My stomach used to be the bane of my existence.
I constantly thought that it protruded out so much that I looked pregnant. It was flabby, bloated and too round.
I also used to compare myself to just about anyone – especially when it came to my stomach. I couldn’t help but pay attention to other girls’ flat, and in my mind, perfectly sculpted abs.
Somehow in my thinking process, flat abs became a fun and satisfying life.
Flat abs were worthwhile friendships, good grades, loving relationships, happiness and beauty. Flat abs were a great personality, a privileged life and a closet full of cute clothes.
In other words: Flat abs meant a perfect life.
It made sense because, to me, a girl with flat abs already had the perfect body. It wasn’t much of a stretch from perfect body to perfect life, right?
I was miserable in my life because my stomach was too big. It could all be reduced to that, I’d rationalize.
Marta from one of my favorite blogs, Marta Writes, has talked before about blog envy, which I think is similar to body envy. Really all envy is the same. At its foundation is wanting what others have – and building up these ludicrous the-grass-is-super-duper-greener-on-the-other-side scenarios.
In her post, Marta says that on some days she creates “one giant super mommy monster blogger that looms over me.” She goes on to describe this incredible blogger (incredible as in she doesn’t exist of course):
“she is currently traveling the states for her booktour. it just debuted on the new york times bestseller list, naturally. this is only the tip of the iceberg, people. she is on the cutting edge of fashion and music. she has an eye for design. she not only lunches with the rich and famous, but she is a darling mother and wife and cooks dinners from scratch every evening. she is down to earth and drop dead gorgeous. and talented too. she letterpressed her own wedding invitations. her dress was flown in from milan and she had her groom’s name embroidered on the hem in tiffany blue to be her something blue. that night everyone went home with a smile and a hand-wrapped box of her famous mint truffles, which had their monograms on them. in coordinating calligraphy to match the menus.
her house is always clean and smells of pine-sol. she hunts consignment shops and flea markets for original vintage wares to fill her home. she found an antique birdcage and sprayed it gold just last week. oh and her baby wears all handsewn dresses. that were made of bamboo eco-friendly material that will never hurt the earth. and her baby has this name that is so graceful and classic, the sweetest name that no one has ever thought of before. and she uses cloth diapers too. she and her little one spend time learning about the world in their backyard butterfly aviary. her 18 month old can repeat the origins of each butterfly species, sing the alphabet, and control her cup so it never spills apple juice down her lacy peter pan collar. the family eats out of her vegetable garden and she bakes bread from organic bananas. she delivers it to neighbors, wrapped with organza silk ribbons, on birthdays.
she has tons of friends, hosts a girl’s night every month and seems to be speaking at blogging conventions every season. she has never had an embarrassing moment, a bad hair day or a tacky prom dress. she is funny and sweet and thoughtful. she sends timely thank yous and answers every email in her inbox with flair. her ability to arrange flowers has been featured in magazines across the globe. annie leibovitz will be shooting her in the hamptons next summer. she has already bought (and blogged about) the strappy sandals she’ll be wearing for it. she owns all the latest gadgets and has created her own app. she still has time to sing her babies to sleep and cuddle with her husband and keep the laundry folded round the clock. she never has any sort of breakdown about frivolous things like cranberry sauce or pitted black olives. she blogs freely without wasting time, whining about life, criticizing or copying others…”
How often have you created a life for someone you barely knew just because they fit some thin ideal? Because their exterior looks pretty? Just because they have one feature that you believe you lack?
It’s funny how we take this one feature from someone else and turn it into some fabulous story that just swells and swells in our minds, making us feel unworthy and basically like crap.
Suddenly a girl with flat abs – or small hips, thick hair, a pretty face, toned arms, muscular legs or whatever – has become a hero.
And we’ve become less-than, with our less-than body and our less-than life.
While my body envy isn’t as big anymore, I definitely still have times when I compare myself to others. Now, it’s morphed into blog envy, writing envy and accomplishments envy.
But either way, again, it’s all the same.
It’s still envying what someone else has and letting it diminish what I have. And what I am.
So when I start getting jealous, when I start comparing myself to others, I remind myself that all I can be is me.
Sure, it might seem simple – cliché, even. But it’s a truism that works.
As Marta says in her post:
if we stay true to ourselves, love ourselves, live a balanced life, we can cut the crap and simply enjoy what we do do. we can get real. see things as they are. we can gain joys from our own simple silly lives. no matter how unpicture-perfect they may seem. just do the best you can. be the olympian of your own life. from one imperfect blogger to the next, i beg of you please be happy with who you are, what you have to offer. and blog about that. my lengthy message today boils down to my motto in life. six little words.
u be u. i’ll be me.
Karen in her book After (the Before & After): A real-life story of weight loss, weight gain and weightlessness through total self-acceptance also features a powerful quote:
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” ~ Joseph Campbell
I hope that we can let ourselves enjoy this privilege.
Do you get caught up in body envy? What helps you get out of this mindset?
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Last reviewed: 2 Jun 2011