You know that comparing yourself to others is “bad.” Perhaps you’ve pinpointed that comparing your physique to another person’s leaves you feeling like crap and distracts you from experiencing gratitude for the body you have.
Even knowing these things, it can be exceedingly difficult to remove ourselves from the comparison game. We have an instinctual drive to want to define ourselves in relation to others. In addition, social media gives us an endless stream of material for comparing our looks to others.
In last week’s blog post, I explored one reason why (even brief) exposure to idealized images in the media can be harmful to our body image (more on that here). I proposed we use August to clear our lives of images that drive comparison.
Have you purged your social media feeds of this material yet?
Apart from making you feel shitty about yourself, here are seven compelling reasons you should try to retire from the practice of comparison for good and mind your own body business.
1. Comparison takes you out of the present moment.
The present is all we know we have; the only time we are guaranteed on this earth. Do you really want to spend those precious moments worried about how your body matches up with someone else’s?
If you’re beating yourself up for how you look comparatively, you’re living in the past, likely fretting about what you ate or how you spent your time up until this point. (This script goes: “If only I had the willpower to get up at [fill in the ungodly hour] to work out every day, I could look like that too...”)
In contrast, if you’re worried about how you’re going to meet a beauty standard set by someone else, I bet you’re jumping into the future, creating mental lists and plans for how you “should” be living. (“I swear I’m going to start waking up at the buttcrack of dawn to run, starting tomorrow… “). By spending your time looking outside of yourself for targets and goals, you miss out on the here and now.
Do you ever look at old pictures of yourself and think: “Wow I looked great, what was I so worried about?” Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell a former version of myself to RELAX. I wasted so much time worrying about nothing.
All you can do is appreciate where you are right now.
2. Comparison robs you of memories.
To this day, I have vivid memories of being around family members or friends while stuck in a spiral of comparison. I was not able to enjoy this time with others (and I’m sure I wasn’t a bundle of laughs to be around either) because I couldn’t snap myself out of the negativity brought on by comparative thinking. I can’t get that time back.
During one particularly bad episode while I was in high school, I recall being at an amusement park (Cedar Point, aka “America’s Roller Coast,” for those of you who are familiar) with friends. This was a day that should have been full of fun, sun, rides, and fries, but I spent the entire day fixated on how unattractive I felt. Literally the whole day. I looked at every other female in that park through a lens of comparison (I’m bigger than her, she’s so much cuter than me, I could never pull off that outfit, etc.). I don’t recall any conversations with friends that day. Not a single one. That day (among many others in that phase of my life) was ruined by comparison
3. In comparing, you limit yourself.
By comparing yourself to someone else, you fail to honor that your body is unique and the only expression of you in this world. So much beauty lies in differences: why should we all strive to fit the same plastic mold we are told is “ideal”?
4. Comparison is counterproductive.
Some people turn to “fitspo” or “thinspiration” as a means of defining a goal, but this behavior is often more detrimental than it is helpful to goal-setting. Since comparison typically brings on negative emotional states (feelings of inadequacy and insecurity), achievement of goals is hampered. Don’t you think you’d be more likely to go on that run if you’re feeling good about your body and its capabilities rather than hating on yourself? So stop looking outside yourself for motivation, and show yourself some love instead.
5. Comparison ignores the big picture.
By comparing yourself to someone else, you are judging yourself based on a superficial understanding of another person’s life. You fail to acknowledge that you know nothing of the other person’s struggles and sacrifices.
Often, if we experience envy of another person’s body, it is not just that person’s physical form we are after. It is what we imagine comes with that body; what we imagine that person thinks and feels because of how they look. We assume that physical attractiveness (whatever that might mean in the context) equates with a better life, greater success, and more positive state of mind. But that is not necessarily the case. The person whose body you are coveting may be miserable; trapped in a comparison game of her own. It’s impossible to know for sure.
6. Comparison is a losing game.
There will always be someone more [fill in the blank]. Keep chasing that carrot and you will never be satisfied.
7. Comparison says more about YOU than the other person.
Using someone else’s looks as a measuring stick for your own pride can be just as harmful as looking at another through a lens of envy. While you may get a temporary boost by thinking you look “better” than someone else, ultimately your self-worth is hinging on the perceived disadvantage of another person. If you’re judging someone else’s body as less worthy than your own, it’s time to ask yourself why.
What are you afraid of? What is threatening about the other person’s body? Why do you feel the need to judge the way the other person is showing up in the world? Are you making assumptions about the other person’s lifestyle or “health” based on how they look? Where are these beliefs coming from?
More often than not, judging another person based on her looks speaks volumes to our own fears and insecurities. For example, if I were to experience disdainful thoughts about an “overweight” person, I might want to examine (a) why I had formed a connection that being overweight is “bad” and (b) whether my snap judgment of that person stemmed from my own fears about my body.
Because if I truly felt good about myself and secure in my own skin, there would be no reason to be thinking nasty thoughts about someone else.