Is it just me or are we officially obsessed with comparing ourselves to others? Whether it is celebrities in magazines and on T.V, people we pass in the street, our friends, family and even our older (younger) selves. For younger girls and boys toys even bear influence.
Although not all obsessed I would imagine you would it difficult to find someone who hasn’t compared themselves to another, whether it be their physical appearance, personality, intelligence or achievements on at least one occasion.
Although I don’t believe it to be the sole cause of eating disorders, I do feel that comparison plays a key role in fueling them and is very much a key feature, symptom or behaviour that can be readily associated. It’s difficult to avoid, many of us subconsciously do it, others quite intentionally…when it becomes an obsession, when it takes over your life and consumes you affecting you mentally and socially, hammering your self-image repeatedly then it has officially become a problem.
Comparison was a theme that featured quite heavily throughout the last 11 years of my life as I suffered from various different eating disorders. I initially compared myself to my friends and felt I needed to change as I didn’t fit the standard mold physically. As I began to lose weight I compare myself to thinner people in the media, striving for my ever changing, unattainable idea of perfection.
When I went through binge eating and bulimia I compared myself to others in an effort to justify my behaviour…if they could binge occasionally so could I…they are surely purging, they can’t be naturally that thin and still eating that amount of food… I readjusted my idea of perfection accordingly. As I got curves I convinced myself that it was natural, I was starting to appear “normal”, that I would stop binging and just wake up at this “normal” weight and all would be healed. It was as if I thought it was a quick solution to recovering from anorexia.
Sadly I was wrong and what started as an occasional activity became a daily occurrence until the flip switched and I began to purge in an effort to gain “control” and lose weight…having my cake and eating it, the phrase was never more pertinent; rarely used quite so bluntly.
Even as I recovered (having gone through a few more years of suffering from anorexia, having slipped back down the slippery road shortly after I overcame bulimia), I strove for normality and understanding exactly what that was. The conclusion I came to…although it sounds pretty obvious, something that I could have easily rhymed off and claimed to believe but now feel confident knowing that is how I feel…
We’re all different! There is no one size fits all, everyone eats dissimilar amounts and types of food, exercises in different ways to varying degrees, and we all come in different shapes and sizes.
There are a large number of societies, groups, websites, magazines and measurements I have grievances with as I feel that they only support and encourage the already problematic human inclination to compare oneself to others. These include Weight Watchers, BMI (Body Mass Index), sites and magazines which compare photos of different celebrities or celebrities in different locations or years apart…
If someone had of held up a photo of me in the depths of anorexia in one hand and one of me suffering from binge eating disorder in the other I’m quite confident that people would assume I was healthy, happy and recovered at my heavier weight. In fact this was when I was in the deepest darkest despair, I’d hit rock bottom.
I remember at the age of 15 sitting in a psychotherapists office and being told that I didn’t meet the criteria to be officially diagnosed with anorexia. I hadn’t lost enough weight, my BMI wasn’t low enough to be considered a real worry and no matter how I felt in my head I basically should be grateful that I hadn’t yet fallen in to the trap. I cried out for help, I had fallen, I was still falling, I already felt trapped…my body just hadn’t caught up.
Growing up my younger brother and I attended the same school. He was constantly compared to me who had already passed through the same path and had some of the same teachers…
My own grades were constantly compared to previous achievements; the pressure was intense. A teacher once took me out of class to discuss why I had gotten a B as opposed to an A in a class test..one measly class test…apparently I was letting myself go and clearly something must be wrong; or perhaps I’d just gotten some extra sleep instead of sitting up studying for the extra couple of hours the night before!
Comparison, self inflicted or imposed upon us… it’s all around us. We have the power to change our own minds, refrain from comparing ourselves, to just be one with one own being, body, mind and spirit. We also have the power to change the way we react to others judgments; no one can make you feel a certain way, it’s up to you how you assimilate criticism or even praise; we’re not puppets!
On a lighter note… I’m not opposed to a little bit of humor!
Although funny it’s so true! The one thing I’ve learned, now matter how much you compare who you are, what you look like, what you eat with others, at the end of the day what you eat, the nutrients that you put in to your body has such an important role in how you look and feel.
Do you compare yourself to others? How do you avoid the comparison trap?