When I think back to my childhood, I have only fond memories. I grew up with a lot of land to roam and explore, mostly in woods and open fields and I didn’t seem to have much of a care in the world with my overalls and rubber boots. I looked in the mirror almost never throughout the day. There was just too much to do, too many adventures to go on, things to discover, and fun to be had. And I was genuinely happy. I believe a lot of this happiness contributes to a childhood innocence of not paying bills, having to meet deadlines, worrying about big life decisions (marriage, college to name a few!) But I believe more than all of those things combined it was because there was little to compare myself to, and I never realized at that age, what a rare privilege that would soon become as I grew older.
And sure enough, I did grow older. And now I (we) live in a world where everything in life is a comparison and a competition, and thanks to social media, we can compare yourself at any point and time throughout the day, just scroll through and pictures of beautiful, seemingly perfect girls with the right make-up and lighting will flood your screen, leaving you only to look in the mirror and do just that: compare.
I teach at a school that is primarily all girls, and not only in this profession, but through blogging and even as an LDS missionary, I have talked to so many girls over the years on the subject, of various ages, and it never ceases to make my heart sink when I hear them talk about the comparisons that they make to girls they see on Instagram, or social media sites, or even in their classes, or in their social groups. Often thoughts like “I wish I had better…” or “I would probably get asked out more if…” and the list goes on and on as we critique ourselves and find reasons why we are not as good as somebody else.
And having thought about this a lot, I realized that something has to change. I am guilty of it myself, more than I want to admit.
We all are.
But with Instagram filters and make-up apps and Photoshop becoming more prominent now than ever in our society, we have to constantly fight against this urge to do more, to be more… More beautiful, more skinny, more talented, more flirtatious, more charismatic, more likable.
Society has sort of created this mold for us to fit into. And we never naturally fit into it, so we start to change things about ourselves, squeezing ourselves into this mold and we’re told this lie that our worth relies on fitting into it. And then (and if we can ever) fit into it, it changes. And you end up living your life trying to mold and change, and yet there will always be a mold to fill, always reasons why you’re not good enough.
I know about this from personal experience.
A few years ago I had an eye opening experience that I have reflected on often whenever I am finding myself “unhappy” with myself.
A few years ago I was working in a very high end salon, with some amazingly talented people. The industry I work in is breeding grounds for comparing, competing, and self esteem can be hindered because of that. I was recently home from an LDS mission and at first I didn’t find myself comparing or struggling to search for happiness in anything but my core beliefs. Then one day we had a celebrity hair colorist come into our salon from New York, and he came often to do training with us. I really, really admired him, and I was star struck by his talent and accomplishments. He genuinely is a really kind and wonderful person. He specialized in hair color, and I was speaking with him one day and found myself naturally seeking his approval because of his social status within our industry.
I had seen him with guest on multiple occasions, giving them advice on their hair color and what colors and tones would be best with their skin color and eye color, and since he was an expert, I wanted his opinion. At the time I had extremely dark hair, and I asked him what color he thought my hair should be. He had told me he thought my hair was too dark, and it needed to be lighter. I had always wanted to be blonde, especially because my natural hair color was pretty light. After that single comment, I spent the next six months going blonde, and my hair faced a lot of damage because of the enlightener, and spent months after that growing it back out to be healthy again. Lucky enough, I ended up liking the blonde, but I still reflect on that experience at how quick I was to change something about myself that I had always been, because of a single comment that was made. To no fault of this stylist, he was just doing what I had asked, but sometimes we go looking for ways to change ourselves, thinking somehow it will make us happier. While I did end up liking the blonde, I will be honest and tell you that having a different hair color did not make me happier.
In our society we as girls (and boys I am sure do this as well!) compare ourselves to the prettiest or most handsome boy or girl that we know, and sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it. But the thing that I have come to realize recently, is that we are all comparing ourselves to one another, until it becomes so that we are creating this false idea about perfection, to such an unachievable height that we end up comparing ourselves only to an allusion. If you compete in a competition that does not ever (nor ever will) have a winner, everybody loses. Even people of the highest social status, will compare and compete and while so doing, will never truly find a sense of inner peace. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where in the world you are, or what kind of family you come from, at some point you will find yourself comparing yourself. It’s human nature.
I learned recently that if you live your life trying to find happiness from the world and it’s opinions, you will never find it. Mostly, because the things that we expect to make the happy, the things that we are told from the time we are young will make us happy (to name a few: money, fame, popularity, certain products or brands, certain images or hair color, body type) they make us that way only for a short moment, before suddenly we need more, and that feeling we crave from the world of accomplishment and acceptance washes down the drain as quickly as our make-up.
We cannot look for the world for acceptance; it will never fully accept you. At least, not for long. And you will exhaust and depress yourself by trying to keep up, to change to the current mold, keep up with what is not even real in the first place. From my personal experience, after a long road of learning all of these things the hard way, there is freedom in knowing who you are; there is freedom from not turning to magazine covers and social media sites for praise and validation of your self worth. That is something that you have to find within yourself, and it is a peace and a freedom that I believe only God truly can give. His acceptance and his love will always far exceed that of the world, or your peers.
We cannot let our self worth or joy be defined by the world. We have to find peace and confidence in who we are, and simply stop comparing ourselves. It’s such a difficult thing to do, social media is plagued with it, all we seem to do is scroll through and find ways to compare with these photo shopped pictures on pinterest, or glimpses of peoples lives that are seemingly flawless, and we crave that lifestyle and the happiness that seems to come with it so much that we begin to question our own worth. The truth is there is not a single one of us that is more or less beautiful or worthy than the other. We are all capable of the same amount of happiness, and we are all born with different qualities and traits, and flaws. We cannot compete with something that does not even exist, or the highlights of anothers life with our bad hair days, meltdowns, or failures. I have learned (and continue to learn) that we have to start focusing on our own blessings, and how to be happy with ourselves and our flaws and the way we were created. We will find freedom and a true sense of happiness that only God can bring to us, and we can find peace in our hearts and a confidence that all the make-up and photoshop in the world cannot recreate when we choose to not be defined by the world.
XOXO, MYKEL ELIZABETH