A couple of days ago, I read two blog posts about 4-month-old babies who were sleeping through the entire night. This made me insane with jealousy and insecurity, since my own 4-month-old wakes up, oh, six or seven times a night. I quickly realized I was making myself miserable by falling into an awful hole known as The Comparison Trap, and I had to climb out, stat.
Chances are you don't have a baby keeping you up all night, but you're still probably falling into The Comparison Trap. For instance, it's almost certainly at the root of your problem if you have a messed up relationship with your body. Luckily, there's a pretty simple way to get out of this trap, if you so desire.
Where The Comparison Trap Has Gotten You So Far
Let's say you're a regular old 13-year-old girl. You love New Kids on The Block (or NSYNC or The Beatles or Justin Beiber or One Direction). Life is good. Then you find out that the boy you have a crush on doesn't like you, he likes another girl. You start paying attention to this other girl. She has long blonde hair and wears Jordache Jeans (insert your own era-appropriate fashion here). You notice she's skinny. Or she has bigger boobs than you. Or she's allowed to wear mascara, or is just generally different from you. Better than you, you think.
You're upset, so you try to change yourself to be more like what little Tommy likes in a girl. You beg your mom for fancy jeans. You try wearing your hair straight even though it's curly. You stuff your bra. You're too young to realize you've fallen into The Comparison Trap for the very first time, or to realize it will not be the last.
Over the years you've compared yourself to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. When it comes to body comparisons, many of those you're comparing yourself to are probably celebrities, people who are paid to be attractive, who have been airbrushed into another orbit all together. But that doesn't stop it from making you feel bad. You decide you need have great abs, or thinner thighs, or a perkier butt. Hey, maybe dieting and exercising excessively will help!
But it doesn't. You can't change your genetic makeup, and you're not being paid to be pretty. Constantly living on salads and smoothies with nary a chocolate bar in sight is not sustainable. Your weight goes down or maybe it doesn't. You become more and more consumed by food, what you can and cannot eat, and with changing your body. You are a victim of The Comparison Trap, and you are now officially miserable.
How to Get Out
Step one: Acknowledge you're stuck in The Comparison Trap. You can't change it if you don't realize it's happening.
Step two: Notice what scenarios and situations get you there. Is it seeing diet ads in magazines? Is it watching The Bachelor? Is it the office talk about the latest "cleanse" your coworker is on?
Step three: Remove as many of the contributors to this problem as possible. If reading women's magazines always makes you feel like you have to go on a diet, take a break from them. If a particular person's Facebook feed is making you feel out of shape and depressed, unfriend them or stop reading their stuff.
Step four: Change the thoughts you have about the situation. Here's an example: You're watching a show and every single woman on it is very thin and fit and has very sculpted shoulder muscles. You've been trying to break the dieting and restricting habit, but as soon as you see these ladies you start thinking about how you have to hit the gym harder and start a new detox tomorrow.
Whoops, you've fallen into The Comparison Trap again. Now look at the thought that made you want to change your own body. Was it "those women look great; if I don't look like that I'll never be happy," or "I should look like that. If I did men would find me more attractive," or maybe "I could look like that. I just know my life would involve way more beach bonfires and jet skis if only my shoulders were more defined."?
Once you've identified the thought, work on changing it. It doesn't have to be a radical thought, like "I'm so gorgeous the way I am, go me! I'm never going to feel bad ever again! I love rainbows!" Instead, something that you believe and trust works much better, such as, "I am working very hard at being my healthiest, most whole self. I make my own happiness and it doesn't have anything to do with my body size."
Step five: Repeat the above steps, over and over again. I know I said it was simple to climb out of The Comparison Trap, but it does take work. It's worth it, though, and you'll never be tempted to buy Jordache Jeans again.