One of the ways we become dissatisfied with ourselves is by believing that the grass is greener in other pastures. We imagine how happy others must be, observe couples and assume they have fairy tale relationships, envision the lives of certain—rich, thin, wealthy, famous—folks as flowing from one flawless moment to the next. And, sadly, we view bodies the same way: this one looks just perfect, that one’s the American ideal.
We see a person with a “perfect” body and assume she achieved it effortlessly, naturally, whereas she may suffer from anorexia or bulimia, have had plastic surgery, may spend hours at the gym body sculpting, or may put excessive amounts of time and money into getting clothes to look just right. Just as we aren’t privy to all the snags in relationships—the fights and nights couples go to bed angry, their disappointments and regrets—and can’t know about the enormous job stresses and fears of failure of celebrities, we don’t have the whole picture with anyone who has an “ideal” body. Of course, not everyone pays a price for having one, but we have to be careful about making assumptions without sufficient information.
Perhaps it’s human nature to envy, but it’s a dangerous emotion because it pulls us out of ourselves. Let’s face it: no one has the perfect life, just as no one has the perfect body forever. However, every time we think that someone does, it diminishes our achievements because we feel we don’t measure up. We think in all-or-nothing terms, as if somewhere out there 100% success or happiness exists, when the truth is we’re all muddling along. If you are prone to making assumptions about and envying perceived perfection, come on back down to earth. It doesn’t exist. All we get in life is the chance to make mistakes and improve them, the opportunity to do the best we can with what we’ve got.
You will never recover from your eating and body image problems by casting glances in your neighbor’s yard. That’s her land, her seeds, her efforts, her luck. Your yard consists of what you decide to plant, the care and attention you give to your little patch, your estimation about how well you’re doing with it and how satisfied you are with your harvest. People who are the happiest (maybe not the most successful, but happiest), focus on their own life and not those of other people. They’re so busy planning and planting that they have no time to look over and see what’s on the other side of the fence. It may be hard work to retrain yourself and stop comparing your body (or life) to others, but it’s a shift in focus that is necessary for growth.