Comparison. We are all guilty of it.
I grew up comparing my life to everyone around me. My sister, the skinny, tan, social butterfly. My friends, athletic, smart, tall, always had boyfriends. Then there was me, wanting to change every possible aspect about myself. I hated my hair, my skin tone, my body shape, my voice, even my personality. I honestly don’t remember a time that I didn’t feel this way, like society has raised the youth to automatically want to be someone they are not. And we all give in to it. Why??? I believed people felt the same way, that I was ugly and weird. I remember going to bed wishing I would wake up a totally different person. How mean of me to think that about my own soul? But on the outside I pretended like things were fine. I was faking it. Which led me into a deep place of darkness and loneliness. I felt like I had to put on a mask, be strong and get over it. Like it was a sign of weakness if anyone knew how I felt. So, I bottled up all these thoughts inside my head, got up each morning and put a smile on my face. I needed everyone to think I was fine.
It stole my self-confidence and made me feel like I was unworthy and unlovable.
Luckily, I had my best friend Melissa (aka founder of his blog) to talk to. I told her how I felt empty and that my life was meaningless. Melissa would always say, “don’t talk about my best friend like that!” As if my own thoughts about myself were hurting her because they were being said about someone she cared about.
It’s so true, and about the 100th time she said that line to me it finally got me thinking. I would be ANGRY and probably turn into a ratchet girl if someone said those hateful words to any of my friends or family. I’d stick up for them and tell that mean person they were wrong and that there is so much more to a person than what they thought they knew. But I still couldn’t shake these lies from my mind; I still gave in to comparison.
I took all of these negative thoughts to college with me and used them to harm my body and self-esteem even more. Throughout college I treated my body like a trash can (~not a temple~). I would go through phases of exercising twice a day to binge eating fries and a milkshake from Cookout, to going downtown 4 times a week and barely sleeping. And truthfully, college is the best time to not care about eating healthy or working out all the time but I had the completely wrong mindset about it. I thought I needed to be prettier and/or skinnier and change what was on the outside to magically solve all my problems. Magically, then I would be noticed by people I thought I was invisible to. Or that it would help me land my dream job?? Silly me. I was convinced my downfall was the fact I didn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model, have a boyfriend, wasn’t the smartest one in the class, and didn’t fit into size 2 Abercrombie jeans, when in reality my biggest enemy was the way I valued (or didn’t value) my own life.
I ultimately realized that external beauty only gets you so far. Being a kind person and asset to society is far more beautiful than superficial traits. I learned that when I stopped hiding behind the fear of being rejected, I attracted people who had the same interests and values as me. Which led me into community and out of my little hole of loneliness.
With each new season of life, I find myself falling into the trap of comparison in different ways. Nowadays, everyone (it seems) is engaged, married, or having babies and I can’t help but think I am nowhere near close to that. And that maybe I am falling behind or failing in some way. As soon as I realize I’m comparing myself, I immediately close that door and re-evaluate my heart. Would I be ready to get married, let alone have kids?! NO, that is not what’s best for me right now, which allows space in my heart to be genuinely happy for my friends who are.
If I could go back and tell my high school and college self some wisdom, oh man I’d have a lot to say. I’d say your worth is not defined by a number. Not how many pounds you weigh, your GPA, how many boys ask for your phone number, how many times a week you go to downtown, or how many friends you have. ALL the things I was defining myself by. How freaking silly.
I would tell myself that “You are your passions, your dreams, your infectious laughter. The books you read, the music you listen to, the friendships that have turned into family. The fierce desire to help those in need and change the world for the better.” Thinking now about all of these beautiful things my body and soul consist of, I feel ridiculous knowing I spent so much time hating them. Or maybe I was just blocking them out behind this huge brick wall of insecurity.
I like to think I have slowly torn down this wall and allowed the light of my true self to shine through. No matter how much time and growth it has taken and how much progress I still have to make, it’s a process that I am thankful for and that has taught me plenty of life lessons.
Now, I can honestly say I feel confident and proud of who I am (wow that is not easy for me to say to out loud).
PSA: You are so much more than what you think are your flaws!! Your flaws are someone else’s favorite part about you and what makes you human. Let’s learn to talk to ourselves the way we talk to our best friends.
I challenge all of you to take of your mask, and show the world your beautiful, unique offerings. There is joy and freedom when we place our identity in the things that matter.
Be kind to yourself :),