The fact that society thrives off of the embarrassment, detriment, and faults of certain individuals is one of the most damaging qualities of our civilization; all you need to do is turn on the TV and look at what is currently on. Rarely will you ever see a show that highlights the accomplishments of inspiring individuals, but instead, you will see programs that focus on how terrible a celebrity looked at an award show.
I drove past a newsstand the other day and saw a field of magazines with phrases plastered on the covers such as “Who wore it better?” or “Who’s cellulite is in this picture?” This type of content is produced because the content creators know it will create a stronger reaction amongst viewers, thus creating a demand for stories that hold these types of negative outlooks. It creates a never-ending cycle that encourages readers to pick out the qualities we deem “ugly” or “unappealing” when viewing others. However, if this is the way we’re being taught to view celebrities or other well known figures out of our reach, what does this do to how we perceive our peers?
If we allow it, society’s standards will begin to mold our perspective into one that summons us to live life as if it is solely a game of comparison. Who can wear it better, who can do it better, who has less cellulite when zoomed in on, or who has the best relationship (#relationshipgoals anyone?)? Just think back to those prom days when you got to wear that perfect dress you spent months trying to find, only to discover that another girl in your class was wearing the same thing. In that moment, you have the mental capacity to choose whether or not you will do a quick mental episode of “who wore it better” or to simply enjoy your night without letting any jealousy kick in. It all comes down to how you react to a situation.
Imagine how different life would be if we thrived on encouragement and support opposed to competition and hate. While schools can be a positively influential space to learn, school is also a breeding ground for learning to compete in life. In a way, it teaches us to strive to be better than everyone else (and it’s not always healthy competition); often times, it’s all about who can earn the highest grade or who can get the gold colored graduation robe to show everyone you maintained a 4.0 all four years, or who can be the most popular.
It’s not terrible to have a competitive side (because it is necessary for maintaining a drive to succeed in life) but not everything in life is a competition and there are plenty of instances in our daily lives in which we have the option to choose to support or demean one another.
For example, I was listening to the radio the other day, and heard the host talk about how Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez were fighting each other to be the most followed person on Instagram. His co-host asked what made him think that and he said, “Well, Selena just passed Taylor’s amounts of likes on Instagram and immediately after that happened, Taylor posted a picture of herself in a bikini to try to get more followers so she could get back on top.”
First of all, this outlook pits women against each other and it breeds jealousy for no reason. Instead of searching for ways to create hostile and divisive environments, why not work on creating an atmosphere of encouragement? Life isn’t all about “who can do it better;” rather, it should be about how you can do YOU better. It won’t change overnight, but being more conscious of how you view others will have a largely positive effect on how you treat them—and yourself. Enjoy life without adding any excess stress. ;)
My challenge to you this week:
If someone shares an accomplishment or really exciting news with you, be more aware of your initial reactions. Are you genuinely happy for them or are you feeling a sense of jealousy because you feel you could have “done it better?” There’s some food for thought!
By: Alyssa Lein Smith
Alyssa Lein Smith is a strong advocate of positive body image and women empowerment while having spoken on such topics to audiences ranging from middle-aged students to over 400 top-level executives in the corporate world; she is also a coordinator for the annual Love Your Body Fashion Show in Los Angeles. Additionally, her research paper that proposes implementable practices for companies to increase thought diversity and innovation was chosen by former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, along with a U.S. Bank, Womenetics and Delta Airlines panel for a national competition. Alyssa is currently writing a book for teens that addresses how to be successful in the stage of life they are in.
Social media: Instagram: @alyssa_lein