Overcoming Comparison and Body Envy
We’ve all been there. At least, I have. That moment when you spot another woman, and instantly somehow how feel “less than”. Truth is, our culture breeds insecurity and comparison. We are daily force-fed images that program us to think that only a certain look, body type, or style equates beauty. Now, thankfully the culture is starting to bend a little and women are speaking up on what beauty really is, but the sad part still is that not a single woman is exempt from feeling some pressure of constant improvement caused by culture’s standards. Myself included. In fact, on more than one occasion, I have sat back and watched other women in my field of health and fitness walk into the room at large fitness events or while on fitness modeling shoots and thought, “Wow, I really need to be better.” They seemed so much more on top of their game. So much more put together than me. So much more fit. They seemed that way and somehow in my mind, how they looked directly affected how I felt.
However, during the last event I worked, where I was hired to be a fitness model for a booth at an expo, I realized something--- not everything is as it seems. During a trip to the ladies room, I overheard some women talking. Both just stunning in appearance, dressed in little shorts and sports bras, looking fit and toned, false lashes fluttering about on their perfectly contoured faces, and hair flowing down their backs in beautiful, long waves. From the outside you would see them and think, “Perfection.” However, what I heard was heart-breaking. These gorgeous women were standing in front of the mirror, fussing with their make-up, fidgeting in their outfits trying to pull their waistbands higher to cover their tummies, all the while complaining about how “fat they looked”, “how bloated they were”, “how little food they had eaten in days”, “how gross they felt.” The negative talk just kept coming, pouring out like a constant stream of water from their lips. I stood in the bathroom pretending to fix my hair for several minutes only to watch woman after woman come and go and do the same thing. Each one encouraging the other all while comparing herself and pointing out her own “flaws”. They would discuss the methods they used to cut water weight, their extreme diet techniques, calorie restrictions, and then laugh at the fact that they were functioning solely on pre-workout powders. And, sad to say, I’ve been there.
I’ve been the girl who, in my teens, went on benders and literally would stop eating everything except caffeine and tuna. I’ve been the woman who, in my twenties, went to serious measures for weeks on end to prepare for a seemingly insignificant photo shoot, literally wrecking my immune system and hormones just to “look amazing” for a gig that paid $300 for a day. I’ve weighed and calculated and measured EVERYTHING. I’ve put my body through the ringer with weight loss pills and detox teas and low carb diets. I have thrown my body completely out of whack and created hormonal imbalances and caused adrenal fatigue. I have gone through periods where I worked out multiple times a day on very little nutrients and pushed myself through injuries. I’ve looked, what I’ve considered “my best so far” and I’ve looked “my worst”, and in both cases, felt the urge to compare myself to the woman standing next to me. And, I’ve been the girl who hit complete burnout and was forced to stop. I had to relearn how to really be healthy, not just look like I am. And, over the last couple years of actually learning how to really take care of my body, and steward my health well, I’ve realized that not only am I happier, but I’m less consumed by what another woman looks like.
Now, my hope is that I not only continue to love myself well, but that as a trainer, I can help all the women I know, to learn to do the same and realize that we are all in the same boat. We all want to look our best. We all struggle, some more than others, with feeling like we aren’t hitting the mark when it comes to beauty and perfection. It’s easy to look at another woman and immediately make assumptions based off appearance. But just like I learned in the restroom that day, even the most “perfect” woman has moments of insecurity. So how do we deal with it? How do we love ourselves better and love and support each other more? Well, here’s a few things that are helping me and I hope they help you too.
I had to stop saying the things I didn’t like about my body and talking poorly about myself/ my “imperfections”.
Why? Because it makes your flaws seem bigger! Meditating on the negative only causes you to be consumed by feelings of unworthiness, inferiority, and actually breeds comparison and insecurity. I believe that your words have power and that your thoughts and what you choose to meditate on eventually manifest. Instead, choose to be thankful for everything about your body. Be thankful that your eyes are healthy enough to even see your reflection, even if at the moment, you aren’t particularly fond of it. If you have thicker legs, be thankful that they are strong and capable of moving you. Speak lovingly to yourself and about yourself and watch how your body responds to healing words.
I had to start choosing to see myself as lovely and worthy, all the time, not just when I felt like it.
You were created with love and on purpose, for a purpose! You are completely and utterly unique and bear an image worth celebrating. This is true 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 366 days on a leap year. Realizing your worth and beauty is a powerful thing and only comes by ceasing to compare yourself to another woman’s beauty and rather celebrating differences and encouraging one another to be the best version of yourself that you can. Let yourself off the hook of perfectionism. Rather, just be and bring your best consistently and celebrate the victories, even the tiny ones.
I had to stop “punishing” myself for falling short and instead learn balance.
Don’t beat your body into submission and mistreat it for appearance sake like I had. Logging endless hours at the gym to make up for that cupcake and restricting all carbs for the next week is actually harming your body and programming your mind in a negative way. Convincing yourself that you have to “pay” for your body isn’t loving it well. It takes more self-discipline to create a balanced, healthy lifestyle than it does to punish yourself for a moment of lack of self-control. Let’s find a healthy balance and be ok with moderation. Eating that cupcake is not punishable by cardio death, love. Work on a healthy lifestyle, the appearance will follow.
You are beautiful and lovely. Embrace it.