I’ve been doing nutrition counseling work for almost 10 years now and one thing that almost always come up – whether in my 1:1 work or through one of my group programs – is the issue of comparison.
Usually, it’s about comparing body size or “attractiveness” to someone else’s body size or level of conventional attractiveness.
But since you’re a human and I’m a human, we both know that comparison doesn’t stop there.
We compare ourselves to others happiness, income, relationship status, professional accomplishments, material possessions and the list goes on and on.
The problem with comparison is that it often leads to envy, wanting what someone else has. You see, envy results from a feeling of lacking. And it’s important to note that it differs from jealousy.
Jealousy pops up when something we already have is threatened to be taken away.
Now, these two emotions, of course, can coincide together, but it’s important to make the distinction between the two because when we’re talking about feeling less than or not good enough when it comes to our attractiveness or size of our body, it means that we believe that something in us is lacking. And most importantly, that if we get the thing we feel is lacking, that everything would be better.
This idea – that everything would be better, if we get the thing we feel we’re lacking – especially when it comes to the size of our body – I hate to say it – is our brain playing a trick on us.
It’s setting ourselves up to be disappointed. Because we’re trying to fill a void that needs to be filled internally externally.
Not to mention that even if you do change your body, you won’t be changing your brain. And the thoughts you’re having in your brain are what really need to shift. Because there will always be someone more attractive than you, someone younger than you, someone smaller than you, someone smarter than you, and someone more accomplished than you.
I so get that it’s easier to believe that if we looked a certain way or were a certain size (or shape) that we’d be so much happier. And while “conventionally attractive” people do have benefits in our super-appearance based world, the truth is we’re all going to age and all of our bodies are going to change.
So if our body shape and size becomes the sole determining factor in our worth and happiness, then we’ll forever be disappointed. Because we’re all going to age, we’re all going to have changing bodies with wrinkles and dimples and cellulite, and eventually, we’re all going to move on to the other side.
All in all -when we set ourselves up for comparison – we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Let’s just say that the phrase, “compare and despair,” exists for a reason.
So what are you supposed to do when envy strikes up and you’re longing to look like someone else or have their same pant size?
Here are some strategies I share with clients that I encourage you to explore when body envy appears:
- Remember that just because someone is in a different or smaller body than you, it doesn’t mean that they are any happier or that they don’t struggle in other areas of their life.
- When you feel envy coming up for you, try to feel where you feel it in your body. Is it in your heart? Your throat? Your chest? Get clear where you feel it. And then honor the feeling by acknowledging the feeling. State what you’re feeling. For example: “I am feeling envy.” Or, “I am feeling not good enough.” Then, imagine the emotion passing through your body. And follow up with a mantra (i.e. I am more than a body; My body size does not determine my worth; I don’t have to love my body to respect my body; I am choosing to stay in my own lane; and so forth).
- Remind yourself that you have no idea what the other person is going through in their life. You can’t assume that someone got to their body size in a healthy way or that they aren’t personally suffering in other ways. They could be suffering from depression, anxiety, a divorce, an eating disorder, cancer, stress, or trauma. You just don’t know. Someone’s external surface is just that, their external surface.
- Ask yourself why you’re feeling envious. Remember, envy comes from feeling lack. So what in your life do you really feel is lacking? Community? Calm? Friendship? Support? Joy? What’s missing for you? Once you’re clear, think of doable ways you can add some of what you really feel you’re missing into your life.
- Wear clothes you feel good in for your here-and-now body. This may sound silly, but it’s not. Because if you’re wearing things that don’t fit, pinch or feel too tight, you’re going to be hyperfocused on your body and in turn, other bodies.
- Stop weighing yourself.
- Fill your feeds with all different kinds of bodies because body diversity is a thing… we’re not all meant to look and be the same.
- Know that body size isn’t something we can control. It’s based primarily on genetics and biology. So instead of thinking about your weight, begin thinking about health behaviors that are self-caring instead of self-loathing. What I mean here is we feel better when we do things that make us feel good. And when we’re feeling good, taking care of ourselves, and respecting our bodies, we think about others less because we’re staying in our own lane. So think about what you enjoy in life. How you can take care of yourself and your body – from hobbies to movement practices to people to relaxation time. And go do more of that.
- Most importantly, think about what you value most. For me, that’s family, creativity, helping others, nature, deep connections, and continual growth. So I spend a lot of time with my family, I write, my work is founded in helping, I walk in nature almost daily, I share deeply with my close friends, and I’m constantly examining my life. Now, I’m for sure not perfect, but I share this with you simply as an example of living your values. Because when we determine what our values are and we take action to live by them, we connect with who we are as a whole person and what really matters. And who you are as a whole person is so much more than your body size or food choices. You see, when you live by your values and think of the bigger picture, your body becomes the vehicle that allows you to live your life. NOT what you live your life trying to control.
- And finally, know that comparison is normal. It is oh so very human. So if you find yourself comparing, acknowledge your feeling, show yourself some compassion, and move on. You are YOU and they are them… stay in your own lane. I promise you’ll be so much happier.
P.S. Are you longing to become an intuitive eater and finally make peace with food, feel better in your body, and start taking care of your WHOLE self, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? If so, check out my Intuitive Eating & Body Image Healing Support Group. Get details (and your spot) here.