Ooh, That Was Nasty
It seems that over the last few weeks, More To Love (the "Bachelor" type show featuring an all plus-sized cast) has become a lightning rod for the cultural debate about the inclusion of fat people in media. I even found myself "live tweeting" the show as I watched it last week.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how, in the real world, people of all shapes and sizes have great relationships, bad relationships, good dating experiences, bad dating experiences, and everything in between.
This week, I was struck by something that Amanda, one of the contestants, said as she was being sent home by Luke, the bachelor:
"I’m really shocked with Luke’s decision. I think I’m kind of prettier than some of the girls in the house. I wonder what Luke could possibly see in Mel B. This is, like, a total blow to my ego. I’ve never lost a guy to a girl [who was] bigger than me or not as attractive. I really don’t know how to take it right now."
Amanda’s statement was so wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin. If Amanda were right, all of the fattest women should be sent home first, with only the thinnest fat women remaining. Also, it’s as if she’s saying that the erstwhile Fatchelor should only be comparing the contestants based on their size and "attractiveness" (which seems to be sized-based in Amanda’s view) rather than other things like, oh, I don’t know, personality, chemistry, etc. (not to mention that Luke may like the size).
But what it really got me thinking about was the idea that there is some value in comparing yourself to other people. I would contend, however, that there is very little value in comparing oneself to others.
Moving away from More To Love (thankfully!), I’d like you to think about whether the following situation has ever happened to you. Have you ever done something really great at work or in school, like you made a great presentation at work or got a really high grade on a paper, only to hear right afterwards about a friend or colleague who did something that you would consider even more successful? For instance, let’s say you give a great presentation and your boss is really impressed with you. You’re feeling great about the job you did. Then you hear about Barry down the hall who’s being sent to France to negotiate some huge deal, and suddenly your presentation seems meaningless? Or let’s say you go on a date with someone you really like, and s/he takes you to a concert to hear a band you really like, and it’s lots of fun and you get home and see your gal-pal’s Facebook status is something like, "Partying with George Clooney on his yacht," and suddenly, your date doesn’t seem that fabulous (though admittedly, hanging out with George Clooney seems pretty awesome).
Beware that Compare Leads to Despair
I used to suffer from this compare/despair syndrome a lot, until I realized that it really wasn’t serving me. Being envious of other people and denigrating the good stuff in my life only made me miserable. I’ve learned that the easiest way out of the compare/despair syndrome was to simply celebrate the successes of people around me. By celebrating those successes, I could actually enjoy my own, and even picture other people’s successes as being possible for me, rather than things I could never attain.
By the same token, bigger people sometimes take themselves out of situations because of the way in which they compare themselves to other people. We, literally, suffer by comparison. I’ve had numerous clients say to me that they feel uncomfortable being the biggest person at a meeting, event, or gym class. They find themselves searching for the fattest people in those situations and then sizing up whether they are, indeed, the fattest person in the room. Some of them even stop attending those events as a result of concluding that they’re the fattest ones around. Just like Amanda’s assumption about Mel B. on More To Love, these people assume that the fatter they are, the less accepted and desirable their presence is in any given situation. And just like Amanda, they assume wrongly.
Usually, we can’t know why someone falls in love with us and someone else doesn’t, why certain things fall into our laps and other things seem unattainable, or why we’re great at some things and not at others. The key is to know that we have value, despite our flaws, real or perceived, and that comparing ourselves to others is fruitless and unwise.
So the next time you start to compare and despair, stop yourself and celebrate instead. Celebrate your successes as well as those of your colleagues, friends, lover(s) or acquaintances. Know your value and theirs.
And don’t forget to check out the other experts’ great tips this week.