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Learning to Love Yourself

By Bobbi Boteler, RD, LD, CEDRD

One of my absolute favorite quotes that I continually remind myself to live by is from Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Take a minute and read this over a few times to yourself. How do these words resonate with you in your current life?

comparison voice

Many comparisons are natural, and involuntary. We are taught in elementary school to compare a triangle to a rectangle, or the color red to the color blue. In the kids magazine Highlights, there’s always an activity for kids to identify what’s different from the left hand side to the right hand side of the page. Activities like this typically don’t have our minds forming opinions about whether red is better than blue, or triangles are inferior to rectangles. We see, in our innocent, child-like lenses, that they are just DIFFERENT. There is no judgment or critical thoughts.

As we grow up, and our filter becomes splotchy from what we hear friends say, what we read in magazines, how we hear the media talk, we often adopt a critical mentality. We naturally compare ourselves, but we often end up feeling like something is wrong with us, rather than just being able to end with the fact that,

“yes, we are different. If we weren’t different, we wouldn’t have our own identity ”

Neither person or situation is better. This past weekend in preparation for writing this, I increased my awareness to the natural, human comparisons that float in and out of my brain throughout a single day.

Here were a few comparisons I noticed:

  • “I like that shirt better than the one I am wearing”
  • “I grabbed ribs off the grill, looks like a lot of people got chicken.”
  • “Looks like everyone wore jeans to this retreat, and I have on casual business pants.”

The 3 comparisons I noted above that popped into my head this weekend and right back out had little to no impact on how I felt about myself, how I acted, nor did they cause a cascade of irrational thoughts and feelings as they often do when we are in our eating disorder.

Below are the interpretations I took from the 3 comparisons, which came from a healthy, confident mindset.

  • “I like that shirt better than the one I am wearing — I love the bright coral color of her shirt. It brings a smile to my face. Ill have to look for a shirt of that color to wear on days that I need a pick-me-up
  • “I grabbed ribs off the grill, looks like a lot of people got chicken.” —Maybe they don’t like ribs. Maybe chicken sounded better to them. Lets go eat! This food looks so good and I’m hungry.
  • “Looks like everyone wore jeans to this retreat, and I have on casual business pants.”—I’ll have to remember that next time, they look really comfy!
Below are interpretations in which our eating disorder can really jump on and make us feel pretty crappy. These unhealthy, misguided, unsupported interpretations are often times what takes over when we are in our eating disorder.
  • “I like that shirt better than the one I am wearing.”— I look horrible in this shirt. Why can’t I look like her? Now I feel really insecure in this outfit. Maybe I will go back and change into something else, or maybe I shouldn’t stay at all. I cant sit here feeling like my outfit isn’t as good as hers.
  • “I grabbed ribs off the grill, looks like a lot of people got chicken.”— Everyone is going to stare at me because I got something different. Ribs are so messy, this is so embarrassing, I don’t even know these people. What was I thinking? I’m going to go back and get chicken instead.
  • “Looks like everyone wore jeans to this retreat, and I have on casual business pants.”— I am the only one that is different. I’m going back to the room right now and change, even if I am late to the next meeting. I don’t care. I don’t want to stand out. They will think I didn’t read the pamphlet and didn’t follow directions.

Take a minute and read each comparison that I was aware of this weekend. You can either use my example of an unhealthy interpretation (in brown), or make up your own, and then sit for a second and think about how you would feel in that situation. Then read the comparison again, but this time, read the natural, healthy thoughts that I took from each situation (in purple). Feel free to also come up with some on your own.

How would you feel if you were able to start practicing ACCEPTANCE of natural difference, rather than fighting it?

Acceptance that the differences that are inevitable, are our own. We have to own them, embrace them. Catch yourself when you start down the critical, judgmental road of comparison Also be aware of how much unhealthy comparisons we are faced with in the media constantly. I picked up a magazine at the airport for the purpose of finding these comparisons. I came upon an article titled Who Wore it Better? One Star Sizzles while the Other Star Fizzles. These words made me cringe. The author had photos of pairs of movie stars, wearing the same dress, side by side.

My initial reaction was, “why are we comparing the same dress on 2 different bodies, and then asking readers to choose who looked better?”  It’s not a case of ‘better. These are two different women, two different bodies, two different personalities, two different people. They both loved the same dress. We need to stop scrutinizing our outer image. Own it, take care of it, be proud of it, and realize it is your vessel in life to do what you love to do, to honor your values and achieve your dreams.

Our Empowered Eating Registered Dietitians want to help you compare yourself less, and love yourself more. We would like to help you build your relationship with food as well as yourself. To set up an appointment with one of our dietitians, contact us today for an appointment 

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