I’ve said this before, but random private messages and emails from readers is more encouraging than words can describe. So, thank you to all of you who have ever reached out. You’re the bomb.com.

On top of saying nice things, sometimes people reach out for advice about something I’ve referenced on the blog, or a subject with which they think I might have some experience. Shockingly, no one seems to think I have experience solving really hard math problems. Where are all the messages asking for help with complicated equations? Whatever, I guess it’s not at all surprising that pretty much every inquiry revolves around relationships and food. Sorry, Mr. Lafferiere. (Anyone else really miss their high school calculus teacher?)

This week, I opened a Facebook message from a reader who told me I could use her plight as inspiration for a blog post. Be careful what you wish for! Because that’s exactly what’s happening.

I’m so grateful that she– let’s call her “Sarah” to make things easier, but obviously that’s not her real name– was willing to share with me (a stranger, other than what she knows about me from this blog) some of the things she’s facing in her life, because I know so many twenty-somethings are facing the exact same thing. I’m not technically qualified to give advice or anything, but I take it as a huge compliment when readers ask for my input or perspective, because what is the point of dealing with all the junk in your own life if you can’t use it to help others? Sure, tough times makes you “stronger,” but hopefully you can be the one who “learned it the hard way” for other people, too.

This is reason #755 I’m glad all my friends are having babies before me, so they can tell me all of the things to do and not do.

Do: Go through a little bit of labor at your house before going to the hospital.

Don’t do: End up accidentally giving birth to the baby by yourself in the hospital bathroom right after you arrive, during what was supposed to be a standard pee sample.

My friends have some hilarious stories (in hind sight). God love them.

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So, what have I gone already gone through that Sarah wanted some words of advice about? Trying to find “Mr. Right” while surrounded by lots of really smart, beautiful friends.

After giving some examples of her own life, the main question in her message was this:

“As a former pageant girl who is constantly surrounded by beautiful people, how do you deal with [comparing yourself to other women]? How do you stop yourself from thinking ‘I have to be prettier, smarter, more [insert whatever adjective here] to get the guy’?”

GREAT QUESTION, Sarah!

First of all, you are correct. I have lots of pretty friends– both in and outside the pageant world. It’s not that I choose them based on their facial structures, but I just can’t seem to get away from pretty women. If I were a guy, I’d be the luckiest son of a gun on the planet. Maybe they flock to me so that I can be the ugly friend..? Who knows. And that’s not saying I think I’m ugly or anything, but you get the gist. All I know is that my wedding pictures could leave people thinking I’m super shallow, because from the looks of it, I refuse to talk to anyone who isn’t hot.

The good news is that my friends also happen to have RAD personalities, active brains, and nonjudgmental attitudes. And of course I have friends who aren’t model-ready, because who cares? Neither am I. But the point here is to say, yes, I definitely have pretty friends! And I tell them how pretty they are alllllll the time! I also tell them how smart they are, how brave they are, and how much they deserve the world, because they do. Oh, and I FOR SURE make fun of them when they trip or say something awkward, because laughing with/at each other is basically a requirement for friendship. And no matter how pretty someone is, food poisoning really levels the playing field.

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Interestingly enough, I rarely compared myself to them when it came to attracting men when I was single. Maybe this is because I lack a competitive drive for just about anything. Maybe this is because I know them all so well that I know looks have nothing to do with the success of a love life. Or maybe it’s because I was drinking too much wine to care. For whatever reason, I never saw my pretty friends as a threat.

Yes, even that time a severely over-served gentlemen approached a group of us at a bar, then went one by one down the line of women saying things like, “Wow– you’re hot!” and “You have an amazing smile!” etc. etc. until he got to me, and then he went completely silent and just wandered off. BURNNN. I was 20% offended, and 80% laughing my face off. What a weirdo.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve definitely compared myself to other women, but not in a male-competitive way. I’ve said, “Man, I wish I had ____’s legs,” or “Oh my gosh, ____ is just perfect, it’s not fair.” Somehow, though, I very very very rarely attributed my lack of luck in the love department (pre-meeting my husband) to me not having those “better” qualities of the women around me. Even personality-wise, I’ve said to myself, “Ugh, she’s so poised,” or “I wish I could be as knowledgable about music as she is,” but again, that never transferred to “guys aren’t going to like me because she’s around.”

I always knew that if a guy was more interested in a different girl, it wasn’t because she was “better” than me…it’s because she was different from me. Some people are just looking for something different, and I can’t really be offended by that. I was looking for something different than some of the guys who showed me attention, too.

The only girls I saw as a “threat” were exes, especially the ones who were trying to interfere if they wanted to win back the guy I was dating. I figured she and I had something in common if he was attracted to her at some point, plus they had a history, so I’d compare our similarities and differences. It was stupid. But hey, we’re all pretty stupid at times when feelings are involved.

When the guys I dated dumped me, I looked at pictures of new girls he ended up dating, sure, but I never hated them or thought they must be better in some way. It’s not like those women did anything wrong by attracting him once he and I were over. I might’ve been mad, hurt, or frustrated with him, but the new girl is just someone living her little life. After I had time to get over my feelings, I’d usually just go, “Hmm, welp, if they have more in common than we did, so be it.”

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Let me make it clear that I was the WORST at dating and breakups. I was not composed about my feelings when I was venting to my friends in the aftermath. Bless my girls for their patience. So I’m not saying I was a perfectly confident dating professional. No, I’m just explaining that I never thought I was single because of “better” women out there taking all the guys. I just thought that I, personally, was unlovable. I actually wrote an entire post about how I used to think I had the “love chip” missing. Fun times. It had nothing to do with my “competition,” and everything to do with my personal destiny. (HAH! Single times are so funny to look back on.)

Viewing other women as competition in the dating world– or any other world– is pretty silly when you think about it. I think it’s normal to compare ourselves– and sometimes basic comparison not even a bad thing. “I wish hair looked like hers” isn’t destructive unless it’s, “I wish my hair looked like hers, so now I hate myself and I’m going to secretly pour bleach in her shampoo.”

But competition? That’s dumb. If a guy likes you, it’s not because you’re the “best” he could find. It’s because he likes you— your personality, your face, your brain, your passions, your humor, etc., etc. None of us are even close to being the same human, so it’s pointless to put ourselves on a sliding scale of “better vs. worse.” We’re all bound to be different from one another, so how does it even make sense to think you should be “more like someone else?”

Let me try to break it down: If you become more like someone else, you’ll become less like someone else, and what if that girl you become less like then lands a different great guy? See? You’re trapped! When you’re always looking to be the “best” in the room, you’ll slide up and down different guys’ scales, because they’re all looking for someone different. Because they’re all different, too. If you’re so busy trying to be the “best” in comparison to other women, you very well may miss the chance to connect with the person who actually resonates the best with you— the natural, real, uncompetitive you.

This has been one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems since as long as I can remember, and it’s pretty perfect in illustrating this point:

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So, how do you remain confident among all of the other awesome women out there? 1. Take pride in your individuality, and 2. Remember that every single woman faces insecurities of her own.

Don’t be happy that your fellow ladies have self-doubts, but do keep that truth in mind when jealousy bubbles up inside of you. You have lots of things they don’t have, too. How do I know? Because you’re different from them. You’re different from everybody. And by definition of “different,” that means you have traits they don’t have. Those traits are what will help you connect with the guy who you’ll be happiest with in the long run.

I finally found my guy. And he found me! Before I came along, he had met plenty of women far more beautiful than me, with lots of different traits I’ll never have. But he liked mine. And I liked his. The only way it’s possible for you to have the same happy ending I did (“ending” is a weird word, since relationships never stop progressing or regressing, but that’s another story) is to keep being YOU.

“Being you” doesn’t mean you can’t self-improve– we all know I’m a big fan of self-evaluation and improvement. But remember that toned arms, good hair, or whatever are not contributing factors in love. If you enjoy working out, you may connect more with someone who enjoys that, too, but it’s not wise to be something you’re not to catch the guy. Because I PROMISE the truth comes out in marriage. If he (or you) doesn’t know what’s underneath all those pretenses you put up in the name of competition, you’re in for a tumultuous ride.

Way easier said than done, but try to remember that if a guy gets distracted from you because another girl comes along, he’s not your match, anyway. The goal shouldn’t be to simply “get married”– the goal should be to enjoy another person’s company who equally enjoys yours. That means marrying the RIGHT person, not just any person. If he’s right for you, he will still be able to objectively see attractive attributes in other women, but that won’t deter him from yours.

Love and support the women around you! Strangers and friends alike. There’s enough room for all of us to be happy in every aspect of life. I promise.