Two teen-aged girls stood in front of me in the Costco snack bar line. “Am I fatter or skinnier than the girl in front of the line with the True Religion jeans?” the blonde asked the brunette.
“Hmmm…I don’t really know. It’s pretty hard to tell because you both look kind of about the same size,” the brunette answered.
“Are you kidding me? Am I really that chunky around the waist? Maybe you need glasses. There’s just no way you could be right!” She rolled her eyes at the brunette and ordered a triple decker ice cream cone. “I think you’re forgetting that I work out five days of the week! What kind of friend are you, anyway?” she asked, then bit into her ice cream, rolled her eyes at her friend, and walked off.
We’ve all done it, if not aloud then in our heads. The sick little comparison game, where we envy another person or try to figure out if we are skinnier or fatter than another person. By the age of 17, we have seen over 250,000 ads. Most of them shout, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.” This leads to comparison and propels our heads into stinkin’ thinkin’ in which we compare our bodies with others. Sometimes we come out better, and sometimes we come out worse. But all-in-all, it is a lose-lose situation.
First of all, it’s a bad idea to hang out in your head. It’s a jungle in there! Hanging out in your head usually leads to negativity, and you certainly can’t be present with people if you’re hanging out in your head. Trying to figure out if your hips or ankles or other unassorted body parts are larger, smaller, fatter, or thinner than the woman ahead of you on the hiking trail is truly a waste of energy. Not only that, but it will eventually lead to contempt – either self contempt or other-centered contempt.
The run-down usually goes like this:
- Comparison, which leads to
- Competition, which leads to
- Contempt, which leads to
- Stinking-thinking, depression, and despair
I love what the apostle Paul said about being content with what you have: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Phil 4:11 I know he wasn’t talking about body image, but even so, it is not a far leap to use the same principle concerning how you feel about your body.
So how can we stop the cycle that leads to despair? First, recognize what you are doing. You might try to wear a rubber bracelet or something similar so you can snap it whenever you realize you are comparing your body to someone else’s. Then you can ask God to help you to re-focus your thoughts. Replace the stinkin’ thinkin’ pattern of comparison, competition, and contempt with healthy thoughts: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8) You will note that Paul didn’t say, in this passage, to think about other peoples’ fannies and compare them to your own! So get over it already, and stop the comparison trap before it gobbles you up.