Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beauty Survey #5: Comparing Kills

Forty women were surveyed about beauty. This blog explains the reasons for the survey.

Here is one question and a summary of their answers.

#5. Do you ever struggle with comparing yourself to other women? If so, how and why do you/we do this?

In response to this question (again) I was pleasantly surprised. Not because I like that women compare themselves to other women, but because it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

This is where LaQuisha comes in. I’m pretty sure we’ve all got one. LaQuisha is that person in your life who “seems” to have it all together. Who delicately floats through life, cooks everything from scratch, has not one wrinkle, and has never been larger than a size 4. I’ve got one. You’ve got. So how exactly is she helping us?

She’s not.

That’s the problem.

Comparing in-and-of-itself may not be the problem. The problem is who we are comparing ourselves to. As my brilliant friend said in her response: “We nearly always compare our weaknesses to someone else’s strengths, setting ourselves up for failure every time.”

Don't believe me? Watch this video by Dove

Here are a collection of answers from women about comparing:

“ ‘Being pretty’ is an empty pursuit. I know because I wrestle and struggle with wanting and pursuing it, but always end up feeling like ‘Now what/that’s it?”

“It’s become habit. I don’t know how not to do it. My lack of self-loathing makes me feel ‘different’ from my family.”

“What I see of someone is only what they choose to let me see. I'm comparing apples to oranges when I scrutinize someone's outward appearance and actions to my view of myself from the inside.”

“I have found that it is really hard to go through the checkout lines and just stand there or pray when the latest gossip and styles and flesh are flashing all around me. So I have found it helps to turn the magazines over (although sometimes the back is worse than the front). Or cover them all up with copies of Good Housekeeping.”

“I find myself comparing myself to other women all the time. My best friend is gorgeous. Whenever I am with her, people come up to us and tell her how beautiful she is. Once someone ran up to tell her that a group of guys just observed a moment of silence for her beauty as she walked by. Being around her made me feel not pretty. It made me feel invisible. If only I looked like her...”

“I compare myself to women all the time. I don't even know if it's conscious. The constant running tally. They say men are more hierarchical than women but I don't now if I believe it. Mostly, I compare my body, and especially the parts that have been so sexualized (and highly loaded) in our culture: breasts, stomach, ass, thighs ... which leaves what?”

“It's both a blessing and a curse that I've never felt like my physical beauty was my best quality. I was the girl with the personality, with the bubbly laugh, the girl who was easy to talk to, and made people feel comfortable. The ‘being pretty’ role was already reserved for other girls, with longer legs and prettier hair. Most guys found me intriguing because I was artistic, or smart.”

If we insist on comparing ourselves, at least know what you're up against. Here's another Dove video, this time on photo re-touching. Real photographs don't make it into magazines anymore, only their morphed, manipulated, and idealized evil twins.

One of my eating disorder counselors reminded me often: comparing kills. It really does. Maybe it’s not a physical death, but it’s a slow death of the soul, of confidence, of hope. We spend so much time focused on what we don’t have or what we are not good at, we begin to believe that that’s all we are: a bundle of faults, a useless bag of skin and bones.

If we call this the “human race,” what do we get when we win?

What happens to the person who dies with the most toys or the most money? What happens to the toughest man or the most beautiful woman? What will the “best of the best” earn at the end of life for “appearing” to have it all together? Probably the same thing as me: death.

But before my last breath, when I lie in bed not having become the most beautiful woman in the world, I hope to feel peace for the greater things I accomplished and the beautiful life that I lived.