This was written in 2006, before I completed my recovery process.
The comparison component of anorexia is common to the disease. It is a style of thinking that anorexics may apply to many, or sometimes all aspects of their lives. A large part of this stems from fear, and also, as for me, it was tied into my lack of having any other identity.
These fears involve thinking that they aren’t “good” enough, or worry how others may perceive them. It also happens where there is already self-doubt or loathing, to show more evidence for this irrational thinking pattern. As a personality trait, 'comparison' may be in place even before anorexia is an issue.
When weight loss occurs, and their bodies begin to change, the drive for perfection may take control. The comparison focus may narrow to weight, body, sizes, food rituals, rules and amounts, but I haven’t experienced much concentration on this in treatment. I know that for some there is a sense of shame associated with this.
The comparisons may also relate to those who have little or no sense of self outside of their disease, so there is a constant search for how they “should” be, or who they 'should' become.
This is an area in which I believe that comparison thoughts aren’t affected so much by weight gain alone, but with the eventual growth, understanding and acceptance of who they are as a person. When an anorexic is in the throes of their disease, there is often little insight about the future, about who they are, and who they can be. It isn’t possible for them to attain the necessary self-confidence to present themselves as who they really are, without needing to compare with others to determine self.
In recovery, I have seen the need to compare lessen dramatically. As I’ve discovered who I am, and accepted myself as the person that I am, I’ve been able to let go of the comparisons with others. I do find that at times I still notice others’ eating habits, in comparison to what my needs are for recovery, but the obsession I use to have with what others weigh, or what size they wear, in nearly extinct in my mind.
The difference is that now I don’t feel guilt or shame for the person that I am, especially in terms of my weight, or what my accomplishments are. I measure my worth in an entirely different way. I accept criticism from others much differently than I use to. I would like to be accepted and above reproach, but my life is not determined by the views that others have. If someone has a problem with what I look like, how I do things, or what my opinions are, that is their issue, not mine.
My thoughts on this aspect of recovery haven't changed much. I know that my personal strength and belief in who I am is even stronger now, almost four years later. I also know that I am light years ahead in terms of feeling secure in who I am, and no longer searching for the 'pattern' I must abide by.