It’s very common for people with body image issues to compare themselves frequently to other people. Well, to compare their bodies to other people’s bodies, I should say.

Comparisonitis is a compulsion to compare oneself to others. It’s as if you can’t help it, and it has a life of its own.

We can do this in a multitude of ways. But when it comes to body image, you’ll be comparing:

  • parts of your body to someone else’s
  • then comparing those parts of your body to everyone else’s in the room
  • your size relative to others
  • size of clothes
  • the types of clothing in your wardrobe
  • how you look in your respective clothes
  • your complexion or signs of ageing
  • accessories and shoes
  • suitability of hair cut/ style/ colour
  • posture
  • fitness levels and flexibility
  • you’ll also be comparing your former thinner/ fitter/ younger body to you present body, or your former bigger body to your present smaller body
  • what did I leave out? In what other ways do you compare yourself?

Does this sound familiar?

Comparing yourself to others, or indeed comparing yourself to your former self – whether you’re comparing your body, your achievements, clothes, home, car, bank balance, relationships, children’s achievements, is a very fast route to misery. It fuels suffering.

Either you compare yourself unfavourably – in which case you feel sad, hopeless, anxious, dejected, desperate, angry etc, or you compare yourself favourably – in which case you might feel proud, big, pumped up, happy, elated or worthy. The downside is that when you compare yourself ‘favourably’ it doesn’t lead to a genuine feeling of happiness, does it? There’s always the lurking fear that someone else will beat you, take over, be better, that you’ll slip up, regain the weight, lose your muscle tone, grow out of your clothes etc. – and then what? Your sense of self hangs on how you compare on any one day, to other people.

Comparison is essentially separating. You’re either elevating others and putting yourself down, or you’re elevating yourself above others, and putting them down. Anything that separates you from yourself or from others is painful. It’s painful because we are all connected whether or not we recognise that as true. I’m not making it up! Ask your local quantum physicist. If we’re all connected, then any separation is experienced as some level of pain – it’s like being spiritually unglued.

And when you’re in this kind of pain, you’re likely to use food and exercise to try to fix your feelings of inadequacy, by either restricting, or over-doing it (either or both food and exercise).

So will you look out for how you compare yourself to others? Or compare others to others? Or compare your current self to your previous self? Any kind of comparing is essentially an act of separation.

What you can do…

Try this: every time you notice you’re comparing, have compassion for that part of you that got into that mindset (it comes from a fear of not belonging or not being worthy – which is absolutely human – as well as your social conditioning – which you didn’t choose!). Then gently, kindly and without judgement, remind yourself that you have a different intention now – one of connection, acceptance, love and peace. Redirect your attention towards that, stating your chosen beliefs, for example: ‘all bodies are good bodies,’ ‘all bodies are worthy of respect.’

Another thing you can do is intentionally practise looking at bodies in a neutral way – that means describing bodies to yourself using neutrally descriptive language. For example, ‘She has brown, wavy, shoulder length hair. Her eyes are green. She has thin eyebrows. Her complexion is pale and she has 3 pimples.’ This can be quite challenging, so be very patient and kind to yourself – your judgements will show up. Keep reminding yourself: ‘these judgements are internalised conditioning from Diet Culture and Beauty Standards. They are not my fault.’ Once you notice them, that is when you have some power!

Will you have a go?

Ready to heal your relationship with food?