Comparisons can be risky – even harmful – when it comes to matters of beauty, body image, and self-esteem. Comparing your own traits to those of your peers and friends often leads to confusion and upset. Comparing your own traits to those of strangers and celebrities often leads to dismay and disappointment. And just about every time you compare your figure, face, hair, body, or proportions to those of someone you’ve deemed prettier, sexier, or somehow superior to yourself, you inevitably trigger jealousy.
Jealousy is awful. It’s an energy-sucking, life-draining emotion that often spawns anger and despair. But it’s also an instinct, and a very strong, natural one that’s nearly impossible to eradicate. Hopefully no one experiences it all day, every day, or feels utterly consumed by it … but I’d wager that most people feel a surge every once in a while. So I’ve been thinking about ways to turn that sporadic jealousy around to make it less harmful and more beneficial. I’m wondering if you’re very, very careful, if you can’t extract something positive from comparison-based jealousy. Let’s see what you think of this experimental idea:
When you observe someone who has an absolutely amazing set of curves, you may feel envy. You may wish you had those curves for yourself. You may feel like you’re missing out on something great by having your curves instead of hers. But consider this: Somewhere out in this great, big, diverse world of ours is someone who feels jealous of YOU. Someone has looked at you and coveted your hair, nails, breasts, calves, eyelashes, skin, or smile. Someone has looked at your face, figure, or body, and felt a stab of envy. And that goes for ALL of you, even if you sometimes feel dull or uninteresting. There is beauty in every body, and people recognize it when they see it. And when they recognize it, they frequently envy it.
I am in no way saying that body comparison is wise, nor jealousy healthy. Neither is a productive use of time or energy, especially ongoing. But both the activity of comparison and the experience of jealousy are nearly impossible to avoid, and I just wonder if considering their flip side could be beneficial, at least in terms of gaining perspective.
Because when we feel jealous, we feel it in a very one-sided, infuriating, self-deprecating manner. Stopping to realize that our own beauty may evoke feelings of jealousy in others may feel self-centered or contrived, but it’s a very pragmatic means of remembering that all bodies contain goodness, and all human forms have enviable qualities. Just because you hate your hair doesn’t mean it’s objectively hate-able; Someone else may see your locks and wish to have ones just like ’em. Just because you feel too old or tiny or fat or hairy to be beautiful doesn’t mean that others look at you and see those things. Someone out there glances at you and sees perfect teeth, utter grace, strong shoulders, or any number of jealousy-inducing qualities that you likely ignore or overlook. You want what others have and malign your own features, but others want what YOU have. They want what you naturally possess, and even take for granted. It’s not the jealousy that’s really important, it’s the gratitude for your own unique body that acknowledging its enviability can bring.
It’s a tricky proposition, this. It may not encourage new body and beauty comparisons – seeing as it harnesses comparisons that you’re already making – but it does give you a reason to hang out in that territory a bit longer than you might’ve otherwise. Then again, if you’re over there feeling envious and making comparisons anyway, having a little mental check to keep things from spiraling downward could be helpful.
What do you think? Next time you find yourself comparing your body to someone else’s and feeling inferior, off, unattractive, or less-than, could you give your brain a little nudge? Remember that someone has looked at you and wished so hard for what you’ve already got? Remember that you’re utterly, beautifully, marvelously enviable, and that’s something to be grateful for? Or does that feel unnatural, or borderline conceited? Would you rather find other ways to minimize or redirect feelings of jealousy? If so, any suggestions?
Image courtesy Thomas Hawk.