The most recent issue of Woman’s Day magazine has an article called “Love Your Body (and Your Flaws, Too!). While this type of article is far from uncommon in magazines geared toward women, I was surprised by one suggestion:
“If you can’t quit playing the ‘Do I look as good as…?’ game, at least compare apples with apples, advises Dr. Mintz [a professor of psychology at the University of Florida Gainsville]. Avoid ‘upward’ comparison to celebrities (who could ever look like Angelina Jolie?). Focus more on realistic women, like your neighbor or other moms at the supermarket and the way they take care of themselves. ‘When you change your comparison standard to one that’s more real, you’ll find that you measure up a whole lot better than you thought,’ says Dr. Mintz.”
I have to say, I take issue with this advice. It seems like everything else I’ve read encourages women not to compare themselves to anyone at all! I know I, for one, struggle with the playing the comparison game, but I always try to remind myself that it’s useless. Someone is always going to have prettier hair than I do, wear better looking clothes, and run faster, but those are likely never to be the same person. Maybe I’m just unusual in my unconcern with celebrity styles and looks, but at least personally, the girl next door is always going to inspire more jealousy for me than Angelina Jolie.
I learned a great lesson about jealous comparisons in high school. One of my friends came by one afternoon in tears, upset about a physics grade. As I hugged her and tried to make her feel better, she exclaimed, “I’m so jealous of how easily school comes to you! I feel like I work so hard and can never make as good grades as you do.” I was stunned, because I had often been jealous of how beautiful and graceful this particular friend was. The take home from that experience for me was that jealousy is wasted energy. Just be you, because there’s likely someone out there who is jealous of you over something that may be entirely unexpected to you.
I think social media outlets have also had a negative impact on our tendency to compare. People tend to put their best face forward on the internet, and it’s easy to think, “Well, so-and-so ALWAYS has a good time and posts the cutest pictures on Facebook and has such a put-together house on Pinterest. I’ll never measure up to her.” But there are almost certainly things that so-and-so struggles with that might come naturally to you. We are all created differently, with distinct talents and personalities and looks, none of which is inherently more valid or more desirable than any other.
So I have to say I’m stunned to read a female professor of psychology suggesting that you compare yourself to other women. I guess I can somewhat understand that she’s encouraging us to have realistic expectations of ourselves, but I think that can be done without comparing outwardly. Instead, why not compare your current attributes to where you’ve been in the past? If you’ve made it a goal to say, type faster, why not measure your speed and revel in how much you’ve improved? Why do you need to go find out how fast Susie Q types in order to feel good about yourself?
What do you think? Am I over-reacting or misinterpreting the suggestion? Do you struggle with making comparisons?