Comparing (Especially Your Body) to Others
Comparison is the thief of joy. THE ODORE ROOSEVELT
Comparing yourself to other people is not helpful and will be a source of dissatisfaction and pain. You will always be able to find someone who has something you don’t have and you want, for example, a thinner body, better skin, longer hair, trimmer thighs, a flatter stomach, whatever it is. You can’t be them You can only be you, and your body will have its own parameters based on your unique genes. It is very difficult to stop comparing yourself to others when our culture promotes it, but as you know it leads to constant suffering. What is worse, if you are like most of our clients, you compare yourself to Photoshopped models in magazines rather than those who read them, or the celebrities in the movies rather than those in the theater watching, or your yoga teacher rather than the people taking the class.
Even if you find someone more beautiful or fit, so what? Where did you get the idea that you had to be the most or best at everything? Or that everyone and everything is on a ranking system? You will always be able to find people who have more of what you want and less of what you want. Continually comparing yourself to others and coming up short is wasting your precious energy. The better use of your energy is to work on making improvements that are suitable and healthy for you and that do not require you to compromise your wellbeing. Becoming your best self means comparing yourself to yourself and not to anyone else.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. You are only in charge of your stone and you need to learn to tend to it with care and compassion.
Take a week to notice your tendency to compare yourself to others. When you catch yourself comparing yourself to another person, stop and redirect the thought to yourself. Write down something positive about yourself, something you like about yourself or your life you would not want to lose. If that feels too hard, practice writing So what? Try one example below.
Positive thought redirection:
A THREE-STEP GUIDE TO HELP CHANGE A BEHAVIOR
We suggest you use your journal and a weekly Goals Sheet to do the following three-step behavior change process. This assignment will take over a week to complete because the first week is just
Step 1: Tracking the behavior.
Choose a behavior you want to change:
For a week in your journal keep track of the behavior: how often, when, where, and how it occurs. Include any thoughts or feelings you notice happening before the behavior, during, and after.
Step 2: Take one or more small steps.
Looking over your notes on tracking your behavior. See if you can come up with small and specific
steps you can do that might help you decrease the behavior. The following are some ideas taken
from our clients.
I will cover the full-length mirror in my bedroom.
I will not buy magazines that contain pictures that are triggering.
I will not go to fast food drive-through restaurants.
I will stop writing down my calories.
I will eat dinner with my children and not wait to eat later.
I will give my scale to my therapist.
Choose one or more steps you will take to cut down on or avoid the behavior you selected above. Tip: Make sure to list concrete, observable things.
Steps I will take to help me. (List the behavior again here.)
Step 3: Noticing the difference.
Did taking small steps help or not? Write down what happened and what you might need to do next, or what other steps might make it easier or more successful for you. Write about how you feel when you are engaging in the behavior you are working on changing, and how you feel when you are able to stop yourself. If you are able to stop your behavior for a few days, do your feelings change? Notice again in a week. You might even be able to write about what it feels like in your life to be letting go of the behavior altogether. Remember, at first you will feel very anxious not following through on your urges to do the behavior. If you give it time, you will start to see that both your urges and your anxiety decrease, which makes stopping the behavior easier as time goes on.
Even if you continue doing a behavior you set out to change, don’t worry. It takes time to completely change an entrenched behavior, but even very small changes add up. Over time, your awareness will allow you to honestly evaluate how this behavior is actually affecting you. You may think that engaging in the behavior provides reassurance or relief from fear or anxiety, but that is always short lived. Eventually, the anxiety comes back and the urge to do the behavior is there again.
You will discover that after the initial anxiety and distress that comes from changing these self-sabotaging behaviors subsides, you will feel relieved to be free from them
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