I’ve always compared myself to other people. When I was a child, I would look enviously at my friend’s shiny dark hair and dark eyelashes, and couldn’t help feeling pale and boring by comparison. She would never have to rely on eyebrow pencils and mascara to look like she actually had features! Deep down I knew I could never look like that, so why did I always attempt to change my colouring with hair dye and makeup?
The problem is, whenever I’m weighing up my lot with the perceived lot of others, whether it’s their looks, talent or bank balance, I always tip the scales in their favour. Which results in feeling jealousy, and oddly, guilt for not being more like them. The guilt part tends to come from comparing myself to people who I perceive are ‘better’ than me. Better because they eat more healthily, have a tidier home, do more voluntary work, have more fun nights out, have better eyebrows (eyebrow envy is a recurring theme…)
I’m sure I’m not the only person that does this. It’s just so easy, with social media being the fuel to the fire, a gallery of evidence of other people making better decisions than you on a daily basis. And it’s not just our online friends that are guilt-fodder. I saw a Facebook post recently of a picture of Jennifer Aniston, looking her usual toned, tanned self. Nothing unusual there. But the caption really annoyed me; ‘Jennifer Aniston – 50 years old and still hotter than Kim K’.
Who decided that two women in the public eye must automatically be in competition for our collective lust? What has one’s hotness got to do with the other? And spare a thought for Caitlyn Jenner, who five seconds after announcing to the world her transition to a woman (in spectacular fashion on the cover of Vanity Fair) was being compared to others, looks-wise. Apparently she looks like the actress Jessica Lange. Or the singer Lana Del Ray. Welcome to the world of female celebrity, Caitlyn.
It reminds me of when Michael Hutchence (anyone born in the 90s, ask your Mum) allegedly dumped the model Helena Christensen for the TV presenter Paula Yates. GQ magazine put Helena on the cover emblazoned with the words “Seriously, would you trade her in for Paula Yates?” Because of course if you were to compare the two women based solely on their ability to have an international modelling career, then Helena would come out on top. But who knows what they’d be like in a relationship? Paula seemed like she’d be much more of a laugh… And that’s even before we start on talking about women like they’re second hand hatchbacks with too many miles on the clock. Ugh.
Of course the sensible thing to do would be to recognise that we all have our flaws and imperfections and that it’s never a good idea to judge a book by its cover. Someone’s successful career might be the result of a skewed work/life balance and the inability to switch off. Someone’s tidy home might be the result of a hired cleaner. Someone’s glossy hair might be a wig (you never know!). But when I’m feeling messy-homed and acne-prone and thin-haired and sugar-addicted and broke, it’s hard to resist the urge to compare myself to others and remember that I have my good points too.