“Comparison is the thief of joy.”– Theodore Roosevelt
When Corinne, from Everyday Gyann, encouraged readers to write a blog post that agreed or disagreed with this quote, I knew immediately which side I was on.
Not that there are any sides, mind you, since you can also take a “middle path” approach.
However, given I’m an all or nothing type woman, I believe comparison robs us of joy.
Before writing this post, I thought about which personal example I could use to back up my argument.
And the example that immediately came to mind was fashion magazines.
Yep. Fashion magazines.
When I was younger, I was addicted to magazines like Vogue, Elle, and Marie Clare.
These were the fashion bibles I consulted whenever I needed to know what to wear, how to look, and what to buy.
Like a starving castaway who’s stumbled upon a bunch of bananas, I gorged on the information these magazines provided; believing I was more beautiful, savvy, and trendy for following their recommendations.
Yet fashion magazines didn’t just rule my life, they ruled the lives of all my friends as well.
Every afternoon, we would get together to discuss the latest trends and styles.
Coffee cup in hand, we would pass judgement and snicker at anyone who passed in front of us wearing what we deemed to be out of style.
I would come home after these sessions to make lists of what I needed to wear, what make up I had to use, and even what I needed to eat, to look just like the models in the magazines.
The comparisons started off small.
“I could never pull off that look.”
“If only I had her ass.”
“If only I was that thin.”
“If only I had her hair.”
Before I knew it, I was convinced I could never measure up to the women featured on the glossy pages.
My self esteem plummeted.
My self confidence abandoned me and before long, I was suffering from a mild case of depression.
However, this didn’t stop me from browsing through the pages of Glamour, searching for ways to make my waist smaller, my hair shinier, or my lips fuller.
My friends felt the same sense of inadequacy at not being able to measure up to the long-legged models who resembled Barbie.
One afternoon, nana saw me lying listless on my bed; crying because I didn’t have a particular model’s long blonde hair.
“Bella, what’s wrong?”
“Nana, I’m not beautiful and that makes me sad.”
“Who told you that you’re not beautiful?”
“No one. I just know.”
Just then, nana spotted a magazine peeking out from under my bed.
“Have you been comparing yourself to the women in these magazines?”
“I’ll never be as beautiful as them.”
“You silly girl. You do yourself a disservice when you compare yourself to others. You are who you are for a reason. There is no else like you. You are unique. Enough said. Now go get cleaned up.”
As soon as I got up from the bed, nana picked up the pile of magazines and deposited them in the trash.
It was the last time I looked at a fashion magazine while nana was alive.
Fast forward I don’t know how many years and fashion magazines still have the same effect on me.
The minute I start looking at the leggy models with the perfect hair, I revert to making comparisons and before long, the joy has been sucked out of my day.
The other day I came across an online article that stated, “A 1995 study found that three minutes spent looking at models in a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty, and ashamed.“
Could these feelings be attributed to women comparing themselves to the air brushed models that grace the covers of these magazines but have been Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives?
I believe the answer is yes.
In comparing ourselves to women whose appearance has been modified by software, we are setting ourselves up to feel inadequate; frustrated by our inability to resemble such perfection.
I think it’s time we stop comparing ourselves to others and start appreciating our own beauty, talent, and uniqueness.
In the words of nana, “there’s no one like you,” and that alone should make us feel extraordinary.