Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog #79: Compare & Contrast

We have now entered day 3 in the sinus  headache/migraine/brain tumor hybrid saga. This is probably what I would consider the worst day yet. That sounds whiny and negative though, so I will say that this is the day with the most opportunity for me to overcome adversity yet. I've found that I can keep the irritation under control so long as I wear my glasses and hold my head and neck completely still and rested against a soft surface. So, very practical. As I type I have my chair at an angle that allows for me to barely need to move my eyes to see the words and still keep the back of my head rested against the plush comfort of my chair. The headache makes it difficult to focus on anything for too long or move very quickly, which is a struggle because I always have so much to do.

I need to unpack my thoughts on something though. Hand writing it would be better because it involves a physical and cognitive act more than typing and because you move your hand from one side to the next and your eyes follow, it engages both sides of your brain and allows you to process your thoughts much more completely. However. I can't even begin to imagine the angle at which I could begin to make that work with my current headache.

This is about the idea of comparing and contrasting. More specifically, the idea of comparing and contrasting one's body and looks with another's. Obviously this is unhealthy. I'm not going to spend too much time on that because then I'd have to follow up with the fact that sports teams prefer to win games rather than lose them and I am not interested in becoming the John Madden of the blog world. I want to delve more into the experience of it because I discovered something very interesting the other day. Let me start earlier than that though, from the beginning.

I am notoriously guilty from an early age of looking at other girls' frames and wishing my body was shaped that way instead of the way that it was/is shaped OR (and I'm not proud of this) being glad that "at least my [whatever] was thinner/prettier/better than so and so's [whatever]". I remember 6th grade gymnastics. I had what I still prefer to call "baby fat". I wasn't an obese child by any means. I had always been in the 50th percentile of weight (though 20th in height). I wasn't even overweight. I was just, average. Most of my weight placed itself around my face and around my belly, so I had fairly lean arms and legs and no butt at all. That's kind of the opposite of most gymnasts, though. They are flat and strong in their core, and their bulk is  muscle and  is primarily in their legs (to provide for all those flips.) I remember one girl making fun of me by making the "wide load backing up" beeping sound as I did a backwards walk on the balance beam. I didn't take gymnastics for very long. It was around that time that I began to become very aware of body differences and what they "mean" for girls.

This carried on into middle and high school. I remember saying things to my friends such as "I wish I looked as great as you. You have the best figure." I'm sure my expression wasn't quite as eloquent. It probably was more like "you look way better in that outfit than I do." but the meaning is the same. I thought I was complimenting them. I thought I was making them feel good (though lowering my own self worth in the process.) Obviously, comparing and contrasting with someone else who had a completely different build and genetic makeup than I did was unhealthy and did not make me feel good. By trying to work to get my body to that standard I was on an impossible quest for an unattainable aesthetic, and for no good reason.

Here is the plot twist. Recently I have had individuals say to me, "I wish I could pull that look off. I couldn't look like you do in that outfit though," and statements like that. I say that not to brag or anything, though I am often really proud of my outfits and ability to find flattering pieces that work with my shape. My body itself really isn't in prime physical shape. Stress and grad school have me small but soft. Not strong. My point here, though, is that these comments do not make me feel good because they aren't about me or anything I do well. In fact, they do the opposite of boost my self esteem. The comment isn't "wow, you always look so put together. I'd love to learn to dress for my figure the way you do." That would be a great compliment. However, this comment is all about the giver. It's not really about anything that I have control over. And it leaves me in a place with having no clue how to respond. I mean, "thank you" isn't really appropriate.

This lead to this revelation: all of those times that I was saying things like that to these beautiful women in my life that I loved, I was doing the same thing to them! It doesn't feel good to even be on the "better" end of someone else's comparison. Comparing isn't pleasant for the comparing party (obvious) OR the compared party (way less obvious.)

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