March is my birthday month. As you are reading this I am now 42 years old. Okay, I’m using the new math – that 60 is the new 40. On every birthday, I take time to reflect on my life. Am I happy with my work? Yes! Am I happy in my marriage? Yes! Do I like getting older? Yes… and no. It’s challenging at best to be “women of a particular age” in a youth and size 2 obsessed culture. More often than not, when I look in the mirror I like what I see – a woman who has laugh lines and compassion written on her face and a body that is strong and healthy, although sprinkled with signs of aging. So most of the time I like myself. And I even like the way I look.

However, when was the last time any of us saw ourselves reflected in a commercial, print ad, movie, or television program unless depicted as a mother, grandmother, or woman in need of a weight loss product or surgery? Have you noticed that some of the diet ads show women who we would give our eye teeth to look, like thinking it is time to start a diet? I challenge you to find a commercial for a cruise line or a restaurant where the average American woman – 5’4” tall, 140 lbs, and size 14 - is represented. Sociologists say that if we do not see ourselves represented in the culture at large we become invisible, feel “less than”, and find our self-esteem plummeting. Many of my clients bemoan (and berate) their physical selves because they cannot find themselves when they open a magazine or turn on the TV.

The reality is we are not going to change the world of advertising. The fashion business and the $33 billion dollar diet industry are too powerful for that. However, we can challenge the cultural norms, each of us in our own way. Beauty – real beauty – comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Have you seen the Dove Soap campaign at It’s worth checking out and sharing with the younger women and girls in your life. It debunks many beauty myths and promotes self-esteem and self-worth from the inside out. If we, adult women, don’t challenge those superficial, cultural messages ourselves, we subtly and not so subtly send those same messages to our daughters about their value based on their size and weight only. Just look as these alarming statistics:

~ 80% of ten year old girls are worried about becoming fat
~ 80% of girls in the fourth grade are on diets
~ 40% of first through third grade girls want to be thinner

If we don’t transform the way we think about our physical selves we are condemning another generation of women to lives of weight, size, and eating obsessions. (FYI… the prevalence of anorexia nervosa has increased by 30% every five years since the 1950’s.)

Let’s face it! Our bodies are constantly changing – through puberty, childbirth, menopause, and as we become aging Goddesses. So let’s stop selling ourselves short. Let’s celebrate who we are, the quality of our character, our many accomplishments. Let’s work toward better health and well being for ourselves and for all women. Let’s look in the mirror and like what we see – women of integrity and of fine character, women who are multi-talented, kind, and generous.

Happy Birthday to me and to all March Goddesses!

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with over thirteen years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164 or