feel bad about having this desire to conform, but so they can recognize where that may come from and build a set of tools for navigating decisions as they move forward in their lives. Number three, normalize and embrace sitting with a variety of emotions all at the same time. You can dislike your body. And that doesn't mean it needs changing and it doesn't mean that you can't change it. It's really up to you. As long as you're thinking about what's motivating you and normalizing the choice that you have in participating in the culture. This reminds me a little bit of how the goal of feminism and gender equity isn't to make all moms go into the workforce after they have kids or to make women more like men, or to make all women climb the corporate ladder. It's really to give all people more freedom of choice and the ability to live authentically without being treated as less than, or second class members of society. Number four also relating to the duality of emotions. Feeling bad. It doesn't mean you are bad. You are allowed to feel bad and that passes it's like grief. And how grief is a step towards healing. You can feel sad about how your body's changing or how you don't meet certain beauty standards. And remember that that doesn't mean you have to change anything or that there's anything wrong with you. Number five. There's a misconception that if you figure it out, you'll just feel good from that point on. And that's just not the case. Even if intellectually, you know, what might be driving you to feel bad about your body or your looks. This doesn't mean you won't or shouldn't have any negative thoughts or bad days. It's an everyday thing. And we're all in this together, using what we've got to navigate the ups and downs because the messaging isn't going anywhere. We'll just need to keep reminding ourselves and each other that we're okay just as we are. And number six. As Val said so eloquently. Real beauty isn't about symmetry or weight or makeup. It's about looking life right in the face and seeing all its magnificence reflected in your own. To learn more about Debbie Serafin visit. www.bodyrelationship.com. And follow her on Instagram at body relationship underscore coach. You can also check out her parents' guide for what not to say to your kids, if you want them to have a healthy relationship with their bodies that is linked in the show notes. Want to feel happier about your appearance, especially as you age, you might like reading more about what Val has to say about it. Subscribe for free to how not to F up your email@example.com. Thanks so much for joining me this week. I know you have choices and how you decide to spend your time and what you decide to listen to. So I'm honored and grateful that you are listening to this. Again, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @knowberaisethem check out, knowberaisethem.com for past episodes, you can leave me a message or even a voicemail. And in the next few weeks, I'll be sharing more information about coaching as well as a collective for moms who are interested in learning more, staying in front of the issues while also becoming informed about how we can show up for ourselves, and our kids with intention and grace. Until then here's to strong women, may we know them. May we be them. And may we raise them.