self-comparison: celebrities vs. peers

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I’ve been going through this phase recently where I started wanting to become thin. Or rather, thinner than I currently am right now. I know what has brought this on, and I can sense the disconnect between two opposing forces. One that pulls in the direction of dieting to lose weight and be skinny, and another force pulling in the opposite direction that knows the possible consequences of such obsessive thinking about weight loss and ideals.

One of the reasons that boosted this increased desire to diet and exercise (and not in the healthiest of ways) to get a skinny body comes from self-comparison. I read a few fashion blogs once in a while, and the reason I read these particular blogs is because the fashion bloggers have a body type that is more or less similar to mine. They’re not thin/slim (like many fashion bloggers I see online), but they’re curvier (though not plus size) & its actually always nice to look at fashion blogs by curvier bloggers because its always nice to look at the fashion choices of girls with body types similar to yours. It serves as a guides of sorts that gives you an idea of how to pull styles off that are suitable for your body type & inspire you to  wear certain clothing types, especially clothing types you never really dared to wear because I always found my body too flawed to wear it, such as sleeveless tops in my case as I’m usually quite insecure about my arms to wear them.

We all know what that is, but I think that many of us don’t truly understand what it really entails. Self-comparison is the thief of joy; Don’t compare yourself to others because we all have different body types. When it comes to understanding what self-comparison really means, we take its definition and understanding at but face value.  

In my sophomore year of university I did an independent research project entitled “Is Facebook Making You Feel Fat? The Effects of Facebook on Body Image Satisfaction”. Its well documented that many individuals who view images of thin celebrities and models experience a range of negative effects such as a decrease in body satisfaction and increase in the desire to eat less and exercise more. With the popularity of social media usage in today’s society, I wanted to extend this above mentioned finding to discover whether exposure to a thin peer on Facebook will lead to a decrease in body satisfaction as well.

Anyway, we all know that when we compare ourselves to celebrities or models with desirable body types, we sometimes tend to get jealous of them because we know we can almost never look like them even if we gave in our 110%. Since when can we afford to hire personal chefs and fitness trainers to give us the top-knotch body that we’ve had our eye on anyway? I admit to comparing myself to media figures in the earlier days of my eating disorder, but I also compare myself to other role models; in other words, the model of comparison is people who are more similar to me – friends, the average woman on the street with a regular job who isn’t a celebrity, the women I see on social media.

The other woman. 

Its well known exposure to thin celebrities can potentially decrease body satisfaction, but its also argued, and empirically supported, that people can a bigger decrease in satisfaction when they see a peer with a thinner body than theirs. Psychology purports that while we compare ourselves to celebrities, we actually sometimes prefer to compare ourselves to our peers. Why? Because we’re not celebrities. Its like comparing pasta to pizza. Celebrities don’t lead the same lifestyles as us. We know we can’t almost like them because they can afford to attain the body that they have. They are a standard that we can’t really reach and so instead, we turn to someone who is more similar than us to evaluate ourselves because being on the same level as us means that they are a standard that we can, and in our minds should be able to reach up to.

Do any of you ever feel envious of your friends at times because he/she has a body shape that you don’t? Studies have found for instance, adolescents tended to compare their weight & height to their peers instead of to models and celebrities. Participants had reported feeling worse about their body when they saw pictures of a thin peer as compared to an overweight one. I’ve experienced this myself pretty often. Take these fashion bloggers for instance, when I see at some are skinnier than me, or bustier than me, I get jealous, because being of similar body shape and body size, I expected myself to be able to look more like them. But I couldn’t. If they lost weight, I felt even more worse, because if she can lose weight, then I should be able to, and must lose weight to, because in my mind, we are more or less the same.

Humans have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others because the information we acquire from self-comparison allows us to evaluate ourselves and check for the need for improvement if necessary. We all the best for ourselves. So do I. When I see that someone I know has lost weight I get envious, because if she can lose weight, so can I. But I’m not losing weight. Its not just fashion bloggers. Even weight-loss success stories of peers and other non-celebrities that I read of on social media; I get more jealous of them than those of celebrities, because celebrities are just so dissimilar to me and I live in a world quite different from them. But my peers, and the average non-celebrity out there on the planet are also struggling to get in better shape the same way I am. If they can lose weight, why the hell can’t I?! This most definitely stems from my competitive and ambitious streak. I don’t just want to get better; I want to be the best. I want to help people, but I also want to be better. Is that a bad thing? Well, I suppose in instances like this, it can be a bad thing. Honestly though it doesn’t mean I’m a Regina George who wants to put other people down. It just means I have incredibly high expectations of myself that sometimes overwhelms me and take control of me.

I am starting to mistake self-comparison for inspiration. 

Its not necessarily a bad thing, but when it starts to become overwhelming and motivate you to be skinny to be better and compels you to start thinking about unhealthy things such as crash-dieting, restricting and obsessive exercising, then something is wrong.

 This is what’s happening to me & this is where I sit down and think to myself like I always do when my mind gets too overwhelmed and I’m trying to find reasons for my thoughts and behaviors.

Am I comparing myself to my peers and other regular women? Yes. Does it make me want to be skinny? Yes. Can you please remember that every woman’s body is different and that comparing yourself only makes you more anxious about your body and given your past tendencies of disordered eating, do you want to risk a relapse? No. Do you know all these negative thinking and considerations about crash-dieting are incredibly unkind to your body? Yes. So now what?

Now I just need to just redivert my energies and change my thought patterns whenever I start thinking these kinds of things and whenever I start comparing myself to others. Do I want to get skinnier? I’ll be honest, a part of me does want to. But after going through recovery for a year, I’ve become smarter and stronger enough to know that I shouldn’t turn to all the negative things I did to my body. I need to continue to learn how to learn myself while becoming who I want to be. Its more important to be healthy than it is to be skinny. These women aren’t celebrities themselves but then they I have qualities & strengths that they don’t. If I start comparing myself to them, I’m just doing myself a disservice, disempowering myself even more AND making me feel even worse about myself.

Regardless of whether a person is a celebrity, a peer, a fashion blogger, a woman on the street, remember that everyone’s body type, metabolism and lifestyles are different & self-comparison is disempowering and robs you of your happiness & your individuality. The only thing I should be doing is focus on my own recovery & the only person that you should be better than, is the person that you were yesterday.

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