Kate’s Story: The Art of Overcoming Comparison
By: Kate McCallum
Undergoing puberty is uncomfortable within itself, but the element of comparison is our true source of our insecurity.
Throughout our teens we often find ourselves grouped with other people similar in age, whether that be in classes at school, sports teams or extracurricular activities. This makes it particularly difficult to avoid directly comparing our physical development to others during puberty.
When I was 14 years old, I found myself at sleepaway camp, wide eyed and silent as other girls in my cabin talked about their period horror stories. Having been a late bloomer, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to use a tampon, or the infamous pain of the period cramp. Although I knew that my development was entirely out of my control, I was unable to shake the feeling that I was a lesser member of the cabin than my more physically mature friends.
This overwhelming feeling or self-doubt is unjustified, but nevertheless a common feeling of many girls throughout and after puberty. It stems primarily from the side by side comparison of our unique minds and bodies to those who surround us, however illogical this may be.
It is important to recognize that our bodies develop in unique ways and at different rates, due to genetic predispositions, racial differences, environmental variables and numerous other factors. No two people will have exactly the same puberty experience, which is what makes them such special individuals.
Even so, comparison is a natural human response to social settings, which is why I’ve outlined multiple strategies that I’ve used to promote self-confidence, and overcome comparison.
Lead Open Conversations With Peers
Comparison becomes most dangerous when we compare our experiences and challenges to the glorified image of another person's journey through puberty. This plays into the notion that “the grass is always greener on the other side”. When in reality, every tween or teen has struggled with the inevitable difficulties presented by puberty. To overcome the illusion that your peers are facing the ideal puberty experience, it’s valuable to lead meaningful conversations regarding the unique challenges of being a teenager.
These conversations may look like; sharing worries and concerns regarding your bodily and emotional changes or responding to the insecurities of others in a non-judgemental way. Above all, it is imperative to vocalize that while each of your experiences differ, all teens are united by the new challenges thrown at them throughout this unfamiliar period.
While it may be intimidating to take the steps towards initiating these discussions, it is so important towards dismantling the stigma around our collective puberty problems.
Situate Yourself in Uplifting Environments
Throughout my tweenage years, I found myself escaping insecurity and finding a new sense of self-confidence when I surrounded myself with friends, family and teammates that made me feel empowered. I found my niche when playing ice hockey, and discovered that when I built a team of uplifting girls around me, my worries regarding my pace of puberty had dissolved.
While this community will look different for you, it is so important to find a group of people who validate you, and remind you that you are worthy because of, not despite, your unique traits. It can be exhausting to feel a sense of judgement from others while you’re combating the insecurities inherent to this period of your life. I encourage you to seek out those people who don’t provide a source for negative comparison, but rather celebrate you for your differences.
Curate Your Social Media Feed
Puberty is challenging in and of itself, but the added difficulties of being a tween in our technological world can be extremely taxing on your sense of self. Social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok have exacerbated the self-consciousness that many girls experience as they undergo changes, by imposing ideals on how a girl should look and act. This readily accessible source of comparison gives us a critical lens through which we see ourselves, and a skewed understanding of womanhood.
Fortunately, this source of comparison can be easily combated by unfollowing or “muting” social media users who don’t communicate an empowering narrative, or act as a source of insecurity for you. Additionally, it can be tons of fun to research accounts and users whose posts develop your confidence. This may circle back to users who appeal to your unique interests, and solidify your belief in your unique and evolving self.