My first yoga class was in college nine years ago. It was at 4 p.m., during a rough relationship period (weren't they all in college?) and just in time to change how I think about myself and view other women.
The instructor said something in the third class that sent my mind into another dimension; I haven’t looked back since. She said “Do not compare yourself to your neighbor. Let go of competition.” As she said this I remember I was specifically looking at a girl in the front row who could easily touch her toes in a seated forward fold. And I wasn’t just looking. I was trying to catch up to her, I was feeling like I was somehow less because I had tight hamstrings and a short low back and she didn’t. I was losing an unseen race of self worth.
I was crazy.
Sounds silly, right? But think about it- if you are a female and walk into a gym, you are not checking out the guys. Admit it! Most of you walk in, size up the women and compare your waist size, your rear view and treadmill speed. Something inside of us feels smaller or lesser. Maybe you even count cellulite dimples. Maybe you feel something whisper “Yes!” with a pumped fist inside of you when you can out-lap the grandma in the pool. Maybe we get excited when the skinny chick gets swollen during her pregnancy or your girlfriend orders a naughty dessert and might gain weight.
We are existing alone under the control of fear.
Comparison is rooted in competition, and competition is rooted in fear. Fear that if someone is thinner, faster, younger, richer, or can touch their toes in yoga, not face-plant off of the step or avoid sweating a small version of the Great Salt Lake onto the cycle room floor- then they are better than you. They win. When they win you lose.
This is a lie. It is a convenient lie that is whispered to women everywhere to alienate, depress and stimey sisterhood, individual progress and happiness. When we can see that our self worth is inherent and divine and doesn’t have a darn thing to do with whether we can balance on one foot in tree posture then we gain power. In giving away the power of competition and deciding to live our lives in love and not fear- then we gain peace. We can serve other women freely. We can trust. We can gain real friendships. We can lead. Our physical health and abilities will exponentially expand in all directions. We’ll feel a deepening of our essence, our intelligence, and the real “us” as well as see our muscles and hearts strengthen.
Do you catch yourself comparing? Competition in the gym usually doesn’t stay inside the gym. Mental comparisons are probably running dialogues many of us have that extend to strangers in the store, to women in our families, to women at work and church...making them our enemies. Making these comparisons is based on fear, fear that we are not good enough. We ARE good enough. This imaginary race we’re running in our heads isn’t real, and it’s used against us to stop our progress. The images we see and compare ourselves to in the market place convince us the race is real and not imagined so that we’ll buy their products to win.
It is time to stop living life out of fear. It is time to stop making decisions, buying things, faking things, and having tiresome emotional reactions, based on fear. Fear makes the people around us our enemies. That chick who can touch her toes in yoga class or ran a mile on Saturday? She is not your enemy. Maybe you don’t even see it happening in your own mind process, but women tend to compare their weaknesses with the strengths of others. And it’s OK to have weaknesses- and it’s OK to have strengths. We can let ourselves and other people have strengths!
Remember that you are good enough. No amount of exercise, clothing, jewelry, or comparison with other females is going to make you feel good enough. Only you can make you feel good enough. And you deserve it.