I have a tendency to compare myself to other people. Well, I say I have tendency but it’s not really. It is more of a compulsion – I do it so often that to me, it feels like I am genetically hard-wired to compare myself to others. I don’t really chose to do it, I just find myself doing it on autopilot. When you have an eating disorder, it is VERY common to compare your size, your weight, your shape, your meal plan, your exercise (the list is endless) to other people, particularly to other people with eating disorders. When I was in the depths of anorexia, I was forever comparing these things to other sufferers. I still do to some extent now, although much less so than I did. Now, my comparisons are not such much eating disorder related. Instead, I tend to compare myself to others in every aspect of life. And I set myself up to fail – every time I compare myself, I conclude that everyone else is doing so much better than me in whatever it may be that I am comparing. Every time, the grass is always greener on the other side.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is human nature to compare. At work the other day we were comparing our council tax and our bra size. I think open discussions like this can be interesting and informative. But it’s the internal comparisons that I struggle with. The internal dialogue that I have with myself when I see how much better everyone else’s life is than mine. Social media is massive trigger for this. We are always reminded that social media is a highlight reel, but I am always sucked into it. The new job, the holiday with friends, the exercise, the six pack, the business venture. Everyone seems to be doing fantastically. But the thing is with constant comparisons is that it only leaves you feeling like rubbish.
It’s a bit like when you are a child and you say to your parent “But Joe Bloggs mum lets him do that.” And you always get the response “I don’t care what Joe Bloggs mum lets him do, you are not doing it.” In essence, we were being taught that what other people do has no effect on what we do. So if someone on social media has done something we aspire to, the fact that they have done it has no bearing on whether we can do it. This is something I am trying to remind myself of when I find myself doing that old age habit of comparison. And it helps.
As I said earlier, comparing yourself to others only leaves you feeling rubbish. Joe Bloggs is off doing his thing while you are sat thinking about how you wish you could do what Joe Bloggs is doing. You have picked up Joe Bloggs’ muddy ball and are getting covered in mud while Joe Bloggs is clean and dry. So what are you going to do? Are you going to continue holding Joe Bloggs’ muddy ball and get more and more dirty? Or are you going to drop it, leave it on the ground and move on? Now, when I find that I am comparing myself to Joe Bloggs, I remind myself of the “muddy ball.” Sometimes I actually have to say on repeat to myself – drop the muddy ball. And it works.
When I found myself in constant eating disorder comparisons, it helped me to remind myself that what someone else eats, what exercise someone else does, what weight someone else is, has absolutely no effect on my body, my weight, or my shape. I really did used to struggle with this. Like when my sister would sometimes come to visit and she’d skip a meal. I really couldn’t cope with it. Why should I eat when she isn’t? She will lose weight and I won’t. But you know what, what my sister eats has sod all effect on what happens to my body. And now I couldn’t really care less. It is important to remember that if we all ate the same food and did the same exercise, we would all still be different shapes and sizes. So if you see someone skipping a meal, or doing a workout, or hiding food, or losing weight – that is going to effect their body, not yours.
As I said at the beginning, my eating disorder comparisons have reduced a lot. I hope that by sharing what helped me, it will help others who may find themselves stuck in those comparisons. I am now working on reducing my other comparisons like I mentioned above. It isn’t easy, but I am definitely making progress. Remember, we don’t want to spend our lives covered in mud holding other people’s muddy balls. Focus on your own ball and make it shine.