KNEES & ACNE & THE COMPARISON GAME
I had just turned eleven when we took our middle school volleyball pictures. We were in the gym, & there weren’t enough professional photographer lights to save that bad gymnasium lighting. I didn’t care. It was my first school team sport, & I loved volleyball. I would end up passing up most of my friends in the height department our eighth grade year, but at this point, I was still the second to shortest person on the team, which landed me on my knees on the front row for the picture. When we got the picture back, I remember looking at my knees. Where were they? Everyone else’s legs came to a soft point where their knees hit the glossy floor. But mine? There was no soft point– just more quad. I didn’t like it. Why did I have to be on the front row? Why did I insist my mom order the 16×20 poster from LifeTouch?
I look at baby #7 Jenna now & am wishing I still had that same hair comb headband & those blue mesh shorts– those would up my fashion game like nobody’s business. Now, I see a cute, rosy-cheeked kid. But in that moment, I had played the comparison game & lost. It was all I could see in the picture now. Never mind that I looked happy & loved volleyball.
My skin has always been super sensitive– it turns red at the first sign of physical exertion, I get eczema if the wind blows too hard, & as a teenager, breakouts happened a lot. I remember putting acne medicine on my face before I went to bed & just burying my face in a cold pillow until I fell asleep because my skin felt like it was on fire. It worked, though, so when I took a picture with some friends & I noticed I had clear skin compared to another girl in the picture, I felt good about myself. My skin is behaving better than hers! I feel pretty! Only, I didn’t really feel pretty for long because I had gotten to that place of feeling pretty by playing the comparison game again– only this time, it was to make me feel like I was the one on top. I had put someone down to feel better about myself. Even though the other girl had no idea what I was thinking, it still mattered. Our thoughts become our focus & our voice. I didn’t pay attention to anything else about the picture– us having a fun time or the memory attached to the picture– it was all about how I looked compared to the people around me. And I lost again.
The thing is, you never win when you compare. Why? Because Comparison is a scoundrel that likes to creep up on you & steel your Joy. That’s all comparison is good for, & if you find yourself comparing yourself to another human being, I promise you’ll lose every time.
When I find myself falling into that trap, I stop that thought process & say something nice about the person I’m putting down in my mind. If I’m putting myself down, I encourage myself. You are worth more than you’re giving yourself right now. You are beautiful. If I’m putting a friend (or stranger) down, I encourage them– even if I’m only saying it to myself or whispering it out loud, it reminds me to see that human with love instead of a magnifying lens.
Imagine the time & energy you would have if you got out of the habit of comparing. When someone runs faster or scores higher or has a different body type, instead of comparing, be Love. Say to yourself– She’s smart–She’s talented–She works hard–She’s beautiful…& so am I.