Comparison – The Thief of Joy

Eating disorders love to body compare

Joy: a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. This is something that eating disorders often take away from people. This often leads to unhelpful thought patterns such as: “You will never be good enough unless you are as skinny as that person?” or “If you don’t stop eating that food, you will end up looking like that person.” Body comparison comes in many different forms but is likely present in individuals with an eating disorder. Encouraging someone to reframe ED thoughts is much easier said than done, especially if you are struggling to identify the difference between your voice and your ED’s voice.

The truth about body comparison

There are many reasons body comparison is unhelpful for mental health and/or a sense of wellbeing. So how do we start counteracting these unhealthy thoughts? Begin by recognizing that each body is different. Each person has a unique body that functions, digest, absorb, and metabolizes food differently. Gastrointestinal (GI) function may differ for each individual based on food intolerances/allergies, physical activity, overall dietary intake differences, and more. We never know what people are going through who we are often comparing ourselves to. Each person’s perspective is their reality. Thus you may “envy” someone’s body and not realize he or she is struggling with an emotional battle. Or you may not realize that the person’s body you may “fear” is confident and happy in their skin. When we body compare we are looking for an unrealistic expectation that “when I look that way then I will be happy” when in reality, happiness comes from within.

Comparison can take on many forms such as comparing your life to others who seemingly have it “all figured out”. That person who is always traveling, that person who has the “perfect relationship”, or the “perfect job”. All of these types of comparison cause us to believe that what we are doing or where we are at in our lives is not good enough. This mindset can inhibit growth and happiness.

Coping with comparison

  • Practice self-compassion
  • Allow yourself to be imperfect
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Become aware of your unhelpful thoughts and feelings
  • Take a break from social media
  • Treat yourself like you would a friend
  • Seek professional help from a therapist or support group

Comparison is a way of self-loathing causing pain, shame, and inability to become the person you are wanting to become. However, with much practice, you can begin the journey of self-compassion by re-framing your thoughts. This practice comes in various ways; however, the first step is becoming aware when you are going down that rabbit hole of self-loathing and comparison. It can be helpful to practice positive thinking or rational thinking by identifying the unhelpful thought and re-framing that thought.