Well, so much for studying this morning. I am considering going back to school in the fall just so that I can have homework to avoid because it seems to generate the most “I need to say this” blog posts. I’m just kidding…
I don’t know where to start with this post, so I think I’m just going to dive right in.
How much time do you spend comparing yourself to other people? Whether it’s in school, in your training/races, versus complete strangers’ appearance, to celebrities, to your siblings…comparison is an easy trap to fall into. I know I’ve struggled with it in a few ways:
- Seeing other students getting better marks than I do.
- Seeing classmates with seriously awesome volunteer profiles and wondering how I’ll ever stack up to them.
- Wishing I had another girl’s body or hair or wardrobe.
- Comparing my pace times on DailyMile to my friends and wondering why I am not as quick or as strong as them or why my mileage isn’t up to par.
- etc. etc.
Can you relate? The other day one of my friends sent me a message (and I think since it’s an anonymous thing it’s okay to share this here) expressing some concern over not being in good enough shape for a specific race. To see someone else saying the exact same thing I said to myself earlier this year–because though I was injured and came back conservatively, I didn’t race early in the season largely because I didn’t want to show up and be slower than I thought was “good enough”–put things into perspective.
Nobody gives a shit about how fast I am. They might be impressed if I do a great job. But if I don’t beat last year’s time, do they care? Do they even know? Hells no.
A quote comes to mind:
“We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.“
So in response to my friend’s message, I told her a couple things and I think I need to elaborate on them and remind myself of them in the process:
- You are fit enough! … Why do we worry so much when we should just trust our training? What is “enough?” I’m pretty sure if you’re not crawling across the finish line, that’s a win.
- No one is going to look at your time! … If anyone did look at someone else’s time, it’s because they’re impressed or insecure. And that’s their shit, not ours!
- People won’t notice if you’re slow, but they’ll notice if you’re not there! … Missing out on being part of something for fear of being judged seems pretty shitty when you step back and look at it. Go with a smile on your face and I bet you people will remember that–not your pace time!
- You’re exactly where YOU need to be! … So someone is faster than us. Big deal. They might have more time to train. They might be a born runner, swimmer, cyclist, whatever. They might be neglecting other aspects of their life right now, they might be unhappy, they might be perfectly awesome and wonderful. We don’t know. I think when we get down on ourselves in one area of our lives, we need to step back and see if it’s really about that. Do I care that I’m slow? Maybe. The bigger issue isn’t that I’m slow, it’s that I care and that I have that judgemental thought about myself. Where’s that insecurity coming from? How can I reassure myself that I’m already awesome and exactly in the right place for me? Take a bigger lesson and making a bigger gain from this!
News flash: someone will always be faster, prettier, skinnier, more muscular, fitter, taller, happier, richer, more whatever than you. That doesn’t mean you’re not awesome. But if you get hung up on the fact that you’re not more _____, you fail to appreciate all that you are. You miss out on feeling good about yourself for all the good things that you already are and you sell yourself short of the awesome life that you are entitled to. When you decide to stop comparing, you just become the best you can be. It might be cheesy, but there is a reason cheesy advice comes around again and again: be the best you can be. Don’t focus on all those things that you’re not when you could be focusing on all the amazing things that you are!
All of this being said, I don’t think it’s reasonable to eliminate comparison. I also don’t think it’s necessary. In my opinion, comparison is a bit like jealousy. Though it can manifest negatively and hold us back, comparison can serve as a source of motivation to better ourselves. When we see people who have achieved what we want, we can envy them. That’s fine and dandy–it tells us that we want some of what they have and turn it into a positive emotion, we’re golden. If we let it breed our insecurity, we’re in a bad place. Ditto for comparison. When we realize that we are below where someone else is, we can look at that person with the bad jealousy (i.e. why can’t I run as far or as fast as her? why don’t my abs look like that?) or we can use that person as a source of motivation and inspiration. And I’m all for that.
“Compare and despair. Admire and aspire.”
The shift takes realizing that there is plenty of good to go around. Just because someone is doing something amazing doesn’t mean that you can’t do it too. If you’re confident, secure, and awesome, you want to help others be awesome too. If you’re insecure, selfish, and at the top, you might try to be better than everyone else. I’d argue that people who are really amazing individuals help others get to their level because they know that other people doing well doesn’t come at the expense of their own achievements.
Think about it this way: if you run a race in a certain time and that’s an accomplishment for you, does some girl running it in your time less a minute make your accomplishment less rewarding? Maybe, if you’re insecure. Would that “competition” drive you to negativity towards her? Towards yourself? If we could all find a way to be proud of ourselves regardless of others, we’d be all around nicer and happier people. We wouldn’t miss out on things–races, life experiences, whatever–simply because we don’t think we’re good enough. If you only compare to yourself, then your best is good enough. And that’s the big realization: you are enough, exactly as you are. Wherever you’re at, regardless of where you want to be, give yourself some credit!
In summary, it’s kind of easy. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to protect your ego or live your life. Think about the things you could miss out on if you let comparison scare you from experiencing them for fear of not measuring up. Is it worth not doing something because you’re not going to the best out there? I’d say do it. Nobody cares except you. So start caring about what matters, which is not what others think about you (they’re probably not even thinking about you, remember)–it’s about how you think of yourself. So whatever it is, I’d say do it and do your best and be proud of that. Use any comparison that still comes up as motivation, inspiration, and a positive source of energy in your life.
Do you struggle with comparison?
PS – To my friend who sent the message: THANK YOU. You inspire me, amaze me, and help me figure so much out. I am so grateful to have a likeminded person around to bounce ideas off of and to help me get real with myself! Love. Love. And more love. <3