Comparison & the myth of “Her”.

This is a love story. Not the one you’d expect or the one I thought I’d write. It has more villains than heroes, more deception than truth, more selfishness than sacrifice. It’s not even about a boy or finding the One or being saved by a man. It’s about a girl, small and shy and a bit lovely. But the important chapters aren’t about the romance or princes or happy endings. She does find those things, but that’s not the real story. The real story is about a woman who finally, after 25 years, learned how to love her body. Which may seem silly. But it’s really not, because even though we watch movies and read books about evil witches and horrifying dragons and dark magic and ruthless men, the real villain in a woman’s story is often to be found in her own house. My nemesis, you see, was the mirror. A silent, harsh critic fueled by insecurities born in the midst of a culture void of love and grace and compassion. It took in my imperfections and launched them back as arrows to my heart. Only now have I begun those dislodge the arrows and lay them down, and I fear for the scars they’ll leave behind. The pain that might not heal. The marks that will be left because I could not protect myself.

I often think about what it is that breeds the idea within a woman’s mind that’s she’s not enough. Not beautiful enough or skinny enough or sexy enough or smart enough or edgy enough or daring enough. Who plants that seed inside of our hearts and what poisonous well is keeping it watered and growing, strong enough to strangle our identity and self worth and spirit? A vicious weed that silently invades the forest.

We look at society to cast blame. We see commercials that feature models far skinnier than “real women” could ever be. Commercials that say if I buy their makeup I can have flawless beauty at the pixel level. My body has been reduced to pixels, digitized and dehumanized, an object able to be airbrushed to perfection with the right tools.

I’m no longer beautiful but simply have the potential for beauty.

But, someday maybe I can look like her. Or her. Or her. We spin around, catching glimpses of the women we could become if we try the right things. If we read the secret diet books and buy the expensive make up and wear the right clothes and dye our hair this certain color and tan our skin, we can be like her. Her. This culturally-approved perfect, gorgeous, sexy, beautiful woman. We pin our hopes and struggles and insecurities and self worth and ideas of beauty on this woman we’ve essentially created in our imagination. She doesn’t exist. She will never exist. But we want to be like Her so much we ache with disappointment when we step on the scale or look in the mirror or stand in the dressing room with a pile of discarded too small clothes at our feet.

This faceless, perfect creature becomes our enemy and our goal. We battle against Her and against ourselves. But an invisible enemy is hard to fight, so we give Her a face. The face of our sister or friend or neighbor or role model. We wage a war with ourselves on Her body, hating Her and wishing we were Her.

Then we begin to break. Slowly at first. Little chips and nicks around the edges. Then a crack. One here and another there. Eventually they meet and then find another. We begin to realize our own fragility. Not because we are weak, but because we are human and can only take so much before it’s too much. You can only hold yourself together for so long before you’re tired and and empty; drained of happiness and passion and life and joy.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that comparison is the thief of joy. Let the truth of that sink in for a moment. Now, let me say that I believe comparison is a thief, period. It steals our hope and love and peace and smiles and relationships and worth and sense of self and leaves behind mere shadows darkened with doubt and  sadness and fear and struggle and disgust and loneliness and distrust. A distrust of others and ourselves. To compare is to create standards and ideals and rights and wrongs and almosts but not close enoughs. Comparison is defeat at our own hands. It is the weapon used against our heart and soul and body; a self inflicted self destruction.

Destruction. To cause damage. To remove something from existence. To destroy utterly and beyond repair.

We are not taught to love our bodies for what they are; we are taught that they can be better. We are told they should be like Hers.

We don’t know how to look at the curves or the angles or long limbs or pale skin or freckled face or gray hair or brown eyes or small breasts or too big hands or broad shoulders or short torso or hips or thighs or stomach without finding a manifesto of flaws. Each moment in front of the mirror is a moment of pain.

I wasn’t taught to love my body. And I could blame culture and society and Hollywood and Her and my parents and the mirror. I could forever look back on all the years I tore myself apart with frustration and defeat. I could carry those feelings into tomorrow, wrapped around my body like an ill-fitting dress that I can’t or perhaps won’t give away. I could compare myself to Her for the rest of my life, never feeling good enough or beautiful or worthy. I could carry a hatred for Her in my heart.

Or I can start a new chapter, here in this moment. I can leave the dress behind, offer myself grace, and embrace Her as woman with a heart and soul and a shared history and struggle. I can believe in the truth that I am enough and I am worthy. I can let go of perfection and comparison. I can love myself, wholly and without conditions. Because as much as we want to live in a society that doesn’t encourage women to battle against each other, we must begin with ourselves. We must start with our own bodies. We must conquer the mirror and the fears that linger in the reflection, even if it means starting over every morning. And then we must help each other. We must take Her hand and stand together, because she is not the enemy. She is our sister and cousin and friend and mother and daughter and neighbor. She is us. And today is the day we fight together.

{Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter >> @cassiclerget. I’m pretty entertaining.}