“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It’s true. I think I first read that quote in a blog post about body image issues which is fitting because that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about today. Before I get started, I do want those who read this to keep in mind that my intention is not to offend; only to be honest. This is not being written with ill-intent toward any other person. I am simply sharing my point of view.
All my life I have been compared to other people. I am not arrogant enough to believe I am the only person on the planet who has experienced this. It is an extraordinarily universal occurrence. And just as you probably are, I am sick of it in so many ways. Yet, we keep doing this to one another. We all do it. We compare ourselves to other people, we compare our friends with our other friends and our family members with our partner’s family members. As a rule, most of us don’t mean anything by it. It’s just something we do, a learned behavior for the most part…it is what it is. But what makes up the basis of a worthy comparison? Who gets to decide that?
See, I have two remarkably beautiful sisters.
Both brunettes, one with stunning blue eyes & a smile that can blind you if you look at it too long, and the other with gorgeous green eyes & a big personality that you can’t help but love even when it’s getting her into trouble. Our oldest sister has always been thin, with long legs & a flat stomach (the likes of which most of the women I know are envious) and she will probably always be that way. I myself have considered her lucky in the past while others have called her “too thin” and even gone as far as to say they thought she was anorexic. People have said these same things about my other sister (pictured above on her wedding day). She was always little as well. It ran in the family I guess.
Then there’s me…I was always jealous of my sisters and their “perfect” bodies. While they were thin with striking eyes & beautiful smiles, boys always interested in them, I felt awkward, chunky & undesirable in comparison.
This is me when I was 16. Depending upon your own perception, most people would say I was not at all “fat.” Obviously, I was thicker than my sisters, but I wasn’t big. Yet somehow I always thought I was. I never felt up to par. I never felt confident. I never felt pretty. I would look in the mirror and nearly cry because I hated the way I looked. I wore a juniors size 7-9 in jeans and I felt – rather irrationally now that I look back at it – like a cow. From my perspective at the time, all I saw were my sisters constantly being told how beautiful they were & seeing the evidence that I was exactly the opposite based on the level of male attention we each received. Michele and Gina? Off the charts for male attention. Me? Um…that would be like…a one, up until the guy you see in that picture right there. Lol.
They were complimented on how thin & how tall they were, asked what they did to stay so fit, told they could be models, Gina was always getting attention for her incorrigible personality, etc. And Michele was a model for a little while. It was all true; My sisters were and still are two of the most gorgeous women on the planet in my opinion. But at the time, all I heard was how much I didn’t measure up.
People used to make what they thought were innocuous comments about how “cute & chubby” I was or how I “certainly had more meat” on my bones than my sisters. I even had someone point out that my face is a lot fatter than my sister’s. That is when I began learning how to respond with sarcasm. “Great observation there, Sherlock!”
On top of that, I watched my mom struggle with her weight. People always had to greet her with a loud and obnoxious, “you’ve gained weight” to which her face would sour and she’d mumble a quiet, embarrassed, “yeah” and I would think, “way to go Captain Obvious. You didn’t think she was aware she gained weight so you thought you’d do a public service announcement and let everyone know? What a thoughtful jackass you are.” (More on that later.)
I was poked in the stomach and had bits of my thighs and stomach pinched up and told, “if you can pinch an inch, that’s how you know you’re fat.” I felt disgust every time I had to go shopping for school clothes because my sister would be looking for size 3’s & 5’s & I hated having anyone help me look because I didn’t want to tell them what size I wore. When you’re a teenage girl, sadly your value seems to be directly related to the size of your clothes and how many boys want your phone number. We’ll just say that at every turn, I felt like my sisters were superior to me both in beauty and appeal.
It all seems so silly when you put it into perspective; there are all sorts of more pressing tragedies in this world, yet body image is one issue that just will not go away. Everybody has issues with it. Everybody! Despite having ‘perfect’ bodies and being amazingly beautiful, Michele and Gina struggled with their own set of issues. While I was busy being disgusted with my average body size & only hearing it when people complimented them, they were dealing with accusations of being anorexic and had people telling them to “eat a sandwich” and things of the like. There were girls much bigger than I was who faced worse struggles and more harsh taunts than anything I experienced on a daily basis. None of those experiences is at all pleasant and it just goes to show that no matter how big or small you are, how attractive, how great your personality is, etc…everybody has something they’re dealing with. No body is perfect and really, what the hell is perfect anyway? And why does everyone feel the need to throw their two cents in about someone else’s weight or appearance? Worry about yourself. Nobody likes to have their flaws & insecurities put in a spotlight by someone who cares nothing about their struggle. More people should take their mama’s advice: if you don’t have anything nice to say, then keep your friggin’ mouth shut.
You will never add up to the impossible magazine-cover standards of this world. So make your own set of standards and live up to those because, as far as body image and self confidence go, the only person you should be worried about making happy is yourself. I’m in a size 11-13 these days & I don’t mind sharing that with you because I feel prettier and more confident than I ever have in my life. Say what you want about it, label me ‘plus-size’…I couldn’t care less at this point. My self-worth doesn’t lie in a number on a scale or printed on the tag of a pair of levi’s. No, I’m not where I’d like to be yet. Yeah, I still have some issues that I’m trying to overcome. It still gets to me a little when people talk about my weight, or comment on the size of my hips and butt (because really, you don’t think I know I have a big ass? I don’t need you to tell me) and I HATE when people touch my stomach (seriously, I will cut you), but I just remind myself that my body has done a lot for me & it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about it because they’re not the ones who have to live in it. I exercise as often as I can, I feel great and I look damn good in a pair of yoga pants…that’s enough for now. 🙂
It’s true…comparison is the thief of joy. Luckily, I’m not comparing myself to anyone.