Everybody’s caught it at one time or another, however some people are more afflicted than others. What is the affliction I’m referring to? Comparison. Judging yourself against someone else. Judging yourself against a past version of yourself. Women are especially struck with this self-esteem affliction when it comes to how they look.
My legs are too short, my waist is to round, my hair is too curly, my eyes are too small. But THAT girl? That girl has the PERFECT body. Her backside is so trim, her tummy so flat, her hair is so pretty…and on and on. And then there is the comparison with our former selves. When I was an athlete my legs were much more shapely…last year I could fit into this dress…you should have seen my pre-baby stomach!
I’m guilty of it as well. Sometimes I look in the mirror and remember the difference in my shape when I was a dancer. Or I’ll notice the deepening of the lines on my face and the passing of the years. Certainly, as women, we want to look our best. After all, appearance is a major factor in American culture towards value, power, and like ability. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want those things? It’s purely human nature to want to feel powerful and adored.
But what really happens when we fixate on our differences by comparing ourselves with others, and insist on an unrealistic and unchanging superficial standard of beauty? We get depressed and desperate people. So depressed and desperate in fact that they are willing to go to extreme lengths to try to improve themselves, or hate themselves for not trying.
This is the essence of what modern consumerism has taught us…beauty can be found in a box or under a surgeons scalpel. It doesn’t advocate looking within, or emphasize ones mindset or character. Yet, with all the change that happens over years and the consequential shifting of our physical form, our character is really all we are left with.
This truth is totally forgotten however, in the rush of the incessant need for attention, acceptance, and/or love ability. Perhaps on some level you do not believe that you are good enough, or have a reactive habit of believing that other people are better than you in some way–whether it is because of how they look, dress, their intelligence, how they seem to hold it all together, etc.
As a woman, or developing teen, a strong inclination of comparing and judging yourself based on other’s opinions of you can quickly lead to destructive behaviors. Eating disorders, excessive exercise, and cosmetic surgical procedures are some of the extreme ways that this propensity can develop.
As a new mother, having a comparison inclination can quickly contribute to increased anxiety and depression on multiple levels postpartum. You may be comparing your body from past to present, to other moms, or to childless women. On top of that you may also be comparing how you feel with your baby verses how other moms appear to feel, how caring they seem to (must!) be, levels of happiness and satisfaction in your parental and spousal relationship…and so on.
Like any new conscious behavior the first step is being aware of the old behavior habit. Do you find yourself frequently obsessing over what other women have or don’t have? Do you tend to find your self-worth in others’ opinions of you? How often do you have a thought or reaction to someone else that leaves you feeling terrible, angry, or full of self-doubt?
If so, notice your reaction, and pause for a moment. Do you hold a particular belief about yourself regarding your worth? Your ability to take care of things well? Or perhaps not being enough to please anybody? These beliefs about yourself will dictate your feelings and reactions to others and life circumstances. Chances are that you are fighting the beliefs regularly by trying to prove that the opposite is true.
Real self-confidence/ self-esteem however is felt when one doesn’t feel the need to prove anything. It comes from a deep acceptance and appreciation for who you already are, and also perhaps the person you strive to be. It doesn’t need to prove anything because it already feels like enough, and enjoys the company of itself. A woman with real self-confidence feels neither better or lesser than anyone else, and doesn’t waste her time weighing her value against what others think of her. She is content with her personal self-expression, and her own uniqueness.
There may be good reasons that you don’t feel this way, and a definite need for nurturing a void that has been unacknowledged for a long time. Instead of judging this part, it may be more helpful to become curious about it, and see if you can discover what it is trying to tell you. The need for attention, nurturing, understanding, and being seen or heard may be very real, and can use your present awareness for healing. If something seems to stand in the way of this, or you are unable to feel care for this part of yourself, it may be important to have someone else support you through this process.
To find out how counseling can help, please contact me at 415-448-6478, or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free phone consultation.