That other woman over there? She is not your competition. Neither is the one on the cover of that magazine, or on that television show. The woman your ex is now dating? Or that woman from your boyfriend's office you are worried looks better than you? Not her, either.
Nope. None of them. It's time to stop viewing other women as an obstacle to your happiness.
I am my own worse enemy. And you are yours, too. We have let that toxic voice that's been programmed into our heads tell us that we have to be perfect. That voice has told us the only way to judge our own perfection is by comparing it to the "perfection" of other woman. But perfect doesn't exist and she's not your competition.
Even though you and I logically know the absurdity of striving for perfection, we are programmed from a young age to take notice of the most "perfect" looking woman we can find. And then the internal competition begins: How do I measure up to her? Her features, her body, her skin color, her hair, her clothes? Can I compete? How can I have a flatter tummy, a fatter (but not too fat) booty, longer hair, more radiant skin, thinner thighs?
The toxic voice in our head tells us if we don't succeed in achieving perfection, we've lost. And so we buy more products and criticize ourselves some more and we find someone else -- another woman -- to make us feel better about our dimply thighs or stubby eyelashes or crooked teeth or whatever imperfection we feel we have. (We can always find something, can't we?) When we look down on another woman, that voice is saying: If I can't win the race, at least I won't finish in last place!
Whether we are coming up short in our imaginary competition or we are pulling ahead, we still lose. We are losing due to our own self-judgment.
If you're romantically interested in men, viewing other women as your competition not only feels really crappy, it will only hurt you in your relationships with men or in your journey to find love.
Men don't expect you to be perfect. Men know they aren't perfect and unlike most women, they don't usually aim to be. In real life relationships, men aren't attracted to perfection. They might think that model looks hot, but he doesn't expect you to be a model. Most men wouldn't even prefer you to be. Don't let the advertising industry tell you different! There isn't a woman on the planet some man isn't attracted to, and not one of us is perfect.
The media, particularly the advertising industry, will try to convince you that men fall in love once they find the most beautiful woman they've ever seen. You might believe this without consciously recognizing it. It's an insidious and pervasive message we have heard our entire lives: Want love? Be perfect.
When a man says "She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen" what he's really saying is "this woman is so amazing that she has now become my personal standard of beauty."
How many of us have poo-pooed a compliment from a man because we couldn't allow ourselves to believe it? He has to be lying to think I look good in this outfit, because obviously I look fat, right? He can't really think I have beautiful eyes, because they're boring and brown, not green or blue or because my eyelashes are too short, says that voice.
If you turn down enough compliments, sure enough you will eventually become less attractive in the eyes of the person giving them. Men and women alike are attracted to confidence. If you lived on a desert island alone with a man and he told you he loved your smile, you'd probably believe him. But since you're comparing your smile to the smile of every woman you see in a magazine, you become convinced yours is nothing to write home about. If you're feeling inferior to other women OR if you're convincing yourself of your superiority to other women, guess what? You're missing the confidence that would truly make you your most attractive!
I'm not chastising you for not having "perfect," unflappable confidence. Everyone, male and female has their moments of insecurity. We are human and we crave love, acceptance and acknowledgment. All of us -- that's part of what makes us human.
We as women have been so brainwashed to think that love will come to us if we are lucky enough to be picked by a guy, and that in order to be picked we have to be the prettiest girl in the room. Are you ready to accept that's all a big lie?
Chances are, even that model on the cover of the magazine is judging herself. She's trying to live up to her own hype. She doesn't just have to "make this dress look good so other people so women will buy it." She has to "look so perfect other women will feel insecure enough that they will buy this dress and lots of other things to chase the unattainable perfection you represent when you are made up, styled and airbrushed." There is an army of people behind that photograph ensuring that is just the response it elicits in women like you and me.
If you are that model, or you were genetically gifted a physical appearance that happens to align with the current tastes of the dominant culture in which you were born, you are not exempt from that voice in your head. In fact, some of the most famously beautiful women in our culture have also been the most wracked with self-loathing.
There is a force that is greater than judgment, greater than competition and greater than feeling "less than." That force is faith.
Faith that you are perfect, just as you are, just because you are. Faith that your joy will multiply as soon as you make a concerted effort to stop judging yourself. Faith that the toxic voice in your head is dead wrong and in time, she'll stop shouting so loudly if you start telling her to take a hike. Faith that the man who's right for you won't be comparing your thighs or eyelashes or waistline to anyone else's, and faith that you might miss out on him if you're a master of the comparison game.
There's so much that is amazing about you. It's time for us, as women to uncover, cultivate and celebrate our amazingness and leave that toxic voice in the past, where it belongs.
Follow Francesca Hogi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DearFranny