The other day I was checking out at the grocery store when I 
happened across a photo of the lovely Jennifer Lopez looking even more lovely 
on the beach in a tiny red bikini. The headline read, “How J.Lo Got Her Body Back.”
J.Lo, you see, is also the mother of boy and girl twins born roughly a week 
apart from mine. As I admired her perfectly taunt abdominals, I couldn’t help
 but think of my own midsection. My belly was barely keeping it together
 underneath a pair of too-tight-but-used-to-fit jeans and a baggy shirt.

While I’m smart enough to know that:

1) most 
photos of celebrities are doctored;
2) celebrities
 like J.Lo have access to the best bodies money can buy;
3) celebrities 
like J.Lo often have people who cook them healthy, low cal meals; and
4) celebrities
 like J.Lo have the time and money to hire a personal trainer and work out for
 hours everyday,

I still couldn’t help but compare my post pregnancy muffin
top to her sexy bronzed belly…

Martha Beck, in Finding
 Your Own North Star points out that, as social creatures, we take the ascribed 
thoughts and opinions of a handful of people and combine them with the ascribed
 thoughts and opinions of various social groups (e.g. our family, peers, the 
media, etc.) and create what psychologists call “the generalized other” or what
Martha calls “The Everybody.” Our brain does this as a quick and dirty way to
 access what we consider the thoughts and opinions of The Entire Known Universe.


Russel Harris in The 
Happiness Trap says we do this because, as early humans (I think he means 
when we were cave dwellers), belonging to a group was essential for our 
survival. He writes:

“If your clan boots you out, it won’t be long before the 
wolves find you. So how does the mind protect you from rejection by the group?
 By comparing you with other members of the clan: Am I fitting in? Am I doing
 the right thing? Am I contributing enough? Am I as good as the others? Am I
 doing anything that might make me seem strange?”

Even though my rational mind realizes it to be completely 
irrational to compare my belly to J.Lo’s, I still do it because the media, and
 celebrity gossip magazines in particular, occupy a key spot in my very own
 version of The Everybody. As a mother of twins on the cover of a magazine, she 
is, in my mind, the very picture of what a mother of boy and girl twins SHOULD
 look like after 17 months.

The fact that celebrity gossip magazines are taking up space
 in my Everybody has helped me realize that I have some work to do.

Task number

Take a close look at who I’m letting into my Everybody and ask myself if 
their ascribed views and opinions serve me.

Task number two:

Put together a new
 Everybody made up of members that reinforce a more positive image of myself.

By the way, as a mother of twins, I think I look pretty 
damned good! If I look this good after 17 months, just think how good I’m
going to look in another year!

(My new Everybody helped me realize that.)

P.S. Are you addicted to approval? Check out my latest telecourse!

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5 Responses

  1. Amy, I think you look pretty damned good too! ~Tonia

  2. Tonya Leigh says:

    Hi Amy,
    Love this post! I’ve learned that if looking at a magazine or any piece of media causes feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, or just plain crappiness, it’s not my truth.
    I’ve traded in issues of Shape and Fitness for O Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Vanity Fair just because it feels better and that’s all I care about.
    I bet that under all the digital enhancement, J Lo’s midsection is just like most mom’s out there: not what it use to be, but who cares? We have brought amazing children into this world, and a 6-pack will never compare to that!

  3. Terri DeMontrond says:

    Fantastic Amy. I am currently reading The Happiness Trap, and it’s given me a couple of ‘pearls’ as well. Thank you for the laser-like clarity about yet another aspect of our collective “Everybody”, and a good explaination as to why we are drawn into comparing ourselves with others.

  4. Nona says:

    Brava, Amy! I listened to the SC call and it was just brilliant! I’m so glad you wrote about it here…

  5. Amy says:

    Thanks ladies! Tonya, yes it’s probably true about J.Lo. I’m willing to bet that she deals with the same kind of painful thinking about her own body too. Everything is relative and we could all benefit from a closer look at our Everybody!

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