If you were here right now, I'd probably be comparing myself to you.
I'm a constant comparer. At any given time during the day, I'm pondering how my hair is longer than hers, or how her nose is prettier than mine, or how I can do a split better than him in yoga class...or how much I've eaten compared to you.
It's been proven over and over again in cheesy movies, books, oh, and in life: comparing only leads to bad feelings.
Those people who can wake up and not eat until noon, saying "I just forgot" or "I'm not hungry yet". Do you have someone like that in your life? I seem to have a wealth, so if you need one, I'll give them to you. As for me, I have never, not once in my life, forgotten to eat breakfast. Or lunch. There have been times it hasn't happened, for reasons related to disordered eating or not, but those reasons have never been that I forgot.
So, what I do, as a comparer, is I will tally up how many calories I've eaten in the day and use that number like a stick to berate myself for eating that many more calories than this other person who hasn't eaten. Or, I will do things like suggest that the other person eat. This is something I hate when people do to me, so I don't imagine it goes over well.
Either way, what it does is creates bad feelings. I feel bad because I feel "less than", and the other person feels bad because they can see I am upset and they don't understand why. Maybe it makes them sad, or angry, or annoyed. But what it does is takes us both further apart from a real connection. It gets in the way.
As Theodore Roosevelt aptly put it,
"Comparison is the thief of joy."
And it's true. If I am comparing myself to someone else, whether it's what they have eaten (or not eaten), what they're doing on their yoga mat, or how their hair looks today, I am setting myself up for failure. It might feel good for those few moments where I'm the one who (in my mind) rises victorious in the comparison, but it's short-lived and the winning moments are few and far between compared to the losing moments.
So what do I do? Do I only hang out with Olympic atheletes who have to eat mass amounts of calories to maintain strength for their training? Do I only walk with people who I'm faster than? Do I only put my mat next to people who aren't as flexible as me in yoga?
No. Here's the hard part: what I have to do is take the focus off of them, and bring it back to myself. And I'm not talking about switching to self comparison, because that's just as bad. I'm talking about being aware of myself and the world, and letting it freaking be.
Someone else mentions they haven't eaten breakfast or lunch, whereas I have eaten both. Part of me wants to scream, I've eaten so many more calories than him. But I don't scream. I notice that this is distressing me, and (hard, but possible) talk to them about it. I ask if we can possibly share breakfast next time so that I can feel more normal. Or, I simply dismiss it. Because there's a lot I don't know. Maybe that person has a 5,000 calorie binge every night at 8pm and then fasts all day. Maybe not. Maybe they're just not hungry. I don't know, though, and truly, it's not my job to know or worry about this.
I'm next to someone who is way better than me at yoga. I'm doing a push-up; they're doing a handstand push-up. I'm doing a split; they're doing a split with their foot behind their head. Part of me wants to scream again, feeling like I'll never match up. But once again, I don't scream. I notice that I am feeling like I want to be better. I can wait after class and say "dude, that was an awesome handstand push-up. Could you show it to me again?" or "how long have you been doing yoga?". This way, I can make them feel good, and expose myself to someone new, which feels good for me, too.
I can also focus on myself and my achievements. I can think about things I know about myself and can feel proud of, from the somewhat hippie-ish "I have a beautiful mind" to "my freaking book was featured on the Today Show!". It helps to bring the focus back to myself, but in a productive way.
So, here's my assignment, to you and to me. How can we dare to not compare? How can we be enough, just as we are, in our imperfect glory?