I’ve been living in Soho, and I will admit: occasionally the models get to me. (Okay, it’s technically the Lower East Side, but being from the Midwest, I like to consider it Soho.) I waver between two opposing extremes, body negative and body positive, both near-delusions:
☹️ Stumbling along, like I’m just learning to walk, while these women (10 years my junior) prance down the street.
😊 Seeing the same avocados in a model’s shopping basket and logically concluding that we are basically both models.
☹️ Googling how to open one’s growth plates in order to grow a foot taller.
😊 Noticing that I have the same handbag as that model. Taking that as confirmation that we are basically both models, and who needs a contract for confirmation anyway?
☹️ Wanting to reach out to touch the long flowing manes of these unicorns, stopping myself, and petting a puppy instead.
😊 Noticing that we both have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, i.e. we are the same.
☹️ Feeling small as a shoulder grazes my ear.
😊 Feeling tall as I spot them at a distance and think, “it’s only a few inches difference.”
☹️ Wishing it was 200 years ago or whenever my body habitus was the best to slay (literally).
😊 Feeling cool that I get to live in this neighborhood full of attractive people, you know, people like me.
☹️ Wishing I was Scandinavian.
😊 Feeling smug and unique about my low cheekbones.
☹️ Questioning the baguette I am eating which looks suspiciously like a model’s arm.
😊 Responding to that tourist who asks me for directions, OMG thank you! You think I’m from here!
So is this daily dose of models good for me? I could argue that the impact on my opinion of my looks evens out in the end. Sometimes I come out on top (thanks social comparison theory), other times they do (hello, body image). What is clear, though, is that over and over, I am exercising and strengthening the path in my brain that says: Compare yourself to them, that’s how you will know your worth.
Obviously, this can open a deep, dark rabbit hole of feeling super ugly and/or becoming a mean girl. Nowadays, we’ve all heard that comparing and judging are bad and that we should just be our best selves and feel good about this. Ideally? Sure. Realistically? It’s hard to imagine a world in which we never compare ourselves, whether to our past selves, role models, or people running in the same direction. Comparing can be helpful, like in running from danger (or towards the free food), but it can be harmful if our sense of self is very vulnerable.
In this situation, comparing myself to models is pretty pointless (super pointless). Eventually, eliminating “the model” as an ideal and finding satisfaction in my current state of being would cut off the impulse in the first place. In the meantime, how to start weakening this pathway? When I’m walking outside, I will practice thinking differently—being present, noticing each person, and enjoying the diversity that I am lucky to be surrounded by, a land of unicorns.