Stop Comparing and Start Living

One of the misery-makers many women engage in is comparing ourselves to other women. It is by no means a fair comparison: typically, we are the underdog, the one who does not measure up. We compare ourselves to all the girls we see as more beautiful—their height, their toned stomachs, the grace in the way they move, their quick wit, and so on. As a result, we end up feeling just lousy.

Elena is a college sophomore, beautiful both inside and out to everyone but herself. She is distracted while sitting in an auditorium of students, comparing herself to the girls in the rows in front of her instead of listening to her chemistry lecture.

Val says, “My comparing developed in kindergarten. I remember the first time it happened: I noticed how my wrist-size was larger than another classmate’s. That’s when I began comparing other physical attributes. It turned into a thing where I felt like I was ‘different’ and I felt bad for it. [I didn’t understand] that everyone was different . . . to me, everyone [else] was more alike and I was the different one. I became identified with the comparisons and rather than just seeing them as, ‘Oh, that’s different,’ it was more like ‘Oh, that’s different, [and] I need to change myself to be like that.’ So this ‘comparing’ thing has been with me for quite some time.”

There is no way sixteen-year-old Tina will don a bathing suit while her family vacations at the beach. She cannot help but focus on the roundness of her belly as she looks at all the nearby bathing beauties. Rather than play in the cool water with her sister or go for a relaxing sea-shell walk by the waves, Tina huddles with a magazine in her oversized T-shirt under the beach umbrella.

The more you grow into your own power and develop a love for your body and spirit within, you are certain to find the pull to compare yourself unfavorably to others growing weaker. This article, however, is written for immediate situations, first aid tools you can use today as you continue your work.

For advice, I turn directly to the authorities: my clients from over the years. Here are some of their amazing suggestions for things to do and say when caught in the misery of making comparisons.

  • “I try to remember that as long as my eating disorder is active, my body image is not just negative, it is distorted. I do not see myself the same way as others see me.” – Monica
  • “I am a unique creation of God. If I go all my life trying to be someone else, what am I going to miss? How will I ever know who God created me to be?” – Kim
  • “I will not compare myself to others at the gym. I will focus on my own health and training goals—after all, that’s why I’m here.” – Denise
  • “If I keep chasing the expectations of others, those expectations can keep changing and I run myself to death. In the meantime, I completely lose me.” – Hannah
  • “When I find myself comparing, an immediate resource I use is the ‘Stop!’ tactic: just saying, in my mind, ‘Stop!’ and redirecting the whole course of thought into looking at something else, thinking something else, or getting back to what I was initially doing.” – Val
  • “I work [at a restaurant] on the beach and so I see girls in bikinis all of the time. When I start comparing myself to them, I try to remind myself that everyone has their own insecurities. While I might think someone has a perfect body, and that mine is ‘revolting,’ that person might see me and think that they are at a disadvantage. . . . I am a much harsher judge.” – Riannon
  • “No two snowflakes are exactly alike. No two apples or roses are exactly alike, and no two people are exactly alike. I am a unique creation. There has never been or ever will be another person just like me.” – Nadia
  • “It’s sort of like playing catch with your thoughts on a daily basis. . . . The ‘comparison ball’ will get thrown to me and it’s my choice to catch it and throw it back, or just let it hit the ground and roll right by me. If I [decide] to go a step deeper, maybe in  journaling or meditation about a comparison I made that day, I tell myself that everyone is different, yet all equal, and the comparison is nothing but an illusion. There is no need to even go there because it is wasted energy. I then take an inventory and just be honest with myself that maybe I am not engaging in my life fully—and by that I mean, if I have time to be worried about how I size up with another, I ask myself: where can I redirect that energy and make use of it to make me feel good and do something for me?” – Val
  • “You might find you admire a certain quality about a friend, but that does not mean they are better than you or more loved, or that they are on the top of the ‘list’ and you are at the bottom. If I am going to compare, I try to see the ways we are similar, what we have in common. What I have found is that I actually find myself feeling more connected to my friend in the process.” – Kourtney
  • “I tell myself, ‘So what if we all had that body, that hair, whatever—how boring would that be?’ It’s like, what if all fruit were blueberries? As much as I love blueberries, it would get to be boring!” – Megan

Finally, Val gives us this compassionate perspective:

  • “I don’t think there is anything wrong with being inspired by another woman: like seeing a healthy, strong woman that embodies a strong physique, or seeing maybe a hairstyle or makeup idea or clothing style that you might want to try, and using that person as inspiration to create something of your own. That’s the key. . . . Making it your own! I have found within myself the fine line of being inspired [versus] the comparison/expectation cycle. I know I have to be true to me in the process and not care what others think of that. Sometimes it’s hard, I can attest to that, but it can be done. There was this one quote I came across in my readings and it said, ‘Care about people, but don’t care what they think about you.’ I feel that is very true, and I know it rings in my head as a reminder when I am thinking too much of how others are perceiving me.”

Thank you wise women!

© Copyright 2010 by Joy A. Davis, LCSW, therapist in Trinity, Florida. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Amy

    Amy

    April 21st, 2010 at 3:10 AM

    Comparing myself to other women has been something i have done all my life. It is a struggle to be in those situations where I feel like I am fat, or not pretty enough, and you do tell yourslef that you are unique and how boring it would all be if we were all the same but somehow those words do not help to overcome those low points of self esteem that I think every woman has faced at some point in her lifetime. Telling yourself all of these positive things and then believing them all of the time is so much easier said than done. However I am trying to instill more slef love in my own child because I do not want her feeling the ways about herself that I have felt in my life. When you go around feeling like you are not good enough and that you don’t measure up because of the way that you look is sad. I want better for her.

  • a.jordon

    a.jordon

    April 21st, 2010 at 6:35 AM

    I think a lot of women are unfair to themselves to compare themselves with other and see themselves in a negative manner…they should instead see what they are better at and feel good about it :)

  • AARON

    AARON

    April 21st, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    I think focussing on the fact that no two people are the same would be a great start.You need to talk to yourself whenever you find yourself comparing with another person and if you do find that you are lacking in some department, then talk to yourself about the department or aspect in which you are better than that person.

  • carla k

    carla k

    April 22nd, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    I think it’s just human nature to compare, don’t you? That does not mean we do not like ourselves necessarily, it just means we are taking notice of others.

  • Joy

    Joy

    May 6th, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    Carla: Thanks for writing! I think you are right–it is human nature to take notice of our surroundings & hopefully all the beauty in it (including ourselves!) In fact, the valuable skill of mindfulness involves practicing this very thing. The trouble comes in for us when we are measuring ourselves up against others–and always falling short. Then, rather than enjoying the world around us, we are making ourselves sad & miserable.

  • Joy

    Joy

    May 6th, 2010 at 5:10 AM

    Amy: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You are absolutely correct in pointing out that the work does not end with self-talk statements. They are tools to use within the greater context of building self-esteem & an appreciation of our bodies, minds, and souls!

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