Tips and Tricks for 2022 Cookie Season

This time of year there are more ways than ever for girls to participate in Girl Scouts by learning new skills and reaching new goals. We have some tried and true tips to share with you to make this cookie season the best one yet! Use the tips on this blog post along with the following resources for a very successful season.

GSHPA Volunteer Resources

GSHPA Cookie Seller Resources

GSHPA Product Program Toolkit

Cookie Rookie and Cookie Captain Program

Girl Scouts marketing their booth during the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

2022 Booth Tips

We are always so proud of how creative our girls are and how well they think outside of the box when it comes to cookies. Check out these tips for COVID-19 safe cookie booths:

  1. Print a QR code to your Digital Cookie site on labels, and add those labels to every box sold, or on a thank you card included with each purchase. This way the customer knows how to order more!
  2. Set up a Cookie Drive Thru – work with a local business to secure a safe spot to set up such as a parking lot and offer a drive thru service
  3. Consider using the Digital Cookie App or a credit card processing app to accept payments in a no-contact way. If you collect cash, be sure to use gloves to retrieve the money to allow for minimal customer contact.
  4. Host a virtual booth via social media or Zoom. Be sure to have adult supervision during the booth, as well as a payment and delivery plan in place before the event!
  5.  Take advantage of holidays and bundling cookies. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to tie a bow around a couple of boxes as a fun holiday promotion, or run a 4 for $20 sale with boxes already grouped together for easy buying.
  6. Create social distance signage for your booth so customers can see from a distance exactly what you are selling. Use a creative booth setup to encourage packing of cookies happening in one spot while payment transactions can happen in another.
Girl Scouts collecting payment at their booth in the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

Extra Tips for Extra Sales

  • Dedicate a day of sales to Gift of Caring – call 10+ people and ask them to order cookies that can be delivered to essential workers, military or others.
  • Reach out to local businesses such as restaurants, car dealerships, etc. to buy cookies from your troop to give to employees or customers as a thank you!
  • Share recipes with your customers to show them all the delicious things they can do with their cookies, other than just eat them straight from the box!
  • Go back to the basics and fill a wagon with cookies and take a walk around your neighborhood
  • Create an order form station at your mailbox to encourage neighbors out for a walk or mailmen and delivery service employees to order cookies in an easy no contact way.

Start Selling Today!

Every girl in Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania benefits from the Cookie Program. From Girl Scout camp to programs to trips and activities with their troop, each girl gets an amazing Girl Scout experience as a result of the program. Not a Girl Scout yet? Join today!

GSHPA Volunteer Conference Preview

By Colleen Buck

January is fast approaching, and with the new year comes the Virtual Volunteer Conference! GSHPA is excited to offer this virtual opportunity for volunteers across our 30 counties to learn, grow and network together. We connected with two staff members who are leading the team responsible for this event to learn more. Jess Mislinski, Regional Director, and Janelle Brewer, Volunteer Training Manager, have spent this year working with a team of other staff members to bring this event to fruition.

GSHPA: Why is it important for GSHPA to hold a Volunteer Conference?

Jess & Janelle: Holding a Volunteer Conference provides our volunteers the opportunity to learn more about how they can provide the best experience for our Girl Scouts, as well as the opportunity to network with fellow volunteers from across our council. Hosting the conference virtually arose out of necessity due to the pandemic, but we quickly saw the benefits of providing a virtual conference. It allows so much flexibility for our volunteers who already devote so much of their time to Girl Scouts and other activities. We wanted to make learning and networking as easy as possible for as many people as possible, regardless of geographic location.

GSHPA: What are some of the topics volunteers can look forward to from our conference speakers?

Jess & Janelle: This year we will be featuring specialized tracks on a variety of topics including Product Program, Outdoors, Service Unit, New Troop Leader, Girl Support, and Girl Programming. Each track has several sessions available for volunteers to choose from. There is something for everyone. And the best part is that all attendees will have access to recordings of all of the sessions! The learning can continue beyond the day of the conference!

Sharmi Albrechtsen, creator of SmartGurlz
Sharmi Albrechtsen, creator of SmartGurlz

GSHPA: Who is the featured speaker, and why did we choose them?

Jess & Janelle: We are so excited to feature Sharmi Albrechtsen as our Featured Speaker. While Sharmi may have closed on a deal on Shark Tank in 2017 for her creation of SmartGurlz, we are most excited about Sharmi’s journey as an entrepreneur, just like our Girl Scouts! Why did we choose Sharmi?  Sharmi is a female entrepreneur that founded a robotics company out of not having a toy that worked for her daughter.  After watching Sharmi speak on a Ted Talk, we knew she was the one!  Watch it here: https://youtu.be/zkK0TlJr8Co

GSHPA: What is the draw of this conference that volunteers can be excited for?

Jess & Janelle: We are so excited about so many aspects of this conference! This year we have Sharmi as our keynote speaker and we have no doubt she will inspire our volunteers! In addition to our keynote speaker, we have so many incredible presenters for this year’s conference. Our volunteers will get to learn directly from their peers, current volunteers who have years of Girl Scout experience. We even have some outside speakers who are experts in their field, such as Michelle Fox from Olivia’s house who will be presenting resources for Grief & Loss and Anne Norgren from Little Brownie Bakers, who is an expert on eBudde.

In addition to the learning opportunities this conference provides, our volunteers will get the opportunity to network with one another! We know how important it is for our volunteers to feel connected and this is a great opportunity to make new friends and share ideas!

The 2nd Virtual Volunteer Conference is on Saturday, January 15, 2022, 9am-2pm. Virtual doors will open at 8:30am, with Opening Remarks kicking things off at 9am. Registration closes January 8th, so register today: https://www.gshpa.org/en/sf-events-repository/2022/virtual-volunteer-conference.html

Comment below if we will see you there!

In the New Year

Can you believe it is already the middle of December Girl Scouts? This year has flown by and we have had some incredible programs and events. Since October 1st we have had more than 53 programs with our Program and Outdoor team, and it has been so exciting to be able to add in-person events to that lineup! As we end 2021 and look to welcome in the New Year we have even more programs to share with you coming up in 2022.

The first event of the year is actually an ongoing one. 2022 will be spent celebrating the 110th anniversary of Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts Donate to the Juliette Low Birthday Fund, 1946

Juliette Gordon Lowe began Girl Scouts with just 18 girls in 1912, and we have grown to 2.5 MILLION Girl Scouts today, and that is just in the USA! Keep an eye out for some exciting events to celebrate throughout next year on our event calendar.

To kickoff this celebratory year, we have a jam packed schedule coming up in January. We are so excited to host another Virtual Volunteer Conference on January 15th. This is open to all volunteers, and registration is live. This year we have many more sessions to enjoy and you will have access to ALL the recorded sessions afterwards.  In addition to a swag bag for conference participants, you will receive an exclusive code to use at the GSHPA Retail shop!

Girls can dive into the New Year by joining us for a number of great programs. Check out the exciting opportunities below:

Badge Days

January brings both in person and virtual badge opportunities, including Cookie Entrepreneur badges and Outdoor Experience badges. Take a look at all we are offering and register on our event calendar.

STEAM with the Program Team

Our fan favorite program continues! Join the Program Team every Wednesday for new and exciting STEAM activities, from Lego Masters to Pixel People and Master Chef, STEAM with the Program Team has something everyone will love.

STEAM Saturdays

Come get outdoors with the Program Team to get Wild with Animals! We will offer this program at two different camp properties in January, Camp Small Valley and Camp Furnace Hills. Each program will also offer a morning and afternoon session for girls to choose from. Register on our event calendar today, and come ready to get WILD!


We hope everyone has a wonderful December, and we cannot wait to see you all at programs in January to bring in 2022 with a bang! Take a look at the event calendar for more events, and let us know in the comments which programs you’re most looking forward to!

What’s the difference, Community Service vs Take Action Project

By Liz Bleacher

Within Girl Scouts we do a lot of projects and activities that help our communities at a local, county, state, national and even worldwide level. Some of these projects are community service and others can be considered Take Action Projects, some even can be in both categories at once.  The question is – how do you tell the difference between the two? How do you decide if what you are doing will help you earn your Community Service Bar or qualify as a project to complete your higher award, like the Bronze award?

I have some answers for you, in this post I will go through the check list of both so everyone, girls, volunteers, and adults, will have a better understanding of the two and be able to plan correctly.  To start lets go over some vocab so that we all understand what is meant.  First, a need, this is something that is a condition that needs supply or relief, it is a temporary fix.  Second and often used interchangeably but not the same is, an issue, which is an important topic or problem that is addressed on a bigger scale.  An issue requires a more long-term self-sustaining solution.

An example of this would be a food bank “needs” fresh fruit and veggies on the shelves for their community.  And the deeper “issue” is that they don’t have a regular sources of donations or a place to store fresh produce. Now, how do “need” and “issue” fit in with community service and Take Action projects? Let’s find out!

Community Service Projects

When planning a community service project you are focusing on solving an immediate need, having a food drive or raising money to donate to the food bank so they can purchase some produce will help with that need.  You can work to help fill the shelves, this solves the need and is a fantastic thing to do, but it doesn’t deal with the issue.  Once they give that food away or it goes bad they will be right back where they started.

Community service projects make the world a better place right now. Girls can engage in short-term service, like collecting toys, or a long-term project like weekly volunteering at the food bank, the work helps with the immediate need in their community.

Take Action Project

A Take Action project is a project that solves an issue by discussing and discovering the cause and coming up with a plan to affect or eliminate the cause of the problem.  For the food bank, the root issue was they don’t have a regular source of produce or a way to store them for a short period.   You could start your Take Action project by asking, “Why can’t they find produce and what do they need to store it?” After research, a Take Action project would eliminate the issue by working with local groceries or farmers to collect their extra produce and may include working with local companies to get one or two industrial refrigerators donated to store the produce for the weekly/biweekly distribution. This would provide the food bank with a regular source of produce and a place to store it. 

Take Actions projects go a step further than a community service project that stop when you stop.  Take Action projects, do not stop, they are continual, sustainable.  Both community service projects and Take Action projects are great opportunities to strengthen your communities and make the world a better place, just in different ways.  Everyone from Daisies to troop leaders, to life-long members can choose to serve in the way that is best for them.  Now that you know the difference you can work with your fellow Girl Scouts to make the best choice for your troop.  Like Juliette Gordon Low said, “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”

Quick Resources

You can take a look at the different ways Girl Scouts can give back with badges and Journeys.  As well as the awards Girl Scouts can earn that help build their skills to eventually earn their Highest Awards.

Fall Fun with Friends

By Colleen Buck

Fall is a busy time of firsts – first day of school, first soccer practice, first time meeting new friends, the list goes on! With all of those firsts, it is also a great time for Girl Scouts to experience some firsts together while embracing the change of seasons and getting to know new and old Girl Scout friends. You can even add an additional layer of fun to your troop’s fall activities by incorporating a fun patch that goes along with the activity for the girls to remember the fun they had.

As you are thinking of fun fall activities to share with your girls, we have compiled a list of ideas for you to use. Some of our favorite well-known and not so well known ideas are listed. If your troop is extra-adventurous, you can take our challenge of completing all of these activities!

  • Experience a hayride
  • Go to an orchard to pick apples
  • Try some delicious apple cider at the apple orchard
  • Hold a troop investiture
  • Go to a pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins together
  • Have a pumpkin decorating showcase or contest
  • Attend a GSHPA program in person or virtually
  • Go on a nature walk to find items to use while working on your Outdoor Art badge!
  • Compile recipes for the best fall drink, shop for the ingredients, then have a taste test party
  • Plan and throw a big birthday party for Juliette Gordon Low (Oct 31)
  • Attend or participate in a fall community parade
  • Combine fun and community service, and offer to rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor
  • Plan and make a Troop “Friendsgiving” Dinner and invite families to join in the fun of eating it
  • If all of the girls in your troop celebrate Halloween, have a costume troop meeting and take lots of pictures
  • Plan a community service project together
  • Pair up with another troop to exchange SWAPS
  • Have a bonfire
  • Learn how to cook over a fire – s’mores or popcorn are good fall campfire snacks!
  • Go on a hike
  • Learn how to sew, knit or crochet
  • Visit a GSHPA camp property and get outdoors
  • Have a movie night
  • Have a fall themed craft party
  • Plan a Take Action Project

If your troop takes our challenge of completing all of these fabulous fall activities, you can use the attached PDF to keep track of what you have completed. If your troop is going to take the challenge, sound off in the comments to let us know what you are most looking forward to!

Colleen Buck is a Program Coordinator at GSHPA.

Fun Fall Patches For You

Post by Colleen Sypien

Fall is fast approaching, and with it comes the opportunity to get back together with your Girl Scout friends and earn some new badges! Below we have some of our favorite badges that you can earn this fall with your troop or on your own!

Financial Literacy Badges

With Fall Fundraiser starting soon, we will be learning all about how to be entrepreneurs. These badges are a great way to supplement what we learn through product sales by expanding what it means to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Brownie Philanthropist Badge – When it comes to running a business, it is important to know how to be financially savvy and good with people. Part of being a business owner though is giving back to your community as well, and this badge starts to build the foundation of giving back.

Junior Business Owner Badge – What type of business would you want to own? With this badge you can explore business ideas and develop a basic business plan!

Cadette Marketing Badge – Our Fall Fundraiser and Cookie programs teach us about advertising and marketing to our customers through emails, door to door sales, virtual sales and more. Take what you have learned from these programs and learn how to expand your marketing strategies with this badge.

Senior Customer Loyalty Badge – Explore how to best invest in your customers and provide quality experiences for your loyal customer base with this badge.

Outdoor Badges

As the weather moves from summer to fall temperatures, we have the perfect opportunity to get outdoors! The Trail Adventure badges for each level are a great way to get outdoors and learn about planning an outdoor adventure. These badges can be done at every level, and provide girls the opportunity to have a girl led experience.

Daisy Trail Adventure Badge

Brownie Trail Adventure Badge

Junior Trail Adventure Badge

Cadette Trail Adventure Badge

Senior Trail Adventure Badge

Ambassador Trail Adventure Badge

Higher Awards

As we begin the 2022 Girl Scout year on October 1, there are new girls bridging up to levels that can earn the Higher Awards. Girls who are Junior level can earn their Bronze Award, Cadettes can earn their Silver Award, and Seniors and Ambassadors can be working towards earning their Gold Award. These are the highest awards that a Girl Scout can earn, and are amazing opportunities for girls to learn more about their community, what they need, and develop a sustainable way to help their community.

Bronze Award

Silver Award

Gold Award

As leaders start to plan the year with their girls, don’t forget that there are planning resources available to help! Our Award and Badge Explorer shows all of the badges available to girls to earn, and gives an overview of the steps required to earn each badge, as well as a link to purchase the badge. Another fantastic resource is the Volunteer Toolkit. Our Volunteer Toolkit User Guide helps leaders to navigate and learn all that the toolkit has to offer. From meeting resources and material lists to lesson plan outlines and meeting timelines, the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) has it all!

Let us know in the comments what badges you are excited to work on this year!

4 Steps to Plan a Successful Girl Scout Year

Fall is here, the weather is cooling, the leaves are starting to change and Girl Scout are heading back to school.  This means girls, parents and volunteers are starting to get crazy busy with their hectic schedules.  But have no fear, whether you are a brand new troop leader or a seasoned volunteer there are online and offline resources that will help you have conversations with your parents and volunteers and plan for the year, girl led of course.  Here are some easy and great ideas to help make your meeting planning smooth sailing.

Find your Troop’s Vision

Talk with your troop members, adults and girls, to discuss what their vision for the upcoming year is going to be.  What are your goals, what are they excited about, what are they dreading? Girl Scouts of all ages are able to come up with some SMART goals for the troop for the year to help them grow in their experiences.  Don’t fall into the temptation to plan it all yourself, I know sometimes it feels easier, but Girl Scouts is girl-led.  Having the girls participate in the planning will help the girls engage and be invested in the yearly agenda.

Flexibility is Key

That agenda you spend all the time and energy creating, it is a changing document.  You can spend as much time planning for the unexpected as you want and there will be something that pops up unexpectedly.  It is important to stay flexible and let the girls that it is ok to have changes to original plans, use it as a teaching opportunity.  For example, your troop has planned a hike that might need to be cancelled or moved because of the weather, a guest speaker had to cancel last minute leaving a gap in your nightly plans.  Check in with the troop throughout the year to make sure you are staying on track for your vision and see if any changes need to be made.

Brainstorming!

Think about how much time you are going to need to spend on planning, do you just need one meeting for the younger girls or a few meeting for the older girls to take the lead.  Keep the planning specific with a timeline so you can stay focused and keep the process moving forward.  You don’t want to spend all your year planning and not actually get to the fun stuff.

Depending on the attention span and interest of your troop, you can plan a couple meetings at a time or take on months or the entire year.  This is brainstorming so make sure to write down all the ideas from each member even if they are crazy and seem to be too big or out there.  These ideas can lead to something that would work for your group.

Ideas to keep track of your brainstorming session:

  • Write it down! Use poster board, butcher paper, whiteboard or you could use a Google doc if you are a more tech troop.
  • Have each girl brainstorm individually before coming back as a group to talk about it.  Some girls have a hard time sharing their thoughts in large groups so this will allow everyone to have input.
  • Make it a game: give the girls 5 minutes to write down as many ideas for each topic you need to plan. Examples, snacks, service projects, badges, journeys, fun trips, places to visit, etc.

Start Big, Add Details

Take a look at the list that you created and decide as a group what you are going to do.  For younger girls you may need to take the lead as the adult and with the older girls let them give it a try and be there to help as needed.  To narrow things down, talk as a group to come up with the favorites.  This can be done through voting, discussion, ranking, and more, it is important that everyone feels they are being included and their voice is being heard.

Once you have narrowed down the list to the top interested of the troop you can start filling in the details. This is where your network will come in handy to use your connections within and without Girl Scouts.  This can include your Service Unit, Troop Leaders, parents, your council, social media or community groups.

Online resources are a great place to go for you and your girls to research your plans.  Search engines, Pinterest, and blogs are great places to find if someone else has tried your idea, and you can build off what they had done. 

What to do next

Remember you don’t have to do it all yourself, have the girls, parents, and other volunteers help! Use your resources wisely, this includes people too! Make a plan, be flexible, and use what you have to make your upcoming year full of fun success!

STEAM SNACK: Abstract Self

Abstract art can come naturally to those girls who love experimentation and creative expression.  As adults we spend so much time telling kids to color in the lines and use the right colors, abstract art allows girls to jump at the change to express themselves any way they want. 

Why Abstract Art?

Abstract art is more about the shapes and colors and the feelings it expresses, not about staying in the lines.  Abstract art encourages discussion about color, shares, lines, feelings and thoughts, all concepts children are learning.  This is something everyone can do.

What if I’m not an expert?

Start by explaining what abstract art is NOT, so examples of realistic or naturalist art.  These pieces look like replicas of what the subjects are, the subject is easily recognized in the art.  Examples can be paintings of fruit, a house or other objects the girls can identify. 

Now show the girls several abstract works of art, one at a time, ask the girls if they can identify what the subject of the art is.  This will take longer to get responses do to the obscurity of the art.  Ask the girls what colors and shapes do they see? Ask them what emotions they feel while looking at each art piece and what they are thinking about when they look at it.

How do I get started?

Materials you need:

  • White paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Black marker/crayon
  • Coloring Materials

Tips and Tricks:

  • Prepare your self-portrait ahead of time add color and make it crazy.
  • Don’t show them examples of your self-portrait until after they draw theirs.  Children tend to make their work look just like the examples they see, we want them to let go of the control.

Here are some discussion questions to get the girls thinking:

  • What are some colors that represent feelings?
  • How about shapes, what shape can represent happiness, sadness?
    • There is not right answer and will differ from girl to girl, abstract is all about what you want things to represent.

The Badges:

This activity can be adapted to fulfill the following badge steps.

  • Daisy:
  • Brownie: Painting Step 3 – Paint a mood
  • Junior:  Drawing Step 1 – Experiment with different materials
  • Cadette:
  • Senior: Collage Artist Step 3 – Create with color
  • Ambassador:

The Science             

Define abstract art in terms the girls will understand based on their levels.  Simply, abstraction in art is a non-lifelike portrayal of real world objects, people and scenes that are usually hard for other peope to recognize.  Abstract art portrays what an artist feels and thinks, rather that what they see.  An abstract artist will use colors and shapes to express their emotions and ideas. 

We don’t always know what people are thinking and feeling and we don’t always know what abstract art portrays. You could always ask the artist, it is about the conversation.

The Activity

Abstract Self-Portrait

Materials: Paper, ruler, pencil, black marker/crayon, coloring materials

STEP ONE: Make diagonal folds on your paper, you do not want even folds that create squares.  You want it random, make about 5-6 folds, then use a ruler or strait edge to trace the folds with your black marker or crayon.

STEP TWO: Explain to the girls that they are going to fill the page with their self-portrait, use the whole canvas.  Oh and they are going to be doing this with their eyes closed!  Tell them not to worry you will be giving them directions on what to draw and it is abstract art so it is ok if it doesn’t look just like them.

STEP THREE: Grab your canvas, your pencil and close your eyes. Remind the girls though out the process to keep their eyes closed, they will want to peek.

STEP FOUR:

  • Start with a nice large oval for your face, remember fill your canvas, no small faces in the middle.
  • Now add your hair, and a neck you don’t want to be a floating head.  Now add your eyes, lashes and brows.  Remember eyes closed!
  • Now we don’t want to forget your ears, make sure to add one to each side. 
  • How about your mouth, are you going to be smiling? Showing teeth?
  • And don’t forget your nose! 
  • Now add any accessories you want, jewelry, glasses, hair bows, etc.

STEP FIVE: Have the girls open their eyes, ask if their art looks like them.  When they answer no, let them know that is good, it isn’t meant to, this is abstract art.

STEP SIX: Trace the lines of your face with the black marker/crayon.  Your face will be split into many shapes from the fold lines creating all new shapes.

STEP SEVEN: Use your coloring materials to finish your portrait.  Think about what colors you will use and how.  Complementary colors, contrasting colors, all one color but different shades, only a few colors or all the colors in the box.  Think about how the colors make you feel and how they will make others feel when they see your portrait.

Wrap up:

After completing the self-portraits, ask the girls:

  • How did you feel about drawing with your eyes closed?
  • What do you like about abstract art?
  • What don’t you like about abstract art?

An Abstract Snack: Animal Portraits

Materials Needed: toast, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, cream cheese, banana, strawberries, apples, berries, any topping you want to create with.

Prepare your toast to your liking. Prep your fruit by slicing to create different shapes and sizes to create your art.
Add the soft layer, peanut butter/hazelnut spread/cream cheese.
Add your fruit toppings to create your animal portraits or other art.
Remember this is abstract art, your final piece does not need to look like anything in the real world.

Building a Positive Image: You and Your Body

Written by Melissa M. Brown, Psy.D, UPMC

Feeling insecure once in a while is normal.  But it should not be your norm.  Appreciating the body you have and refocusing toward positivity are steps you can take toward valuing yourself as a complex individual.

What if I asked you to name three things that you would change about your body? How quickly would you answer? And if I asked you to name three things you love about your body? Would you answer as quickly?

If you struggle with the positive answers, you are not alone.  American women have a much higher rate of distorted feelings about themselves than women from other countries and cultures.  In fact, in a survey by Body Image International, females in the U.S> had lower opinions about every body part they asked about.  And these same feelings extend from women to teens to adolescents – most of us struggle with our body image at different points in our lives. 

What is body image?

How do you see yourself and feel about your body when you look in the mirror? Your thoughts, perceptions and attitudes about your physical appearance are your “body image.” But your body image is more than how you feel about physical appearance, attractiveness and beauty.  How you perceive your body is your mental representation of yourself.  This “picture” can govern everything from your life plan to the plans you make each day.

While it may seem that we are making progress, our culture needs to continue to reshape what we see (think television and magazines) so that the majority of the models and actors represent the same diversity of bodies (among other attributes) that we have in real life.  As long as the “ideal” or “preferred” is portrayed as “thin” or some other unrealistic size or shape for most of us, we will continue to have unrealistic expectations about our own bodies. 

How does social media impact body image?

There are some social media “influencers” who use the platform to promote body positivity and self-acceptance.  Ashley Graham, Serena Williams, and Demi Lovato are just a few female celebrities who have taken a stand by posting un-retouched photos of themselves or challenging negative comments made to their social media accounts about their bodies.  As of yet, however, these actions are not counteracting the impacts of social media on most of us.

In fact, a study done by Rachel Cohen, PhD Candidate, UTS Graduate School of Health, in 2018 found “engaging in photo activities, (e.g. viewing friends’ photos or updating your own profile picture) on Facebook, was associated with concerns including greater “thin-ideal” internalization, self-objectification and body dissatisfaction.” The study also found that following appearance-focused accounts on Instagram, (i.e. health and fitness or celebrities like the Kardashians), was related to some negative body image outcomes and disordered eating.

So, if social media is showing more kinds of bodies, from thin to curvy to full-size, why do we still have a negative image of our own bodies?  As adolescents, we experience the height of self-consciousness and the need for peer validation. It’s normal in our growth and development.  But with the Internet as a new “peer,” the next question to ask is, “Is what I’m seeing real?” Air brushing, glittering light, posing, and filters are a few techniques that distort images and make what you see on social media quite different from reality.

What can I do to have a more positive body image?

Accept your body

  • Don’t body-share yourself. When you make harsh comments about your own body, it hurts your self-esteem.  That’s true whether you say it out loud or think it to yourself.  It hurts just as much as if someone else said it.  Be kind.  Respect yourself, even if you have things to work on.
  • Build a better habit. Do you have a habit of putting your body down? To break that bad habit, build a good one in its place.  Tell yourself what you like instead of what you don’t. Keep doing it until it is a habit.

Like your body

  • Find things to like about your looks. Do you like the way your hands move or what they create? What about your eyes or your smile? Tell yourself what you like and why.  If you aren’t sure, what do your friends tell you they like about you? Accept those things. Let yourself feel good.  There is a lot to like about you.
  • Focus on what your body can DO.  Celebrate all the things that your body does for you from breathing to dancing.  Your body is amazing. Think about all that it enables you to do. Be grateful.

Take care of your body

  • Eat healthy foods. Learn what foods are good for you, and how much is the right amount.  Eating right is about building strong bones, growing and having energy.  Being good to your body can help you feel good about yourself.
  • Move every day. Your body takes care of you. Take care of it and have fun.  What do you like to do to get moving? From walking, swimming, biking, hiking and so much more, movement is a gift. Moving also lifts our mood.  It can also disrupt negative thoughts and help us refocus.

How can adults help?

Adults can acknowledge their own insecurities and struggles.  In one study, 90% of teens who reported being unhappy with their body shape said their own mother had an “insecure body image.”  How adults talk about ourselves, how we look, our relationship with food, diet culture and our bodies, as well as how we speak about other women in the news and on social media can have a huge impact on how young people perceive themselves.

Adults should talk about social media. Having a conversation around social media and how it makes adolescents feel can have a big impact. Open, honest, frank discussions about social media and the potential impact it can have can help uncover any feelings of negativity (or positivity) it may be having on the well-being of young people.

Adults can encourage role models of all shapes and sizes. Many of the images we see in magazines and across various media platforms can give us a skewed view of what we should aspire to look like.  By highlighting different types of beauty, adults can help young people learn to recognize and overcome insecurities.

When should I talk with an adult?

Talk with a trusted adult after you have read this post.  Tell them you have negative feelings about your body and any concerns you may have.  Getting a different perspective and being reminded of how much you have to offer can help you feel confident and improve your self-esteem.

When we have negative thoughts and feelings about our bodies, these feelings may overflow into other areas of life.  If you think you may be depressed, tell someone right away. Other things to watch out for:

  • Constant comparison of your body with others
  • Feelings of guilt or shame about food
  • A fixation on losing weight or about specific parts of your body
  • Excessive exercise
  • Use of diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives
  • Periods of fasting, or extremely limited food intake
  • Changes in mood (irritability)

If you experience any of these, tell a parent, doctor, or therapist what you are going through.  Ask for help.  Body image and self-esteem can get better with help and care. 

Start on the path to positive body image

Getting to a positive body image is a journey that can take different lengths of time. Reading this article can be a first step from negative thoughts about your body toward positive body image.  Now you have an introduction to healthier ways of looking at your body.  If you think you need help to continue making changes, ask an adult.  The more you practice positive thought patterns, the closer you will be to loving the body you have and appreciating who you are as a whole.

Lessons Learned: Empathy, mentorship and lover of furry friends

By Cathy Hirko

I met Bitsy McCann for the first time a few years ago at an awards program in Harrisburg. Long story short? We get each other. We connected almost immediately.

Some people you meet make relationship-building easy. Bitsy is one of them. Every time I have reached out to her for advice or for work-related reasons she always responds and is giving of her time and resources.

A few months ago I found out that Bitsy had been a Girl Scout and I asked her if she would want to share a bit about that experience on our blog. She happily accepted. During the workdays (or evenings in Bitsy’s case) she’s a designer of many things graphic. She runs her own company in the Harrisburg area and occasionally writes a column for Central Penn Parent. Her story is below.

But, before we learn more about Bitsy, I’d like to pitch our blog to all the women leaders in our 30-county footprint. We want to tell your words of inspiration to the Girl Scouts and others who are reading this blog. Your experiences and stories matter. Please contact me if you are interested in being profiled on the blog. Email me at chirko@gshpa.org. We are ready to tell your story.

Here are a few thoughts from Bitsy:

GSHPA: Night owl or early-morning person? Why?

Bitsy: I am definitely a night owl, hence this 11:06 p.m. email. The house is quiet, but more importantly, my creativity peaks during nighttime hours. I think it’s because I can fully focus in on something without client phone calls interrupting me or deadlines lurking. The evening is when I can give into that creative flow without being disturbed.
 
GSHPA: How are you keeping busy these days?

Bitsy: Obviously, being an entrepreneur will keep you extremely busy, but I’m also staying active with my live music performances, officiating weddings, and running Petapalooza. We are about a month away, and those registrations are starting to fly in! We always need volunteers, so if you’re interested, let us know!

GSHPA: What are some of your fondest memories of being a Girl Scout?

Bitsy: My mother was a troop leader, so we always had the meetings at our home. (Thanks, Mom!) I loved being able to make so many creative things during my years as a Girl Scout, but I also loved the field trips!

One of my favorite memories was going to our local animal shelter and learning about all the animals there. I truly think that this started my passion for our furry friends, and I believe that this trip is what planted the seeds for today’s involvement with Petapalooza.

If I had never experienced that visit to an animal shelter, I might not have ever known how important it is to adopt our animals from a rescue.

GSHPA: Any examples of what you may have learned and carried with you from being a Girl Scout?

Bitsy: Just to be nice to everyone all the time. You never know what anyone is going through in their personal life … Everyone is struggling with something, and because of that, I think it’s the most important thing for us to be nice to everyone and to try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to see where they’re coming from.

GSHPA: Tell us about your upcoming event, Petapalooza!

Bitsy: Petapalooza is a free, family-friendly pet adoption festival that features lovable, adoptable homeless animals from shelters and rescues in the Central PA area. We focus on all animals and feature dogs, cats, birds and more!

In addition to helping animal rescues, we also focus on being an animal-friendly festival with vendors, raffles, live music, and food trucks. Petapalooza will be held Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the beautiful campus of Central Penn College. You are welcome to bring your pets as long as they are vaccinated, well-behaved, and leashed!
 
GSHPA: Girl Scouts are always looking for volunteers and mentors. What are some ways that you find time to mentor others?

Bitsy: Anytime there is a woman or student looking for graphic design or entrepreneurship guidance, I love talking to them. I have probably mentored over a dozen girls and women since I started my business seven years ago, and it is without a doubt one of my favorite things to do.

I always wished that someone would have pulled the curtain away so that I could see behind the scenes of what it really means to run your own business. I freely give away how I run things, pricing, contracts – any and everything that’ll help another person get to where they want to go. I strive to be the mentor I wish I had had when I was first starting out.

Cathy Hirko is the marketing and communications director for the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email: chirko@gshpa.org.