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Learning Compassion Over Comparison

Learning Compassion Over Comparison

I stopped comparing myself to others around 2 years ago. It wasn’t a decision I set out to make. It started when I decided to love myself.

I never felt comfortable in my own body. I’ve been taught to compare my body to bodies around me, as well as to super model bodies and cartoon bodies, and my body just never lived up to those ideals. I would constantly compare my body to everyone else I was in a room with, to see if I was the fattest one. Most of the time I was, and I would dwell on that. Had everyone else noticed? Were they all congratulating themselves on being skinnier than me?

I tried most traditional ways of losing weight. I stopped eating. I ate only animal crackers and an apple every day for most of my freshman year of high school. I worried about eating in front of other people. I became a vegetarian. I did workout tapes in my bedroom. I took diet pills (which are actually just legal speed) and I drank those horrible diet shakes designed to replace breakfast or lunch. I lost and gained weight—but none of it actually made a difference to what was going on in my head. I wasn’t ever safe from comparison.

About 2 years ago I started using Instagram—I know, late to the party. Facebook felt overwhelming and I still don’t understand Snapchat, but Instagram was nice. Just pictures to scroll through, to have a visual connection to your friends’ everyday lives. It felt intimate and without judgment to me.

Through Instagram, I found the Body Positive Movement—an idea born from fat women radical enough to think they have the right to exist in their bodies. Their weight isn’t a factor in whether or not they have the right to be happy and to live free of judgment—and not only that, but all bodies deserve to be treated equally. Disabled bodies, trans bodies, genderless bodies, obese bodies, thin bodies, healthy bodies and sick bodies are all good and deserving of love and self-love. I read comments of encouragement and captions of empowerment and it changed my mind. It’s so much happier in my head to feel compassion, than it is to feel comparison.

Here’s the problem when we compare ourselves to others: we lose the part of us that is us. We take out our own humanity, the idea that we deserve to be happy because we are alive, and we replace it with fear and hatred. We see the otherness instead of the sameness of all of us. It starts with us comparing ourselves to those around us, and it bleeds into us comparing ourselves to other countries, other races, other religions…and all it does is push us farther apart.

When I catch myself comparing myself to others, I consciously stop and tell myself that person has just as much right to exist and be happy as I do. I don’t know anything about their life, their mind, or their body. I have no right to judge them or to judge myself against them. What purpose does it serve? I turn my thoughts to those of hope and happiness for the person I had been comparing myself to and I think, ‘we both have the right to be happy’. I make an effort towards compassion, and it has brought me more peace than comparison ever has.

This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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I am a theater professional living and working in Chicago. I enjoy painting, Nintendo, my boyfriend and our cat Tallulah.

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