Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Telling the truth Tuesday - Comparison is an act of vengeance against yourself

I'm pretty content with who I am and where I've gotten in my life. That's a fairly significant statement from someone who spent much of her life hating herself. But there are still a few character traits/flaws that continue to gnaw at my soul, causing disruption in the flow of inner peace. One of them is envy.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to look different. I had dark, curly hair and freckles while the Beach Boys were singing about blonde surfer gurls. I'm only 5'3 1/2" tall and wanted to be at least 5' 7".
If my hair was long, I'd see a girl with short hair and want that, or vice versa.

I've written about this subject extensively, including an essay (never published) called "I'll Never Be Miss America," and one essay called "Old Lady Arms," which was published (you can read this one in the articles/esssay tab on this blog). But despite the awareness and acceptance of this character trait (a much nicer word than flaw, don't you think?), I still have moments when I envy another woman for her appearance. It's not about wanting to look younger. At least I don't think it is. The funny thing is, the women I tend to envy take a great deal of care with their appearance. They put product on their hair, blow dry it, put more product on. They wear makeup. They spend tons of money on clothes. These are things I haven't been willing to make myself do. I only wear makeup if I'm going somewhere special or performing. I almost never blow dry my hair--it's naturally curly and I just fluff with my fingers and I'm done. And spending a fortune on one outfit. That just seems ridiculous to me.

When I used to attend 12-step meetings (I am not an alcoholic or addict, but I knew plenty), the slogans helped me navigate my way in the world in a much healthier way than I'd learned growing up. Sayings like: one day at a time, keep the focus on yourself, and be gentle with yourself, gave me moments of serenity. But the one slogan that speaks volumes to me now is: comparison is an act of vengeance against yourself.

Think about it. If you are comparing yourself to others and falling short, in your own opinion, than you are saying you are less than someone else. If, on the other hand, you compare yourself favorably to someone else, you are saying you are more or better than someone else. Either way, you are judging them or you.

I have done a lot over the years change my insides. A few years ago, I took steps to change the outside. I am maintaining a 49-pound weight loss. I wear clothing that shows my slimmer figure and I feel good about how I look (most of the time), even if I don't do anything to enhance it. I stopped dyeing my hair - it's now white. So why do I still torture myself with negative comparisons?

The good news is I don't stay in that place very long. I notice it immediately and am learning to laugh at myself. But I would like to get to the point where I no longer even go there. Where I can look at another woman and say, "Isn't she beautiful?" and not wish I was her.

Bottom line: I don't really want to be anyone else anymore. Being me is just fine. It's just these little momentary lapses, slipping back into old thought patterns. What about you?

Your turn. Fess up. Are you ever jealous? How do you deal with it?



Cyndi said...

That is so fascinating. You envy women who put way more time, effort and money into their appearance than you ever want to. I generally envy people who are thin myself. I've struggled with my weight my whole life. I've been a yo-yo. I lost a significant amount of weight a few years ago too but haven't maintained it. I'm not back where I started but not where I'd like to be either. So I envy women who are thinner than I and especially those who appear to put little effort into it. Some people are just naturally thin and can eat whatever they want and not work out. I am not one of those people. Dammit. :)

Karen Walker said...

Cyndi, I envy thin women, even though I guess I'd be considered thin now as well. I will never be one who can eat whatever I want. I just look at good and on come the pounds. It takes concentrated effort to eat well and maintain.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Oh Karen, what a powerful post. Your take on judging resonates. May I add one more form of judging few think of? Praise! At my 25th HS reunion in a moment of temporary insanity (long story about reason omitted), I volunteered to be the entertainment with a humorous speech, my one-and-only such performance, and I did myself proud. Later in the evening, one of the Popular Girls who barely spoke to me back then came over to me, looked me in the eye, and tenderly said, "You have really come a long way!" I knew she had only the best intentions, but DAMNATION! I felt like she'd socked me in the gut, and I wanted to scratch her face off. I really had trouble staying calm enough to remain civil as I answered, "Thank you." Who was she to JUDGE me, 25 years earlier or that night?!

Ever since that night I've been careful about praising people, looking for ways to phrase it as appreciation and gratitude.

Mason Canyon said...

I'm 5'4" and always wanted to be taller. Now, I guess I'm pretty much settled into the fact that that's not going to happen, if anything I'll get shorter. LOL. I guess we can't help but want something different about ourselves from time to time.

Thoughts in Progress

Tamika: said...

It's only been in the last seven years that I have wholely embraced my physical features. I do struggle with managing my desire for shopping. It has always made me feel special to look a certain way and have certain fashions. Basically I love to dress.

I'm learning now to harness that and not go to the extreme. I will always like nice things, but having them isn't everything.

Karen Walker said...

Sharon, ouch. I wish humans had a pause button we could push before something comes out of our mouths - or a way we could hear what we're going to say before we say it out loud.

Mason, I'll never forget the time I was at the hairdresser and a tall, lanky blonde walked in with long, straight hair. We looked at each other in the mirror and shared that each of us wanted what the other had. Blew me away.

Helen Ginger said...

I wonder if we ever reach the age or stage where we don't compare ourselves or are completely happy with ourselves. Can we ever shut up that inner voice?

Straight From Hel

Karen Walker said...

Tamika, ah yes, wanting nice things and balancing that with our budgets is a tough one.
Helen, sigh - I sure hope so. When I get to my deathbed I don't want to be thinking about this stuff any more.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I've never been pleased about the way I look. I have moments (if I've put on make-up - which is rare) that I can look in the mirror and be pleased, but those moments are rare. It seems to be to be a catch-22 situation, to pay attention to your appearance necessitates you taking pride in your appearance. It's all self-esteem, isn't it?

Ann said...

I have a tendency to envy people who live in organized bright spaces and people with wit. Contentment was another thing I envied. I still do at times. Contentment has been ever elusive in my life.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I have fleeting moments of envy, but then I remind myself that nobody’s life is perfect regardless of how pretty they are or how much money they have. It makes me content to just be me.

Jemi Fraser said...

I was always jealous of my sister growing up - she was always so friendly and comfortable around people. I'm so glad it never interfered with out friendship (we're still best friends). I don't feel jealousy much nowadays. Guess I got comfortable in my own skin :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Karen, you are thin!
Hey, I'm only 5'3" - I,ve always been short, but I finally realized it was "cute."
If your husband thinks you are beautiful, what other opinion matters besides yours?