Stephy Loves…

The Myth of Competition

The messages are everywhere.

In a world full of Kardashians, be a Diana.”

“Be a Lucy.”

“Be an Audrey.”

“You hate me because you ain’t me.”

“Why can’t you be like your sister/cousin/friend?”

There’s this idea that we have to be in competition with each other, that we’re constantly being compared to each other. If you start feeling good about yourself, there’s always someone there to hold yourself up against to change that. When I worked in jewelry, I had girls bringing in Pinterest pictures of other people’s rings, wanting to imitate them exactly, wanting what someone else had. I went into a job interview last week, and every one of the women in the office was wearing a blouse, jeans, and knee-high boots with a heel. It seems like we’re all forgetting that someone else’s best life isn’t necessarily the same as ours. It’s a flaw of human nature that capitalism actively exploits, to make us feel bad about our lives so that we’ll keep consuming. (Personally, I’ve always thought that “you should have it because you’re awesome and deserve it” is a more powerful marketing position than “you need to meet this standard or you suck,” but it seems that’s an unpopular view in the circles where it could impact consumers’ daily lives.)

I know sometimes I forget that what I’m seeing of someone else’s life is usually the curated and filtered version that they show me. I see the pretty pictures on Instagram of all the beautiful, expensive skin care products they have been sent for testing, but I don’t see the years of work they’ve put into building an audience big enough to capture companies’ attention that way. I struggle with envying friends’ body types, even though I know they’re dealing with the same body issues and the same history of eating disorders as me. We’ve been taught from birth to covet other people’s possessions and lives, and to compete with each other, and that indoctrination is hard to shake even after realizing that it’s bullshit.

So here’s what I’m working on, and I hope you will join me. I’m working on shutting down the programming I’ve absorbed that tells me to compare myself to others. Instead of worrying about trends or about what looks good on a sample size, I’m going to wear clothes that fit me and make me feel good about my body. I’m going to be happy that my favorite Ulta manager is leaving to go to grad school, and celebrate that opportunity for her, without berating myself for not being able to continue my education right now. I am going to resist the urge to respond to a friend saying she feels fat with “Oh, girl, if you’re fat, I must be a whale!” and reframe that thought as “I know how much that feeling sucks, but you’re beautiful whether you can see it or not.” We live in a world that is trying to divide and conquer us by telling us that the good things others have are at our expense, and that we are supposed to compete with and envy each other. It’s better for our mental health, together and separately, if we focus on encouraging each other as individuals, and on assessing our lives on their own merits. I’m trying to learn to view my lilfe through the lens of what works for me, instead of measuring my life against someone else’s.

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One comment

  1. So right, Stephy! It is programmed, from such an early age. That’s what ensures that it’ll carry on, and what makes it so difficult a habit to break. Even if we don’t voice the comparisons, they’re in our heads.

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