My seven-year-old son just started taking notice of how people come in different sizes and shapes. He talks to his Daddy about how to get “big” muscles and pretends to do push ups. And, just the other day, as I innocently sat on the couch wearing a pair of shorts, he pushed at the flab under my thighs and said with enthusiasm, “Wow, Mom! Look at how big this is! Wow! You’re sooo huge! Good job, Mom.”
Not exactly, son. Not exactly.
I tried not to over-react. Part of me wanted to yell at him, “That is NOT a compliment for a girl!” But, since I just published a book on body image, I’m supposed to be as neutral as Switzerland when it comes to body shapes and sizes. I must teach my children that people come in a variety of packages and we love and treat them all, just the same.
Freaking out that my son told me my thighs were huge likely confuses this messaging.
So I just did took a deep breath and screamed on the inside.
Confessions of a Chronic Comparer
See, I’ve always struggled with comparison. As a girl and teen, I’d look at my peers to try to figure out how my size and shape ranked. And, the biggest loser always seemed to be me—me and my fat thighs, that is. Those same thighs my seven-year-old praised have caused me stress as long as I can remember.
I tried to diet and exercise my body into submission, but I could never arrive at a place of contentment. I went through my twenties thinking a man’s love might help me feel better. But, all my comparing only seem to exacerbate once we said, “I do.”
Naively, I assumed that some day, I’d be free from all my comparison struggles. And, I thought that day would come when I changed my title to, “Mom.”
Only, quite the opposite happened.
Motherhood introduced me to a brand-new realm of comparison.
I compared my weight gain to that of every other pregnant woman I knew, saw on TV, read about in a magazine, or heard someone else talk about. Sure, I understood it was healthy to gain, but deep down I wanted to know where I stood in my own imaginary competition where the skinniest pregnant woman wins. I compared others’ custom nursery themes to my “nursery in a bag” set from the Target clearance rack. I compared what strollers they bought, what birthing classes they took, and the cuteness of their maternity wardrobe. I thought pregnancy made me tired but, seriously, all that comparison proved just as exhausting.
The baby arrived. Soon, keeping up in the game became even more complicated. Like a sponge, I absorbed every nugget of hearsay data on how other babies progressed.
Her baby slept through the night. Her baby ate on a perfect schedule. Her baby sang the alphabet song—at nine months old!
Consumed with where my little guy fit into the mix, I panicked. He hadn’t smiled. He hadn’t rolled over. Sleeping, yeah, that wasn’t happening.
Would he be slow? Was there a problem? Was I doing something wrong? Or, worse, was I just a bad mom (already!)?
If comparison was a disease, I suffered chronically. I needed to stop, but I didn’t know how.
Comparison’s Choke Hold
The mommy comparison game is rough, but it’s not the worst. Of the many ways women can—and do—compare themselves, the physical comparisons can cause the most damage. When we look at another woman’s body, compare it to our own, and then decide that having a different build, hair, height, or weight would somehow be better, an internal war begins—a fight with our body image.
Many of us struggle. Okay, that’s not true. I’m going to say most of us do. Some studies show that 98% of all women are unhappy with at least some part of their body. Other studies show that among moms, this number is higher.
Higher than 98%! Hmm . . . that’s a lot of women!
And, what’s even more interesting is that women who are battling comparison and body image are trying to fix it. I recently conducted a survey recently and found that most women, even Christian women, are doing exactly what I did. They try to change their bodies through exercise and diet, in order to find contentment.
Only that satisfaction never comes. There’s always one thing more to fix, always another body part to be “improved.” Once you get the six-pack abs for example, you don’t get to rest. You have to work to keep them.
The good news: there is a cure for comparison. In fact, I believe you can find a way to be content without ever losing the weight, getting the surgery, or even deciding to love your body just the way it is. I think our struggles with comparison and body image are much more basic than that.
Instead, we simply must know what we are fighting: lies. Lies that tell us women with big thighs aren’t desirable. Lies that tell us we’d have better marriages, vacations or lives if we looked more like the airbrushed girl on the cover of the magazine.
And, of course, the biggest lie of all we must battle every time we have a covetous thought is this: Having what she has won’t satisfy us.
You can have her hair, her sculpted stomach, her perfect skin and you still won’t be satisfied. Getting a better body, more affectionate husband, newer car, nicer home . . . none of this ever satisfies what we really long for. I think God did that on purpose.
God’s desire is for us to find satisfaction in him alone. All our striving to find earthly fixes for our temporary frustrations will feel futile until we realize that only Christ will satisfy.
It’s easy to say that. I get it. Practicing it, that’s a whole lot harder. That’s why I wrote Compared to Who?. I wanted my friends, other women I know who struggle with comparison and body image like I have, to find the freedom that always felt so elusive to me. In this book I try to give new answers. In a grace-filled and funny way, I try to shoot straight at what bogs us down and offer some help and hope for digging out of the bondage of comparison. I hope you’ll check it out.
Thank you to Heather Creekmore for today’s post! Portions of this post are excerpted from Heather’s new release, Compared to Who? copyright Leafwood Publishers 2017.
If you struggle with body shame, an imbalanced view of food, fitness addiction, or if you simply want to view your body through the lens of freedom, Heather’s book Compared to Who? The Proven Path to Improve Your Body Image is the book for you. In a conversational, woman-to-woman style, Heather articulates the thoughts and emotions we’ve all encountered while looking in the mirror.
I found myself challenged to view my body through a different lens. I realized thought patterns I’d accepted as truth were simply cultural ideals I had absorbed. Without Compared to Who? I would be struggling much more with the changes to my body in my second pregnancy, and I’m excited for a new perspective when I reach postpartum and beyond!
Buy her book here and be sure to spread the word with others! This is one book you want on your shelf!