I’m sitting at a traffic light with a van full of teenagers from the non-profit shelter where I work part-time.
The boys whistle at a woman walking by the van in very high heels, carrying what looks to be a very expensive designer handbag. She is breathtakingly beautiful and I watch her swish by in her well-cut business attire and perfectly highlighted hair. I look down at my flip-flops and self-consciously touch my hair that has at least 3 inches of dark roots.
My wool knapsack from Mexico rests on my lap and in that brief moment, I feel like shit about my life.
It’s not just a physical comparison either, it goes beyond that. Something deep inside me starts to judge everything about myself. “You can’t afford a bag like that.” “Your hair will never look like that.” “”Why don’t you get a real job?”
This voice likes to find me at my most vulnerable moments and really let me have it.
Recently it comes up a lot around work and career choices: “Why did you leave your high paying job to teach yoga and start a business? What do you know about business?” “Other people your age are at the top of their earning potential and vacationing in Italy. You are wearing plastic shoes.”
Sometimes it comes up in yoga. “Why aren’t you doing handstands in the middle of the room by now?” “Other teachers have way better sequences than you.” “Why does the girl in front of you have her chin on the floor and you don’t?”
We are a competitive culture.
We are trained from a young age to not only be better, but to be the best.
We are constantly compared to others from elementary school, through college and into the workplace. Women have the extra pressure of comparing ourselves to society’s image of female beauty through our dress size, weight or what kind of shoes we wear. All of this makes it very hard to quiet that nagging, finger-pointing, mean voice telling us we are not okay as we are.
This voice is not new. This voice is a very old tape that was instilled into us by family, friends and media messages that we received at a very young age. It creates a “me against you” mentality by telling us we need to be better, more, or just different than we are.
But rather than help us to grow, it keeps us disconnected from each other. It serves no purpose. So how do we get rid of that voice for good?
We must first be totally, without question, really, really in love with ourselves.
The kind of love that makes you stick-up for someone who is being picked on by someone bigger than them, even if that somebody is you. The kind of love that thinks you’re beautiful with no make-up on, wearing sweatpants and flip-flops. The kind of love that wants to see you happy with whatever you choose to pursue in life, a job or school and is rooting for you from the sidelines.
All of this love is within us and available whenever we need it.
Start loving yourself now by trying the following:
- Change your self-talk. Use positive, loving words when speaking about yourself and your life. I have a friend who is very funny and she often says “I hate my life” for comedic value but I cringe every time she does that because our subconscious hears everything we say, whether we are kidding or not. Choose your words wisely.
- Forgive and Forget. So clichéd, right? But it’s true. Forgiveness of others and our selves help us to move on from a negative situation. If we carry grudges or bitterness how can we have the space to love completely?
- Drop the Drama. Stop rolling around in your problems and telling everyone you meet what is wrong with your life. What we focus on is what we create, so try as hard as you can to stop yourself from complaining. Also, ditch the drama queen friends who love to share bad news, gloom and negativity.
- Date Yourself. You don’t need to wait for someone else to treat you right, you can start right now! Book the vacation, visit the art gallery, take a hike, try the new restaurant alone. Spend quality time with yourself as you would a potential partner. See how it feels to enjoy doing the things you love by yourself. I remember the first time I took myself out to dinner—it was the 4th of July and I was alone and craving Mexican food. I was tired of waiting for someone to “save me” so I went by myself to a great place, ordered a corona, ate chips and salsa and celebrated my own independence.
- Say it. This is a biggie! I learned this from Louise Hays’ teachings. Look into the mirror and say “I love you.” It may be difficult or almost impossible to do the first couple times. Stay with it and just notice what comes up. Fear? Anxiety? Disbelief? Keep practicing until it begins to feel real.
When we feel this kind of self-love, the comparing can stop.
The competition ends because we no longer want to be anyone other than our fabulous selves. Sure, there will always be cute shoes or bags that we wish we had. But the deep, dark, beating yourself up kind of comparing will be replaced with love for yourself exactly as you are.
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Assist Ed: Julie Garcia / Ed: Catherine Monkman