We’ve ALL done it: you’re sitting there, minding your own business post workout, feeling all good about your numbers and progress and you see it in your IG feed- another fellow lifter’s training video. She’s the same weight and same build as you, and has been training about the same amount of time you have…and she benches almost twice what you do. Suddenly what was a great day turns into a crappy day of you wondering why you suck so badly and do you even LIFT??? You wonder why you even bother and go eat an entire pizza (not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that.).
Why do we do this to ourselves? When I first started training seriously in the sport of bodybuilding, I would often compare myself to others in the sport. And each and every time, I would let it affect how I felt about myself and derail my own efforts, training and nutrition. I would often overlook the fact that the person of whom I was envious may have a different lifestyle, different responsibilities, be significantly younger, may have way more experience in the sport, different genetics, than I did. Even though I knew it was a complete waste of time and energy to compare apples to oranges, I would still end up feeling some kind of way about where I was on my journey compared to them. Then I realized that if I was going to reach any of my goals, in the sport, in my career, in personal life or otherwise, I was going to have to figure out how to get off that train of crazy and stop comparing myself to everyone else. Here’s some of the steps I took to get there and how you can too:
- Be Aware. The first step in stopping the comparison game is to recognize when you are doing it and call attention to it. For example, when I was on social media (a HUGE feeder of the comparison monster) and found myself lingering over someone’s pictures or videos, and doing a mental side by side with them, I would say out loud (or in my head if I was around other people so as not to frighten them lol), “Hey! I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO HIM/HER. RIGHT NOW.” The more that you acknowledge/recognize the behavior (without judging or berating yourself), the easier it will be to modify it. I am now much more strategic in who I follow on social media as well- if the images I see aren’t affirming or positive for me, I hit “unfollow” with the quickness!
- Change the story. Oftentimes, I would create an entire story in my head about why this person was so much better at this thing, or looked so much better than I did, etc., in the span of a few seconds while looking at their pictures- “Well, she probably has the money to invest in coaching and I don’t, or she has great genetics and I don’t, blah blah blah.” All the while, I know absolutely NOTHING about this person or their journey. So I would to gently change the narrative to something neutral: “Wow. She is strong, looks great, etc. But that has no effect or bearing on me and my abilities.” And then I moved the hell along.
- Focus on YOUR strengths. Whenever I felt myself starting to be all up in somebody else’s business and what they could do, I would write down my own accomplishments and strengths: no, I couldn’t bench a small late model sedan, but I progressed to bench my bodyweight in a year’s time! And I can definitely squat a large late model sedan (thanks Mom for the big ass legs!). Celebrate your strengths and gifts! No, you don’t have to be a braggart, but it is absolutely ok to be proud of your own abilities and progress and use that energy to propel you to work harder and use them to your advantage.
- Focus on YOUR journey. Life is not a competition. It’s a journey. Every one of us is a different path to growth, happiness, fulfillment and success; and no one path is going to look like another. What is for you is for YOU. How and when you get there has nothing to do with anyone’s else’s journey. That’s all you need to worry about
- Breaking News: You are NOT PERFECT. Rationally, we know that, but somewhere along the line, we have developed this inaccurate notion that even if we are beginners, we are SUPPOSED to flawlessly execute our goals the very first time we attempt to do something new. THAT IS INSANE. If you are new to any sport, endeavor, hobby, etc., YOU WILL PROBABLY SUCK AT IT AT FIRST. And that is OK. Growth and progress come from making mistakes. Lots of them. I am not perfect and never will be; and I’ve learned to be OK with that. I am constantly looking to improve and that is my first priority. Progress, not perfection.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Count your blessings. In the age of social media, life has morphed into a series of carefully curated events designed to put a person’s best foot forward at all times. You NEVER EVER really know what is happening behind closed doors. That Crossfitter with the sub-2 minute Grace? She might be looking at the pictures of YOUR IG and wishing she had the amazingly supportive husband and adorable kids you do. The badass powerlifter with the 4x bodyweight deadlift might give anything to have your successful career or financial means to travel the world like you do. That Oly lifter with the crazy C & J or the Strongwoman smoking all her events may be having physical or mental health struggles and admiring your ability to "have it all together." I make it a daily practice to give thanks for all the things I do have and can do because I know that just as I may wish to be in someone else’s shoes, they are wishing they could be in mine.
Finally, just remember it is okay and perfectly natural to compare yourself and even be envious of others at times. The key is to acknowledge the feelings, process them, weaken their hold over you, drink your water, moisturize, mind your business, and move on. WE ARE ALL AMAZING; and there is more than enough amazing to go around. See you at the Bar!