By Kelly Sutton
The first topic for the Comparison Trap Series was House Cleanliness. Now we’re going to get REAL with talking about Physical Beauty.
REMINDER: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Comparison is act of examining the character or qualities. Trap is a position or situation from which it is difficult or impossible to escape.”
So within the context of mamahood, my definition of comparison trap is being stuck in the act of examining another mama or parent’s character or actions against yourself or a societal (made-up) standard.
Now we know, we usually want/desire what we DON’T have…
For me, it sounds a little like this:
- “I’m so skinny; I wish I was phat. If I just had a phat butt and hips with a thin waist.”
“My armpits are so dark!”
- “My hair is so thick; I wish it was more manageable.”
- My skin…
- My teeth…
- My stomach…
- My eyes…
- My back…
- My arms…
- My saaaaaagging boobs…
…STOOOOOP, the comparison trap had me stuck in a never ending cycle. The grass is not greener on the other side.
I’d look at another woman, especially another mother, and unconsciously measure myself up against her. For me, it was in an insecure way – wishing I looked better.
There’s a THIN LINE between hating and complimenting; constructive criticism and just plain hurtful judgment (whether it’s hurtful to yourself or the other person).
With my first child, I “snapped back” without stretch marks and even had a four pack on good days and a two pack on bloated days.
With my second child, the snap back was not a reality – no matter how much a breast fed, ate healthier (I don’t believe in diets), exercised, etc. So I found myself in the comparison trap more often.
I’d eat a meal and my stomach looked like I was 15 weeks pregnant again lol! So I’d feel insecure about the shirt I was wearing.
The physical beauty comparison trap is one of the deadliest traps (my opinion of course) because we SEE it. We walk up to someone, notice their smile, hair, clothes, shoes, etc. We look in the mirror at ourselves and decide whether or not we feel good about ourselves each day.
The physical beauty comparison trap causes people to change their bodies in ways that may be deemed medically unnecessary.
The physical beauty comparison trap causes people to have emotional and mental damage.
*Northwest Mamahood is a safe space that appreciates and supports our journey through mamahood. Therefore none of the lessons I’ve learned about PHYSICAL BEAUTY are everyone’s truth.
Top 3 Comparison Trap Lessons Learned:
o All bodies are not the same. This sounds like a duh, but we definitely need to make this plain. Literally, there are different body types based upon your personal genetics and hormones. Then add into the equation access to healthy food options, opportunity for physical activity, and varying health conditions that affect the body – the perfect body does not exist. An individualized healthy body exists for each of us.
One myth I’ve personally debunked is if you breastfeed, all of your baby weight will go away since you’re burning about 5000 calories a day. Super false. I’ve seen this first hand with family and friends; just because you breastfeed, doesn’t mean you’re all of a sudden going to loose weight from nursing. You body type will play a role in how breastfeeding will affect your body.
In addition to body types, there are also body shapes within those body types.
o Physical Beauty Starts in the Mind – Goodbye insecurities, hello CONFIDENCE. Goodbye self & peer hate, hello acceptance.
Being an educator in the community you grow up in is interesting because undoubtedly you end up teaching the children of the people you’ve gone to school with. What’s even more interesting is the notice that our offspring tend to have the same lens of beauty as we, the parents, do.
For example, the “mean girls” in high school, definitely had kids that were judgmental to their peers and deemed mean by their peers.
Personal example, I struggle with being insecure, so I often ask my partner, “How do I look today,” in hopes of seeking extrinsic approval. Now my son does the SAME thing everyday, multiple times a day.
In my mom circles I notice the kids that are already self conscience about their body image in terms of weight, the mothers are always talking about their dissatisfaction with their weight.
The cycle is vicious.
Beauty starts in our minds. What you believe about yourself is taught to your offspring.
What you believe about yourself, affects the circle of people you engage with. Birds of the same feather flock together is not a mystery. Humans tend to hang out with other humans who think and behave similarly.
o Expect Change! First off, change is not a bad thing. Cliche right?! Nope, change is a matter of fact. Physically we age and so will our beauty. I must admit, I think the older I get, the more I recognize my own beauty, therefore the more beauty I exude. Maturity.
Secondly, having children and growing older is not a bad thing either. In general, people in the Western culture stray away from “getting old” by dying hair, wearing makeup, changing (lie about) their age, etc. But in many cultures, those physical beauty changes are valued. The gray hair, wrinkled skin, tough hands are characteristics people desire and wear with pride.
Physical change is bound to happen. Embrace it. Look forward to it. I hope you’re in companionship or community that loves you for who you are. I’m grateful I have that.
Exercise, healthy eating, and healthy life style choices will affect the changes on and the longevity of the body.
So expecting change is a natural part of life.
When I catch myself in the act of comparing (because it’s a natural human instinct), I practical way to combat the comparison trap is to stop and then compliment myself.
Seriously, I compliment myself because the comparison trap will put you in a perpetual negative space. It’s called positive self-talk. I learned that term through teaching social emotional curriculum to primary aged children. Trust me, it works!
A simple positive self-talk statement like, “I am beautiful today,” can help keep you from the trap.
When you receive a compliment say, “Thank you.” Try not to make up what could be doing better or you deny the compliment altogether.
Mamas, it’s a process. Try to make sure it’s a conscience process to help decrease negativity.
We’ve got this!
Previous Comparison Trap Series Topics
Upcoming Comparison Trap Series Topics
o Kid Behaviors
o Kid Intelligences
o Food Choices
o Marriage & Parenthood
o Screen Time
o Goals & Accomplishments