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.
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