Compare less, live more

There’s a woman on Instagram who I stalk religiously. I follow her just to see her perfectly posed, stylish, artsy, beautiful photos that always seem to have the perfect lighting and filters. I don’t know her, but I want to be like her. We all have that person. We reluctantly open our social media apps, promising ourselves that today we will not engage in comparison; but we do so anyways. Some days we hate ourselves for it. We hate ourselves for wishing that we were someone else. We hate ourselves for who we are. Why do we have so many flaws, while others seemingly lead picture-perfect lives? We feel inadequate when we compare our behind-the-scenes realities to everyone else’s highlight reels.

It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. I beg to differ. Comparison is the thief of everything. It steals our happiness, confidence, and time. It takes over our thoughts, which could be much better spent on other things. It makes us either feel superior or inferior, neither of which is healthy. Comparison breeds jealousy. Jealousy cultivates self-hate. Self-hate leads to anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues. Comparison steals the best of us and reinforces the worst of us.

We tell ourselves things that we would not dare say to anyone else. Negative self-talk drills to our cores and poisons our thoughts. It influences how we speak to others. When we are happy with ourselves, we do not feel the need to bring others down. We no longer need to rely on the crutch of comparison. But how do we stop it?

Let’s learn to admire others without questioning ourselves. Next time you feel the urge to compare yourself, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this comparison fair to myself, or to the person I’m comparing myself to?
  • How much time out of my day will I spend comparing myself to others? What else could I be doing with this time?
  • Do I have anything to gain?
  • Will I feel better or more confident afterwards?

Emerge from the security of the efforts to carefully construct yourself. Meet your true self – your honest, un-edited self. You cannot expect to find security from a broken identity. You must become intimately aware of yourself. You must embrace who you are, where you have been, and who you want to become. We all have the capability to love, serve, give, and pursue the greater things in life. Acknowledge the struggles of your past that you have conquered. Practice gratitude for your current state. Learn to not rise and fall with each success and failure. Your identity should be stable regardless of what happens to you, and regardless of what other people are doing.

Celebrate progress, not perfection. Foster gratitude over comparison. Respect yourself and embrace your own uniqueness. Everyone was created with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is only when you decide to fully, confidently accept your own amazing and flawed self that you will begin to truly live.

Decide what is important to you. Would you rather spend your time thinking of how you measure up to others, or contributing your own talents to others? Would you rather magnify your own flaws, or empower others by fostering their strengths? Find inspiration without comparison. Use the successes and strengths of others to drive your own creativity, passion, and goals. Other people are not #goals. But they can help you acknowledge your own goals, and give you the push you may need to get there.

Do not participate in the comparison race. Slow down. Focus on the leisurely aspects of life. Abide. Dwell. Delight. Move at your own pace. Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle. You are where you are. Remember that you are only competing with your past self. Decide that you want to improve. Nurture your strengths. Accept your weaknesses. Recognize your beauty. Get lost in your dreams. Chase something greater. Free yourself.

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Next time you’re about to comment “skinny” on someone’s photo, consider this

Skinny. 64% of women surveyed on Facebook want to receive this comment above anything else. Tiny. 52% of women surveyed on Facebook wish others would comment on their body sometimes or often. Why are these simple descriptors becoming the ultimate, most untouchable compliments?

For the majority of the population, body ideals are unrealistic and unattainable. In today’s world, the ideal body is thinner than ever before. With sponsorships for meal replacements, workouts, and detoxes all over social media, women are coming to believe that these elements will create a more ideal weight and life. Pictures of celebrities and workout fanatics plague social media. As I scroll through Instagram, I often find myself thinking, “I wish I looked more like that.” While that is unhealthy, the scarier side of the story is normal women whose bodies are being exalted, just because they are thin. I’m not sure when “skinny” became a more desirable comment than “you’re beautiful” or “you look so happy,” but I’m sure that it is dangerous.

So why are these comments about the size of someone’s body now the desired ideal? Would we wish to receive these comments on our pictures if we didn’t see them on other women’s pictures? The second someone sees you comment “skinny” on another person’s picture, the second that woman wishes it could have been on her picture. The second she wishes she would be called skinny, the second her body image sinks. The second she feels that her body is inadequate, the second she begins to diet. The second she obsesses over weight loss and the approval of others on her body, the second she enters the realm of disordered eating. Will every woman who wants to receive the comment “tiny” on her pictures develop an eating disorder? No. But, does it increase the risk. Not only does it increase dieting behaviors, it also perpetuates the obsession over body image ideals that envelops our society.

We can do better.

When did skinny become better than beautiful?

When did skinny become better than healthy?

When did skinny become better than happy?

When did skinny become better than feeling loved?

When women started using skinny as an exalted term.

We praise thinness. We praise weight loss. We praise disordered eating without even realizing it.

So how do we end this? Let’s begin by thinking of the women we want to be. Do you want to be known as the “skinny girl,” or would you rather be known as the “kind-hearted, radiant woman”? It begins with our own perceptions of what compliments are the most meaningful to us. Once we can switch our mindsets from desiring surface-level comments about our bodies to meaningful comments about our personalities and unique traits, we begin to move away from skinny-praising. And then, we can begin to compliment other women on the amazing traits they have that we now realize are more important to us. We can move from “you literally weigh 1 pound” to “you are such an inspiration.”

When you choose to end the “skinny” comments, you choose to lift other women up. You choose to point out the traits in other women that truly make them beautiful. You choose to end the dieting, body image-focused hype that so many people wish would end. Choose to end it.

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When diets become disordered

Diets almost always begin with the best of intentions. But did you know that 25% of dieters later develop eating disorders? The diet world sucks you in and takes you down a slippery slope. For some, dieting may end. However, for many diets become never-ending. So when does dieting become disordered?

Most diets begin with one goal: to lose weight. Some dieters may want to improve their overall diet and obtain better health status. Others may just wish to reach a specific goal weight. Many dieters stop once their objective is achieved. However, the restriction, calorie counting, black and white thinking, and food obsession that comes with dieting sets individuals up for problems further down the road. Almost all eating disorders begin with an innocent diet. But this diet never stops.

A fine line separates dieting from eating disorders. Eating disorders are all consuming, whereas diets are an aspect of life that can be put aside when necessary. Dieters may be able to stop their diet any time they choose. They do not constantly think about food, plan meals to perfectly fit their calorie and macronutrient counts, or weigh themselves religiously. Those with eating disorders often show these symptoms. They are obsessed with food and may even spend hours researching recipes or cooking food that they do not eat. Also, they struggle with distorted body image. Dieters often see their body weight as undesirable, but their perception of their weight is not morphed. Those with eating disorders have body dysmorphia, meaning that they see themselves differently than others see them.

A common misconception among the public, as well as untrained health professionals, is that eating disorders are merely defined by physical symptoms. However, the DSM-5 guidelines have changed so that the emphasis is on the psychological symptoms that define these disorders. Just because someone has lost a significant amount of weight does not mean that they are struggling with disordered eating. Similarly, just because someone has not lost weight does not mean that they may be free from disordered eating.

So what does this mean for you? If you are a dieter, ask yourself these simple questions to evaluate if your diet may be an eating disorder:

  1. Do I feel preoccupied with food and calories?
  2. Would I be able to stop dieting at a given time or put my diet aside for a special event, such as a birthday? Or do I feel the need to rigidly control my food intake and exercise regimen?
  3. Do I relentlessly pursue thinness and feel that I cannot maintain a normal body weight?
  4. Do I have an intense fear of gaining weight?
  5. Do I see my body differently than the way others see it?

 

For more information on the specific symptoms of eating disorders, visit the National Institute of Health website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml. If you think that you may be suffering from disordered eating, please view the resources listed on the “Useful Resources” tab.

 

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