We all compare and if we say we don’t, we are in denial. We compare our belongings, we compare our jobs, we compare popularity, money, and we compare our bodies.
I have compared my body thousands of times (and that is an understatement). “Her curves are sexier than mine.” “I wish I had bigger boobs like hers.” “I wish I had a flatter stomach after having kids like that mom.” “Her butt is so small– I wish mine was like that.” The list could go on and on and on…
Think back to when you first started to compare your body. For some it could have been as we entered puberty and started to feel “fat.” For others we may have been blessed to not start comparing until adult hood or until we became moms. For many of us, the comparisons may have started when we were young children. My job of comparing myself started at the age of 10.
Here is an excerpt from my book, Beautiful Freedom. All rights reserved. Copyright 2014.
I was ten years old when I first started to compare my body to that of other girls. I remember being in a Christmas play at church. I was painfully shy, yet I enjoyed acting and somehow I ended up with the lead part. However, I had a love -hate relationship with being in the spotlight. I did enjoy the attention but I was concerned that the audience would think my stomach was fat. In the middle of singing songs about Mary and Jesus, I was thinking about how my stomach had a pooch to it and the other girls standing next to me, didn’t.
Now,keep this in mind. I was not fat! In fact, I was always very petite. However, I wanted to look like a pencil. Being average size was not good enough for me. I believe this realization was what started me on a downward spiral.
I guess the question is, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” Comparing ourselves is TORTURE. In fact, there are even studies that show that social comparison can lead to low self esteem and depression. Um, I don’t need a study to tell me that one!
In society, there is this expectation to be perfect. But what does that really mean? My counselor told me “A perfect anorexic is a dead anorexic.” We can never be good enough because we are chasing after an unrealistic standard.
We starve ourselves on diets or get plastic surgery to try to meet this arbitrary ideal of what “good enough” supposedly is. The problem is we can always, always find something else to compare.
If I ended up getting a tummy tuck in 2010 after all, as planned, I’m sure I would have started to compare my butt. Yes, my stomach would be flat, but then my butt would look too big compared to my stomach. See? It never ends.
Instead of beating ourselves up for the fact that we compare and wishing that a fairy in the sky would just make our ability to compare vanish, we need to get to the root of the problem.
What is the root of the problem? I see it as two separate but interwoven issues. We compare ourselves because we are afraid we aren’t perfect enough and we compare ourselves to those whom we are afraid to look like.
Number 1: We don’t love ourselves. Why don’t we love ourselves? We can’t accept that we are acceptable just the way we are. We don’t have to be a size 2 to be happy. We don’t have to have curves to be sexy (this was always a problem for me as well. I wanted to be stick thin AND have sexy curves. Well, that didn’t work, so I just made myself UNsexy by starving myself). We can love ourselves just because we are on this Earth and have a wonderfully complex body to take care of.
Number 2: We have become conditioned to believe that looking fat is bad. My new nugget of truth? Fat is not a dirty word. Those who accept their body, who happen to be fat actually don’t mind being called fat! I recently watched a video interview with Lindsey Averill, who is a Fat Activist and creator of an upcoming movie called Fattitude. She talked about being fat and how we skirt around the word because it’s become taboo. We think we are being polite. I am sure there are plenty of women out there who DON’T want to be called fat because they too have a hard time accepting their body. I am not suggesting that we should go around and tell people they are fat! It can still be used in a derogatory way. However, listening to her interview and how she accepts HER body made me realize my OWN prejudice. I didn’t want to look fat because I thought it was one of the worst things that could ever happen to me. My comparison went one of two ways. I would either compare my body to those who were skinnier , or I would smugly judge those who were larger than I was, but it was out of my own insecurity.
Imagine how someone who is fat who DOES accept their body would feel if they heard a skinny person say that about themselves.
So what can we do to break the comparison habit?
Cultivate compassion in how we see ourselves AND in how we see others.
1. Remind yourself of your unique personality and how you can help others. Find your purpose and passion in life. It’s MUCH more important than a number on a scale or the shape of our body.
2. Don’t assume other women are better off. Remember that the mom who you are comparing your stomach to (or any other body part) probably compares her own body to yours! If she doesn’t compare her body by some miracle, she is probably comparing something else such as the way your kids sit still in their stroller, or how you *seem* to never yell at your kids (ha!)
3. Become an activist for hurting children/adults/animals. Sign petitions for those who seem worse off than you such as kids fighting cancer, or animals stuck in cages. It seems SO cliche, but it does help to think of those worse off than we are…. the key is to not be smug about it but to show compassion and some kind of action toward those who are hurting.
4. Recognize your own prejudice toward being fat. We have become conditioned to thinking that fat is “bad”. Yes, we should strive to take care of our body, but that is not what I am talking about here. In fact, another stereotype is that fat people don’t take care of their bodies. We need to stop saying that we are afraid to be “fat” and instead recognize that all bodies are good bodies. Then, tell your body that you love it just the way it is (even if you don’t believe that yet!)
Peace and Love,
Certified Holistic Health Coach/Body Image Coach
p.s.– Do you have a hard time accepting your body? Did you have an eating disorder in the past like I did? Or maybe you are an endless dieter? I encourage you to please check out my book on Amazon! It’s a Memoir/workbook.