It has traditionally been thought that women who compare their body to others' do so at a cost to their own body image. But a new Canadian study has suggested comparison is not necessarily damaging.
According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, women who frequently compare themselves to others can actually develop a more positive body image and a healthier attitude towards diet, provided they deliberately exercise compassion towards the women they compare themselves to.
Researchers found that, once women did not view other women as competitors, the negative psychological affects of comparing themselves to other women were reduced.
The study, which was published in the journal Body Image, involved 120 women with an average age of 20.7 years.
The women were divided into three groups, and each group was given a different "self-help strategy" to trial when they made a negative comparison between their body and that of another women: a compassionate strategy (where participants adopted a care-giving mindset towards the woman), a competitive strategy (where participants thought of ways they were better than the other woman) and a distraction strategy (where participants counted backwards from 50 in intervals of three).
“In a world where it is increasingly becoming easier to focus on competing and comparing oneself with others, especially with social media and other technological advances, this research is an important contribution to eking out more space for us to practice compassion in our daily lives,” said PhD candidate Kiruthiha Vimalakanthan, who co-authored the study.
The study follows 2014 research by the University of Waterloo, which found self-compassion was similarly key to positive body image.
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