Whoever She Is: Freedom from Comparison
(AUTHOR NOTE: We all may have someone we compare ourselves to. A co-worker, a sibling, or even a friend. In my case, it has always been a ‘she.’)
Truth time. Somewhere along the way, I learned how to compare myself to others, and I got really good at it. For simplicity’s sake, her name is ‘she.’
My first ‘she’ had long, wavy blonde hair and saucer-like brown eyes. She had adorable pigtails that cascaded into the most beautiful banana curls. Her Barbie’s traveled in the Barbie motor home.
I didn’t have any of those things. My hair was straight and dirty blonde and my hazel eyes hid behind tortoiseshell glasses. Pigtails were out of the question, and my banana curls looked rotten.
My Barbies only traveled in a motor home when they visited her house.
I did what any six-year-old girl would do. I pulled her pigtails during an argument while riding on our school bus. I pretended to not care at all about her Barbies and sabotaged our playtimes.
So there. I win.
Over the years, my ‘she’ morphed, but each ‘she’ was skinnier, more fashionable, and had prettier hair. They could do cartwheels, became cheerleaders, and didn’t appear to feel awkward at all.
In high school I memorized Seventeen magazine’s Back to School issue. If I could just mimic the clothing, hair, and make-up styles, I was fairly certain I’d feel better about myself. So even though I was an excellent seamstress and made most of my clothes, I cast aside my homemade clothes and began saving my babysitting money.
If I wanted to fit in and compete with ‘her,’ I had to work a bit harder.
With money in hand, I splurged on a plaid skirt and vest set sold at one of the only local clothing boutiques. It was a rare treat to shop there and even rarer to walk out of that store with a bag of new clothes slung over my arm. I felt invincible, and I am not exaggerating! I FINALLY was replicating what Seventeen magazine portrayed. I certainly hoped I would feel what I thought this outfit promised me.
I tried on my darling prize day after day after day rehearsing for my first day of school. I was so confident and proud and eager to show up to school as a junior wearing my store-bought outfit.
Until I arrived in my advanced biology class and sat right behind the boutique owner’s daughter. You know where this is going, don’t you?
She was wearing the exact same plaid skirt and vest set. But it looked so much better on her slimmer body. Her long blonde hair casually swept over her shoulders make her vest pop far better than mine. Her make-up was impeccable and highlighted all the right colors of the plaid.
‘She’ won again. I was devastated and never wore that outfit again.
My external appearance clearly mattered more than it should, but I didn’t understand all of that then. All I knew was that I needed to work harder on how I looked on the outside. So, I skipped meals, drank diet 7-Up, and tried to buy the ‘right’ clothes instead of simply sewing all of them. This was more of my college prep program than advanced chemistry or advanced placement tests.
When I went to college, I was unprepared for my first taste of ‘suburban affluence.’ It didn’t take me long to realize that the clothing I had sewn or purchased with my hard-earned money didn’t measure up to how I wanted to present myself once I arrived at college. I tried to compensate, but that didn’t go well.
‘She’ was everywhere.
‘She’ was across the hall from my dorm room wearing fur coats and high heeled boots.
‘She’ was my athletic roommate who looked fantastic in Adidas gear or Levi jeans.
‘She’ was my friend who could throw on a floral cotton dress, long ivory sweater, heels, and make guys’ heads turn.
‘She’ was a cheerleader.
‘She’ dated the football players.
I’d clearly drunk a long sip of the Kool-Aid which could turn deadly for me. If only I could get some of the time back that I wasted trying to be just like every ‘she’ that I had decided was better than me.
Eventually, I traded my sewing machine for the mall. Receiving affirmation for a well-accessorized outfit fed the monster that was quite at home inside me. But I overspent and overbought. Just when I thought I was pretty comfortable with a certain style, I’d see another ‘she’ and decided I needed to try that too. Instead of being me, I was projecting a fake me.
My feet finally got my attention.
I rarely wore shoes when I ran around the yard as a little girl on the farm. I loved the feel of the grass tickling my toes. The occasional bee stings, sharp thistles, or nasty slivers didn’t stop me from running free in the grass or along our gravel lane.
But ‘she’ would never do that in suburbia. So, I put on shoes to walk outside even if to only get the mail. I felt fake and artificial, but I cared more about what ‘she’ was than who I was. My feet were pristine, but I clearly wasn’t true to me. I was covering up some important parts of me, and I was getting tired of it.
So, I tiptoed into naming my lies that were rooted in comparisons and replaced them with the truth of who I really am. Most days, you can now find me walking barefoot outside with a smile on my face.
BIO: Linda Bryant writes to encourage others to slow down enough to notice and treasure the people and the moments of their life. She values time in creation to notice the spectacular uniqueness of each season. Whether planting or weeding or simply meandering, she sees life through her backyard garden or nearby forest preserve. She also spends a few moments most days creating something.
Most importantly, she is married to the love of her life, Ron, and treasures time with her three precious adult children, their spouses, and three grandchildren. And her little puppy, Wrigley, makes her laugh.