What a Supermodel Taught Me About Comparing Yourself to Others
by Nicole Burley, M.Ed
A few months ago, I walked in to my yoga class and discovered that the woman on the mat next to me was a famous lingerie supermodel.
I knew her at once. She was one of those models who was so exotic and desirable that I actually knew her by name, not just by face. I had seen her on billboards all over Manhattan, pouting at me in her underwear, spilling out of her lingerie with her impossibly curvy, yet skinny, yet perky, yet sexy, tan and toned body parts.
In contrast, I was feeling thick and bloated that day. Also pasty. It was laundry day, so I was wearing the scraps of my yoga wardrobe, and I hadn’t been to class in a few days, so I was feeling stiff and hinky. I think I can say to you in all honesty that the last thing I needed was a supermodel right next to me in my yoga class that day.
But, hey, that’s where she was. And, besides, aren’t I supposed to be focused on my own experience in yoga class? Aren’t I supposed to keep my mind on my own mat? That’s what I told myself as the class began and we all closed our eyes to “om.”
My focus was short-lived. With every Downward-facing Dog, I tried to sneak a peek at her. Each time I arrived at the top of my mat, my eyes drifted over to the world-renowned sex symbol to my right. What was she doing? How did she look doing it? Was she really that gorgeous? Really that perfect?
And what about me? How did I measure up compared to this icon of sex appeal and beauty? Was my hair as shiny? Did I look as sultry? Was she better than me at yoga?
Then, all too easily, I got a little mean. Up close, she’s not that stunning, I thought to myself. In person, she’s just average. They must do a lot with lights and make-up. She has really long arms. And her toes are weird.
In essence, using solely the voice inside my head, I managed to knock both of us down several notches. I guess, on some level, I thought this exercise would make me feel better. It seems like a ridiculous strategy now, of course. When was the last time you actually felt better about yourself after dwelling on your perceived shortcomings and sending snarky energy to a total stranger?
When the class was over, the joy I usually felt after yoga had been replaced with a deep feeling of crumminess. Not only had I paid no attention to my yoga practice, but I had spent a full hour mentally disparaging myself and my perfectly lovely supermodel classmate. She probably had no idea of the trip I’d been on because of her presence, but I was exhausted and depleted. And for what?
Here’s what. When you compare your body to other women’s bodies, or if you compare your accomplishments, your home, your bank account – any of it – to any other person in the world, one of two things usually happens:
1. You end up feeling low and inadequate and really bad about yourself.
2. You end up mentally rendering someone else low and inadequate, which, in turn, makes you feel low and inadequate and really bad about yourself.
Neither of these options seems like a winner to me. The fact is, the only person worth comparing yourself to, is the very best version of you.
So what might we do instead?
The next time you feel the urge to beat up on yourself for not looking more like so-and-so, or for not having a life that’s more like so-and-so, I invite you to stop. Take a breath. And then, with a humongous dose of compassion, consider one or more of the strategies listed below.
Strategies for Letting Go of Comparisons
1. Think back to the last time you did something really funny, loving, important or amazing. Remember how you felt about yourself and bring that feeling with you absolutely everywhere you go.
2. Keep a mental list of all the things you are, rather than all the things you are not. Remind yourself often!
3. Reflect on your personal story, your unique journey in the world, and all the things you’ve been through to arrive exactly where you are today.
4. List all the ways that the person you are right now, in this moment, will help you achieve your goals and arrive where you want to be in your life.
5. Look at the person to whom you are comparing yourself and realize that she is simply another person on the planet with you, doing the best she can.
To your happiness, health and success!
Nicole Burley, M.Ed is a life coach living in NYC with her husband and their amazing dachshund. She believes in having down-to-earth conversations to upgrade your life and your health. She is passionate about supporting her clients as they create an Ideal Life – whatever that means to them.
Photo credit: Rodrigo Quinones