I have this terrible habit of always comparing myself to other women. I suspect that a lot of us do this but I can't be sure. I think it comes from our media culture of movies and magazines and now blogs and e-zines, where we are always looking at images of others. I think for women, we compare our looks to other women's looks, whereas I am guessing with men, they are comparing bank balances and acquisitions.
I have reached a point now where I am getting tired of all the comparing. I never liked it to begin with, but the older I get, the less I like it. When I was younger, I would devour magazines with a passion. I would buy three to five glossies a month, and scrutinize all the models and movie stars and compare myself to them. I know that it's human nature to compare but when it's against a photo-shopped and PR approved image and story, then a mere mortal like me is bound to feel like a failure. At school I would compare myself to all the girls in my class, and later to all the girls in my high-school, and yes, I would see where I was "less than" but I could also see where I was ahead. Because when you compare reality to reality (ie: real people with yourself) you see that we all have our pluses and our minuses. We all have good and bad, we all have beauty and imperfections. But when you compare yourself to what you see in a magazine, or on a movie or TV screen, you don't get the full picture, and so you end up comparing yourself to an exaggerated ideal.
So I have quit magazines for the most part now. Occasionally I will buy one, like yesterday, when I had to wait for new tyres to be fitted onto my car, and so, I thought, what the heck, one magazine won't hurt. It was a Fair Lady, and I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the informative articles after such a long break with no magazines. I ate up all the book reviews, which is something I have missed with not buying magazines. But on the whole, staying away from magazines, blogs, Facebook and too much TV has been a really positive thing for me. It has cut down on my insecurities regarding my looks and has also helped to focus my energy on the practicalities of my life without losing my thoughts in how I can look more like the latest hot model.
I am 36, going on 37 (eek!) and it's really time now to accept that I have this body, there is not a whole lot I can change about it (without going to great lengths and expense, that is) and it's also time to appreciate this body for all that it has done for me. I want to stop hating parts of it. I want to stop wishing it were different in this way or that. I want to accept the softening belly, the laugh lines, the furrowed brow, the grey coming in. I am a real woman, not a photo-shop doll, so I need to love myself as that and for that.
Having said that, one of the best ways of dealing with all this is to also realise the deeper truth that I am not even this body. This body is so fragile. It's not mine to take with me. It's on loan to me whilst I am on this planet, but then, it will disintegrate. So why we spend so much time, so many hours of our thoughts, on how to change or improve this silly thing, I don't know. It's ingrained in our culture, I know. We are constantly told about "first impressions" and how we get judged on our appearances. And it's true, a lot of the time. And yet, it's also not true. And I want to speak up about that. Because as important as we believe looks are, they are a drop in the ocean in comparison to real qualities such a kindness and patience and humility.
Many of us have had this experience: we know someone very good looking but who is either an asshole, or neurotic or insecure and needy and so after a while, we stop seeing their good looks and see only their inner ugliness, and eventually we no longer want to be around that person. And we also know many people who are not quite up to societies' high standards of looks, but who are so wonderful to be around that we just love them and want to soak up their presence.
I know both - and many people in between - and so the point is that life teaches us, in it's own way, the very non-importance of looks. Looks may certainly count for a first impression, but then when that wears off, as it very quickly will, what is left counts for everything.