I’ve long believed that you set yourself up for nothing but failure when you always compare yourself to others, especially other women, in magazines and on TV. First, it’s not realistic, and second, it stops you from loving yourself unconditionally. (Not to mention that most of the “beauty” images we’re bombarded with every day are totally airbrushed!) That’s why when we received this guest post from Kristen Moeller, author of Waiting for Jack: Confessions of a Self-Help Junkie: How to Stop Waiting and Start Living Your Life, I was like “Hells ya.” Below are her tips for living a healthier, happier life! —Jenn
6 Principles to Free Yourself From the Comparison Trap
1. Be nice to you. You have heard it before and I am going to say it again now: Be nice to you! If you talked to your friends in the negative way you talk to yourself, you wouldn’t have any friends! Many of us begin the day by looking in the mirror and noting what is “wrong” with us. We think, “I look tired,” “My hair needs to be cut,” “I look bloated, I shouldn’t have eaten that last night.” Most of the time, we are not celebrating our beauty and wonder. We could all learn something from the video of a little girl named Jessica who stands on her bathroom counter and loudly and proudly proclaims what she likes into the mirror. For almost a minute, she enthusiastically lists the things she likes: “I like my hair! I like my pajamas! I like my house!” And she ends with “I can do anything good, yeah, yeah!”
2. Comparison is dangerous. Anything you don’t like about yourself is, by definition, in comparison to something else. We only “know” what the perfect lips, breasts, nose or thighs are because we have a false standard to compare to. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 80 percent of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance, and most fashion models are thinner than those women (meaning us). We may never stop comparing, but we can practice awareness of it. Keep track of all the ways, times and places you compare yourself and come up short. The more you bring it to the surface, the less power it has over you.
3. Don’t wait. Now is the time to make peace with that troubling body part (or parts). As we age, gravity will affect all of us. Skin will sag and wrinkle, and if we are blessed to live a long life, it will continue to do so. Five or ten years from now, you will look back on pictures of yourself and wonder what you complained about. Why not accept yourself right now? And yes, this takes practice. Be willing to do whatever it takes, whether it is simply observing your thoughts, actively changing the negative thought to a positive one or practicing affirmations. Take it up a notch and pick a body part that you can accept and sing your praises to it. Like the arch of your foot? Write an ode to it. How about appreciating the strength of your legs? Compose a poem. Be silly, have fun, play. Just do what it takes to shift your focus to appreciation. Even the most hyper-critical of us can find something to be proud of.
4. Remember, diet is still “die” with a “t.” Instead of going on yet another diet, take the time to educate yourself about healthy eating. Invest in a good nutritionist. Do a thorough inventory of your eating and exercise habits. If you find you need professional intervention, take action now. Don’t wait! Help is out there. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association for resources.
5. Practice conscious consumption. Want to know why these unrealistic standards of perfection continue? The answer lies with us. Societal pressures do exist, but who makes up society? We do. Who keeps buying the fashion magazines and watching the TV shows? We do. Who keeps falling for the myth that there is something wrong with us? We do. Peer pressure and negative influences exist, but who needs to be responsible for this? Us. If we still choose to view, buy or read the media yet continually feel less than, we need to be responsible for that. We are the ones who keep comparing ourselves. The media can only impact us if we let it. We need to develop a critical eye and practice conscious consumption. Then one day, if we all truly love and accept ourselves the way we are, the media will change too.
6. Take a stand! Get involved, start a movement, make a difference! Don’t tolerate criticism in yourself or others. Say something about it when your friends complain about their bodies. Definitely say something when you hear others make derogatory comments about others’ bodies! We dislike the standards that exist, yet we fall into another trap of keeping those standards in place when we negatively remark on a Hollywood star having (gasp!) cellulite. The next time you see cellulite on a star, celebrate! Write a powerful letter to the media outlet that criticized them. Be an advocate for change.
Let’s draw the line in the sand and make the pledge to break free from the comparison trap. We can set our own standards for body image and perfection. We can embrace all of us—our scars, wrinkles, droops, muscle, beauty and wonder.
Now, I ask you, what are you waiting for? —Kristen Moeller
As an author, coach, speaker, and radio show host, Kristen Moeller delights in “disrupting the ordinary” and inspiring others to do the same. She first discovered her passion for personal development in 1989 after recovering from an eating disorder and addiction. Kristen is also the founder of the Chick-a-go Foundation, a not-for-profit that provides scholarships for life-altering training programs reaching people who otherwise cannot afford such opportunities.
© 2010 Kristen Moeller, author of Waiting for Jack: Confessions of a Self-Help Junkie: How to Stop Waiting and Start Living Your Life