But it comes so easily.
When you get to work late and tired, then step into the elevator with a colleague that’s an effortless Glamazon who always seems to be killing it.
When you see the posts of your college frenemy, who is always looking gorgeous and having glorious fun while doing exactly what she set out to do (at least on the Gram).
In these moments it’s so easy to compare yourself and your own life to what you see from other women.
I’m not going to give you a rant about how it’s not fair to compare your real life to the tiny sliver of someone else’s life that you get to see in social situations or your feed – because you know this already.
But even when you know comparison just makes you feel like shit, it can be hard to stop doing it. One of the reasons that we study and compare ourselves to women who feel somehow “better” than us is that we’re looking for information. We’re mining clues for how we too can be thinner, shinier, more successful, less anxious.
It’s not just about competing, it’s also about wanting to belong and trying to fit in. The story we tell ourselves is that if we can just be more or less (insert adjective of choice here) that we'll be able to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. And that sense of belonging is as vital to our emotional wellbeing.
But the things is: our sense of belonging doesn’t come from outside of us, it comes from within. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown explains how her research uncovered that fitting in and belonging are two very different things.
Fitting in requires us to assimilate and hide pieces of ourselves in order to please other people. It involves people pleasing and morphing yourself into whatever blends in. That often involves hiding how we really feel, especially when it's difficult.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up having things like managing difficult emotions modeled for me. What I absorbed was that feelings made people uncomfortable.
When managing emotions isn't modeled for us, we learn to shove anything that feels too intense or scary. Hiding these parts sometimes allows us to fit in, but it also leaves us feeling alone, often even when we're with people we cared about.
But true belonging comes from the opposite: it’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable and let people see you for who you really are. This doesn’t mean we have to wear our deepest, darkest secrets on our sleeves for everyone to see. It just means that to truly feel our sense of belonging we need be ourselves and be willing to be seen for who we really are.
Embracing this type of vulnerability is a practice and it takes courage. You can start with tiny steps, maybe just trying to be more honest about how you feel with the people you trust the most. Sharing something vulnerable and receiving empathy is a powerful experience. If it doesn’t go the way you want the first time, practice self-compassion until you pluck up the courage to try again.