Why I’m Beyond Comparison

I've finally learned to stop comparing my insides to other people’s outsides

Photograph by Getty Images

I like to think of myself as a fairly confident person. I’m not overly concerned with your approval, for example. And I’m not scared to drive across the country solo. I don’t consider myself to be any raving beauty, but as my old friend Alicia once told me, “There are a lot of people out there who look a lot worse than you.”

That’s why it irks me when I compare myself to others. I mean, if I compared myself to that poor woman of indeterminate age downtown who yammers to herself as she tries to get into bars where she’s already been banned, yeah, I’m doing great. But that’s never who I pick.

I compare myself to bloggers who are funnier than me, or even worse, Anne Lamott. Or the woman at work who never, ever seems to have cat hair on her pants. Or my friend who’s my age and 76 butt sizes smaller. OK, I realize that technically butts don’t come in sizes, but you know what I mean. Hers looks like two perfectly halved cantaloupes, while mine looks like a bag of packing peanuts.

And you know, if I just sit here in my house and mosey about my afternoon, I feel pretty good about myself. I’m gainfully employed again after a long bout of laid-off-ness, people are reading what I write (even when I write things like “laid-off-ness”), I’m in a good relationship, my friends are all healthy. I mean, things are going pretty well.

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But then I’ll do something stupid like go to dinner somewhere that caters to the young. All of a sudden, I’m a middle-aged schlump who will never have another moment of pretty again.

Or God forbid I go on Facebook. I have 830 Facebook friends, all of whom have made me feel inadequate at some point or another. Oh, look, this one just ran 3.36 miles this morning. This one is celebrating 20 years of bliss with her “best friend.” (I truly abhor it when people say they’re married to their best friend. You shouldn’t be married to your best friend. You should have a best friend separate and apart from your significant other. At least that’s what I think. But what do I know? I’m divorced. Aaaaand we’re back to me feeling inadequate again.)

I can compare myself to others and feel bad about how I dress, what music I like, the size of my house, the obedience of my dogs and also my hair. Especially my hair. Have you seen that new woman on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?” The one with the waist-length shiny black hair? I felt my follicles frizz in defeat, looking at her.

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What I need to remember is I’m comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. Maybe that perfect-butted friend is having a terrible time with money. Maybe Miss Cat-Hair Free is convinced her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and taking control of her lint brush is all she can control right now. Maybe that jerk with the shiny hair battles depression. (I certainly hope so.)

The point is, no one knows what’s going on in anyone else’s psyche. And even though things look perfect from my end, they may not sleep as well as I do, or feel as appreciated. Maybe none of the people I just listed wake up and enjoy how sunny their house is. Maybe they don’t have fun at work the way I do every day.

It seems obvious but it’s so easy to forget. People’s outsides don’t tell us much, other than to point out to us what we’re feeling insecure about.


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