by Shanzeh Khurram

Most of us tend to compare ourselves to others and then determine our self worth depending on how we measure up. This habit of comparing and competing might be addictive, but it can also be very harmful to our self-esteem, and lead to feelings of not being “good enough.”

As women, we’re taught to believe that there can only be one smart girl, one pretty girl, one popular girl. Most teen movies highlight this girl rivalry and further suggest that girls should view pretty, popular girls as threats. There seems to be one basic ideal—thin yet curvy, perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect features—that girls are expected to conform to. And that’s kinda impossible for 99% of the female population. Even though I don’t read magazines, I can’t help but be bombarded by them at the supermarket or grocery store: Women’s Health and Shape display real-life Barbie dolls with pore less faces and firm, thin legs. As I happen to glance at them, I can’t help but compare how I look with the way the models are, and I immediately end up feeling depressed.

If you really think about it, this whole comparing syndrome is absurd. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. People come in all shapes and sizes and are made up of hundreds and thousands of different qualities, habits, traits, and flaws. Someone else might be prettier than you, but chances are you’re better at something else. Just because a girl has thinner legs than you do or is more athletic doesn’t mean that she’s better overall or is more worthy of being loved. We often try to look for other peoples’ flaws to reassure ourselves of our worth; even though this habit might provide a temporary ego boost, it won’t help in the long run.

It’s not just limited to looks. We often compete regarding grades, talents, and accomplishments for the same reasons: we think only one girl at a time can be smart, funny, or talented. Some of us try to find some sort of weakness in the other person to reassure ourselves: if the girl is really pretty, we might focus on how she’s not that smart, or if she’s really talented and smart we’ll tell ourselves that no one likes her. This won’t work anyways, because you might just run into a girl who is super pretty, smart, and good at everything. It’s evident that this comparison battle is a losing game. Life isn’t supposed to be a competition. No matter how pretty or smart someone is, there will always be someone prettier or smarter–and you really don’t want to grow up to become a 40-year-old woman who compares her looks, husband, house, social life, and even her children’s SAT scores with everyone around her.

Many girls, in an attempt to make themselves feel better, put down someone that they feel is a threat by calling her a slut. The concept of slut shaming is just plain wrong. If another girl gets the guy you’ve liked for years, it can be very tempting to put her down by spreading rumors about her. This is usually what the girls I know do, especially if their boyfriend/crush leaves them for someone else: belittle their rival, label her a slut, and then talk badly about her in public, without bothering to hold the guy responsible. While the guy gets to walk away scot-free, or actually gains his friends’ respect, the girl ends up being blamed and having her reputation ripped apart.  This is ridiculous. Instead of sticking together, we pick apart other girls and make them feel bad so that we can feel superior. Attacking another girl’s sexuality is never acceptable.

What’s important to realize that it’s not about the other girl,  and putting others down will get you nowhere. Instead of trying to find fault with others, try to find something you like about yourself. If there’s someone you’re envious of, don’t go through her Facebook profile trying to find some bad pictures of her so that you can feel better. Don’t try to scrutinize her looks and rejoice when she has a bad hair day. And don’t secretly pray that she gets hit by a bus!

Instead, focus on what you like about yourself and how you can improve. Make a list of all your qualities and talents, and concentrate on building good self-esteem. This self worth should be permanent and should not depend on how many girls you’re prettier/smarter/more talented than. It’s important to have unconditional self-acceptance.

Instead of getting resentful when others do well, try being happy for them. Compliment those who you don’t like—it may sound counterintuitive, but it will help dissipate the negativity. Embrace other people’s successes and, most importantly, let go of the scarcity model. Just because someone else is extremely successful or pretty doesn’t mean that there’s less success or beauty to go around.

If you have really good self-esteem then it’s possible to stand next to Victoria Secrets’ models and still feel good about yourself. Comparing is futile and can be detrimental to your self-esteem. Next time you start comparing yourself to a girl in school or a model on a magazine cover, remind yourself why you’re worthy and focus on what you do have.