Saturday, July 14, 2012

Envy: Comparing yourself to other women

Why do women spend so much time comparing themselves to other women? We are all guilty of it. It's sad to think that it really starts at childhood, when you wish your hair was as blond or as long as Kristen Bell (the girl who sat in front of me in second grade) or that you talked to the boys with ease like Laurie (my best friend in 5th grade).

And it doesn't end with childhood does it? Us grownup girls do the same thing. Why don't I have it all together like Jen? or Why can't I have legs like the 5am gym chick?

I don't dwell on it as much as I did when I was a kid, but it still happens.

I found myself thinking about this at the gym today. Thanks to summertime my gym has suddenly been taken over by college kids who are home for break (I cannot believe I am old enough to call them kids...**tear**) and I have been watching some of the girls try and one up each other. I wonder what is going through their heads as they compete to wear the skimpiest gym clothes possible in the hopes of getting the former baseball hero of their high schools attention. They roll their eyes at each other and pick each other apart.

It's sad really, that we spend energy comparing ourselves to others. As I have gotten older I realize more and more that there is a good chance that, while you may be envious of other women, those same women are probably looking at you and envying some quality that you have.

A perfect example of this is my sister and I. As kids we were fairly close. We spent our time playing and imagining together. I was a mother hen and she was the crazy second child who had no fear of strangers.

We were and are POLAR OPPOSITES.

It wasn't until the teenage years (or maybe preteen) that we started comparing ourselves to each other.
I am fairly certain that  she envied how easy school was for me, how I got the grades and made it seem like nothing, how people thought of me as responsible.
And I envied her: her outgoing personality, he fearless approach to things, her assertiveness in asking for what she wanted and for sure her long, thick, straight hair.

I was the skinny one, she was the fun one. I was the smart one, she was the one with all the personality.

As teens this took a toll on our relationship. We didn't get along. We were not friends. We were different and we would not ever admit out loud that the other wished just a little bit that they were more like their sister.

How stupid! If we could have just said it: "Man Ashley, I really wish I could be as outgoing as you." I bet we could have moved on from our envy and just been friends. The problem with envy is that it seems to come out as that you are annoyed by the very quality that you admire about a person. I constantly scolded my sister for embarrassing me when she talked to some random person at a restaurant, but somewhere inside I wished I could do the same thing.

So now that I am older and maybe a tad bit wiser I have found an approach to combat my envy of other woman. I tell them what it is that I admire about them. I compliment and recognize and admit. For example, there are a group of woman at my gym, some of who I know personally, that have been working out really hard and look fabulous. I wish I looked like them, were as strong as they are. And I let them know. I tell them they rock (because they do). I let the mom at the playground know that her patience with her 5 kids is far superior to my patience with my 3 and that she is my hero. I use them as my role models, even when I know sometimes that what they are will never be what I am.

Sometimes I catch people off guard: like when I asked my boss what she does for her skin because it is glowing and beautiful. But most of the time people seem happy and often they give a compliment back.

It is liberating to let that envy out. I think it makes me like myself more. I know it is better than letting it turn inward, where I let the comparisons to other woman eat me up and chip away at my self esteem.

So college girls at the gym, stop comparing yourself to the girl next to you, it really does no good.

And Ashley, if you are reading this, I will forever be envious of your amazing hair, your much bigger boobs, your skinnier upper legs, your ability to say what is on your mind, your outgoing and bubbly personality, the way you are with kids, your natural energy and your fun outlook. I will never be like you, it is not in my nature, but know that sometimes I wish I could.

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