The brain is an amusing organ. We frequently put it to use in a manner we think is helpful and productive, but is actually the opposite.
Like at Thanksgiving when your brain prods you to keep piling more tasty, only-get-it-once-a-year foods on the plate. We can totally eat gigantic scoops of cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, and equal portions of everything else … and top it off with a hefty sampling of each dessert here. An hour later you grumble about having eaten too much and how you feel like sweet potatoes are about to flow out of your ears before passing out in a food coma.
A fitness related example many can relate to, I once thought trying to hate my way to a better-looking body was a good strategy. Using hatred for my body and its many flaws as fuel to change its appearance would help me succeed, I thought. How wrong and damaging that mindset proved to be.
Similarly, we think comparing our bodies to another woman’s is helpful for reaching our goals … but it’s really a one-way ticket to misery and negative body image.
Some examples to back up this lofty opinion:
If I wanted to feel weak, I could compare myself to seasoned powerlifters.
If I wanted to feel fat, I could compare myself to cover-ready fitness models and figure athletes.
If I wanted to feel underdeveloped, I could compare myself to bodybuilders.
If I wanted to feel like a boring, flawed woman I could compare myself to social media icons who not only look great but use photo editing, optimal lighting, envy-inducing locations to take 97 photos and then meticulously pick the perfect most flattering one to post for all the world to admire.
You could do the same. Maybe you have done the same.
Have you recently compared your body to someone else? Maybe there’s a woman at the gym you’ve admired for months, or maybe it’s the photos in your social media feed. You compare your body shape/size/leanness to hers and quickly feel inferior, less than, or just not good enough on some level.
Yeah. Stop doing that shit.
Is Comparison Ever Healthy, or Helpful?
Comparisons are usually fruitless. Someone new to strength training and healthy nutrition habits isn’t doing herself a favor by comparing her body to someone who’s been doing those things for a decade. The woman who is barely five foot with short limbs and a long torso won’t extract anything helpful from a comparison to a woman who is five foot eleven with long limbs.
Treat these useless, arguably damaging, comparisons as you would food tainted with Listeria. Trash them. Their consumption is poisonous.
Is comparison ever helpful to like your body more?
It can be. Not comparing your body or performance to another woman. That’s not helpful. However, comparing your current state to the process required to get where you want to be, and doing so objectively and free from emotion, can be useful.
Using myself as an example, the beginning of this year I decided to focus on building muscle — it’s something I’ve never done exclusively. I compared my current condition to the one I wanted to achieve, then asked, How do I get there?
Adding muscle to my frame would require a different process than what I was doing at the time. Workout frequency, exercise selection, and training volume needed to be adjusted; my nutrition would need to change too.
Rather than comparing my body or the results I’d like to achieve to someone else, I compared what I had been doing to what needed to be done to move in the direction I wanted to go, and committed to making the most of my body instead of having expectations beyond my control.
Be Inspired, Not Discouraged
What about inspiration to like your body more?
Using the comparisons from earlier, I could look at others who have achieved a goal I’d like to reach for inspiration. Someday I may want to work toward a triple-bodyweight deadlift — instead of comparing myself to women who can do that and thinking Ugh, there’s no way I could ever do that, I could choose to be inspired: Wow, that’s amazing! I may not pull triple bodyweight, but I have plenty of room to get stronger.
Seeing the success of others can be useful for inspiring us to discover our potential. It can be the catalyst that helps us take the first step in our journey.
Look Inward, Not Outward
Inspiration can be useful to like your body more. But there’s something to be said about choosing to blaze your own path and seeing where you end up. Looking inward for direction and validation, rather than outward.
Do what you enjoy. Discover what you’re good at. When you find something that makes you say Wow, I’m pretty good at this or you stumble upon something that piques your interest, continue to explore it further and uncover your potential.
Always always keep in mind this perennial truth — your body is your body, and while you can change many things about it, there’s much you can’t. You can build lean-body mass, lose fat, get strong, improve your cardiorespiratory fitness and coordination and balance and health markers, learn new skills — but you can’t change the length of your bones, the shape of your pelvis, your age, your tendon origins and insertions, where your body stores most of its fat and subsequently where it sheds it first and last when losing weight, and other details of your body determined by your unique DNA.
What you can change is how you choose to view these fixed qualities. That, unlike your bone structure, is malleable and entirely under your control.
Other Articles for You:
- How About Disliking Your Body a Little Less
- Are You (Unknowingly) Thinking Your Way to Failure?
- Break Free from the Ugly Side of Health and Fitness
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