A number of years ago I made a commitment to radical self love and my life completely changed. I have worked hard to learn how to make peace with myself and my body and I inhabit myself in a different and genuine way.
I am a human living in a world that constantly tells me I am wrong for a variety of reasons and usually I can cling to what I have learned and use it as an armor to help navigate through the hardships of being said human. However, sometimes the armor doesn’t seem to fit anymore and I am left exposed to harmful ideas about how I am failing in all the important parts of life and everyone else around me is doing a better job.
I became really skilled at the comparison game at an early age. I was always observing and calculating who was winning at having more friends, who was smaller than me, who had a boyfriend and who had accomplished this amazing feat just outside of my reach. It was exhausting to keep tally all the time and I rarely felt like my life measured up. I spent most of my teens and twenties fretting about how little experience I had compared to everyone else.
I thought I had really slayed this comparison dragon until recently when I went through a devastating break up. I spent ten months with someone who had lied about who he was and all the dreams I thought we had built together evaporated. I felt like I was a game piece moved back to square one…again. It also didn’t help matters that my twentieth high school reunion was scheduled for a couple of months after we ended.
I teased a friend of mine and said that I should attend, but bring various business cards with me that boasted of all the imaginary wonders I could have accomplished over the last twenty years – two truths and a lie reunion edition. These cards would be a good distraction from my actual sad story. Former classmates would have to guess if I had actually been married four times or if I was a famous dominatrix…The funny thing is the card of my real life experiences would probably have plenty of fun tidbits to choose from, if I would stop judging them as inadequate.
Why do we measure up our lives in comparison to the other people around us? Why do we still think the grass is greener and better on the other side of the street? My friend laughed about this silly idea, and so did I, but it spoke to a deeper truth that I was still yearning to inhabit another story.
What was wrong with my story? I am not married, I don’t have any kids, hell I don’t even have a dog yet but I have accomplished some good stuff in these thirty-eight years. Like keeping myself alive, combating illness and putting out an independent album for instance. I don’t own a home, but I wrote a book that people have enjoyed (not just my immediate family members). I worked full-time and earned my masters degree while diverticulitis wreaked havoc on my intestines, unbeknownst to me. I had just thought that I was stressed and exhausted. I was those things, but on top of that, was this awful time bomb in my gut. My intestines ruptured almost a week after graduation. At least my GI tract waited until after the party.
Why aren’t these things enough? I think it is because my masters can’t stare deep into my eyes and my book makes a shitty big spoon. The loneliness I feel seems it would be easily remedied if I had only taken a different path, or have a smaller dress size.
I know from an intellectual level that this story is false. There are surely people who are envious of my life. Even some friends of mine, who seemingly have all the things I am still hoping for, see my freedom and career as something they long for from time to time.
The comparison game has no winners. There is no cash prize for the person who feels the worst about their life. When we are comparing, we don’t live in our truth. We live according to the whims of a society that would lead us to believe that we are failing if we can’t check a certain number of boxes, no matter what awesome stuff we have experienced instead.
Jes Baker writes in her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, “The second you stop looking for someone else in the mirror and start looking at you is the second you will start to appreciate what you are. You are perfect.” This is sometimes hard to believe but I know in my heart that it is true.
We also never know what is really going on in other people’s lives either. Someone might look like they have it all figured out, but really everyone deals with different challenges. If we can focus on ourselves and start recognizing that person we see as perfect like Jes suggests, we have a much better chance of finding peace. We are not obligated to jump through the hoops society tells us are important either. We should find our own way and know that there is no real timeline or trajectory we have to follow.
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I didn’t end up going to my reunion after all. Social media has made it easy to reconnect with people from our past and I decided that most of the people I would like to see weren’t going to be there either. I also knew it had morphed into something that would end up feeling negative so I made the conscious choice to spend time with a couple people I love instead.
I realize I might still get sucked into comparing myself in the future. These habits are hard to break. I can continue my journey of radical self love and acceptance though and know that my armor will get stronger and stronger each time I refuse to play this game.
[Featured Image: A photo of a person with long dark hair. The face is in profile. Their hand is on top of their head. They are wearing a long sleeved, dark shirt. Behind them are trees. Source: pexels.com]