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Wednesday, March 02, 2005 

By Comparison

Picture the following: A woman is teaching a room full of 13 year olds. Her hair is frizzy and falling out of the ponytail it was hapharzardly placed in. Both of her hands are covered with black ink (a product of erasing overheads), and she has sat in something quarter sized which becomes apparent when she turns around. This is somewhat distracting, but in addition, she also has some red sauce on her shirt that wasn't there before lunch.

Keep imagining. This woman has now dropped her keys once and her overhead marker has flown out of her hands THREE TIMES in three minutes. She shakes her head after the third time, but goes on teaching. The students are laughing.

This is not an uncommon scene for me. I am regularly that teacher, but I'm actually not all that self-conscious about it. It sounds horrifying, but I managed to nullify the embarrassment I felt about these things during my first year of teaching. I couldn't have continued if I hadn't.

I do things all of the time that are "embarrassing." That's what 75% of my blog is about. I've just come to the conlcusion that laughing at myself over things I can't seem to control like: when I can't walk and chew gum; when I inadvertantly imitate oral coppulation in front of the entire school; spill apple juice on my lap (making it look like I peed myself); or even misdiagnose myself with a form of facial jock itch. These things are funny. I laugh at them because there's really not much else I can do. And I am satisfied and contented with that position.

But before you start thinking that I'm all emotionally healthy, let's talk about things that I think I CAN change. When I was traveling recently, I spent a lot of time around a lot of very cute, successful women. I decided that I was not good enough as I am and I had to do more to make myself the best I can possibly be.

Yesterday I started Weight Watchers (again) and going to the gym (again). This morning, when asked why I was doing it AGAIN, I responded, "I never meant to be a yo-yo dieter... it just turned out that way." How did I end up like this? I believe that I'm an attractive person, but after comparing myself with others, I found there were things I could do to become more attractive.

Not that these attempts at self-improvement are limited to my physical appearance. I am trying to get more done in less time (which led to the reinstitution of the hour-by-hour scheduling of my days) and to be more selfless in my relationships. But the idea here is the same... what I'm doing is not good enough.

I saw a bumper sticker today that said, "Don't change the way you look/ Change the way you see." I want to do that. I've done it before... been able to see myself with the blind love of a friend instead of as a competitor in some sort of invisible contest... but that's just not how it is right now.

Right now, I compare myself with others, all of the time. It is how I know whether to consider myself successful or not. Pretty or not. Happy or not.

This is my way of navigating the human experience. I've done it since I was a child (a middle child) and needed to figure out how to do things. The way I learned most things was by observing others' actions and the reactions they recieved. Then I picked and chose to get the reactions that I wanted. It's all by comparison.

Not that I'm unique in this. Most people, I believe, compare themselves with others constantly. Whether it's healthy or not, it is a way of dealing with life. Comparisons are the reason I am self-conscious.

Although I've painted a slightly different picture here, I don't think that comparing yourself with others is wholly bad. I think that it can drive you to do more and become better, which makes you a better friend, spouse, parent, employee, etc. If we weren't self-conscious, worrying about what others think, we might be even more selfish.

I know I would be.

Kaycee...excellent, excellent post. What an intriguing point of view and it really made me think about if we weren't self concious.

Not that I have that problem in the LEAST.

I was laughing at your oral sex story, Kaycee. That's pretty funny.

It sounds like you take it in good humor. Which is good -- after all, what else can you do?

Kaycee, one comment on your last paragraph. I do not think we should compare ourselves to others to better ourselves. Last summer I hurt my back training for a marathon. By the fall I was unable to stand, my normally lean (minus the love handles) body plumped right up. 25 lbs (That’s 11 Kilos for Aidan) Now when I go to the gym and swim, its embarrassing to me that my body aint the leanest. I want to lose the weight, and I want it NOW. But I can not lose it because I feel like people are laughing at the man-boobs. I need to lose it for the fact that your hormones get messed up, I need to lose it for the fact that it adds stress to the joints. For the diabetes risk, for the high blood pressure, etc. I need to do it for real reasons, not made up reasons about my man-boobs.

Laughter IS the best medicine for self-consiousness!

I'm with you here K. If I didn't compare myself with others, I would never try something new: "If so-and-so can do that then I certainly could...with a little effort..." etc. Of course there is a fine line.

But I am ALL FOR self improvement; doing the things that stretch us, make us hurt to be better, things that are HARD. You only get one life and you can either go with the flow or decide WHERE you want to go.

Every once in a while I don't realize I am just going with the flow until someone I know wins a million dollars on a game show and I wake up and go "Oh wait, what am I going to DO today?" I'm under the impression that a little comparison is good for us...

I agree with Carrie Ann. Another way of saying it is that you are inspired by others after comparing their accomplishments to your own abilities. I am training for my first marathon right now, and have many examples in my mind of others that have completed a marathon. I have thought many times "if they can accomplish it, so can I!" But like Carrie Ann said, it's all within reason. There is an article (cover story) in Runners World this month about a man whose goal is to run 300 miles without stopping (that's like 11.5 marathons in a row) Inspiring? Yes. But I KNOW I can't do that!

Great post.

I agree that we need to use others for inspiration, but I think it can also have negative results as well...
if we can't keep up with the Joneses, we might give up all the way.
I guess my point is: makes sure the "Joneses" are setting a realistic 'bar'.

K. I think you do a nice job of showing how fine the line is between being self conscious in a good way and being self conscious in a destructive way.

I still think there is a difference between seeing someone as an inspiration and judging our own self worth againist them. If God wanted everyone to be as near perfection as possible, then He would have made everyone look like me.

Good point Cameron - man boobs and all.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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