Jillian Curtis, New Hampshire Portrait by Lori Pedrick

Jillian Curtis, New Hampshire
Portrait by Lori Pedrick

Comparison

 

Growing up a girl all boils down to one thing: comparison. Comparing our weight to that of our friends. Comparing our jean size to that of supermodel on TV. Comparing our waist dimensions to that of our sorority sisters. Comparing: that’s what we girls learn to do best. I’m not sure if we compare because we feel as though we are lacking something or if we feel the need to compete with the other girls around us. Regardless, we are taught at a young age that we must compare. Parents compare the progress of their children’s development just as teachers compare the work of their students against the curriculum. Comparison is a part of society. But, girls take comparing one step further. It becomes a part of their everyday thinking and quickly develops into a complex. Comparing becomes an obsession. Obsessing over meals, bra cups, and dress sizes. We think of how we can change to fit the mold to which we so desperately compare ourselves. Every time we pass a mirror we can’t help but to suck in and stare directly at our waist. How it could be smaller? Or at our boobs; think how can they be bigger? Or our stomach; how can it be flatter? But why do we think this? Because we constantly compare ourselves to an ideal we create in our head. We don’t necessarily compare ourselves to one specific image, but every image we have ever seen. We create an idealistic vision in our head with which we must equate. Whether it’s losing weight to be the same size as that TV star or if it’s being able to fit into that one pair of jeans from high school. We are comparing. Comparing ourselves to others and also to our own selves. We don’t choose the comparison, it chooses us. 

       When I was just five years old, my mom signed me up for a ballet class. I couldn’t wait to learn how to dance like a beautiful ballerina in my pink leotard, glamorous tutu, and white lace shoes. I felt absolutely radiant in my ballet ensemble, like how I imagined a bride feels on her wedding day. My grandmother took me after kindergarten one day and I remember wanting to be early so I could be the very first one there. The teacher was so nice and so welcoming that I knew I was going to like it. That was until all the other kids showed up. They were so tiny and their leotards and tutus fit much better than mine did. They were able to move in ways that I couldn’t and most had taken a few classes so they were much more experienced than I was. And then it happened. The moment that I realized why I was comparing myself to the others. I remember one little girl turning to me and asking me why I was taking a ballet class because I was too fat to ever be a ballerina. In that moment I wanted to just die. I held it together and when my grandmother picked me up from class, I told her I never wanted to go back. I was done with ballet. She asked why and I told her I didn’t like it. But the truth was that I wasn’t like the other girls. I had compared myself to their abilities, their body types, and their ballet uniforms. I was nothing like them. At just five years old I learned how the world worked. I learned that to fit in, you must fit the norm. 

       But what happens when we realize we will never fit that image in our head? Do we finally understand that comparing is not a healthy means of thinking? Do we finally accept our own bodies as beautiful because that’s what God gave us? Do we stop obsessing over comparison and start being happy for what we have? These are all questions I don’t think anyone has the answer to. They say happiness comes from within. But does it? I think it comes from looking at yourself and knowing that you may not be able to meet up to that idealistic image, knowing you are a body that has a purpose. Beauty is all relative. Each person has their own idea of beauty in relation to that idealistic image in their head. Only an individual can come to terms with her own beauty. But if we stop comparing our beauty to someone else’s, we may have an easier time accepting our own beauty, which is one step closer to happiness. 

— Jillian Curtis