The comparison game

A Fit Mess
afitmess
June 29, 2016

Hi, friends. Happy Thursday. Today’s post may be a bit scattered, but I promise I have a purpose (at least I hope so!).

 

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and we got on the topic of comparison. We both admitted that from time to time we compare ourselves to others. Almost unintentionally, we measure ourselves against different physical traits, circumstances, or abilities. While I think comparison can be beneficial at times, it’s easy to slip into a negative place that does more harm than good. I want to share my thoughts on comparison and I would love your input as well.

 

Why do we compare?

We do it because it’s easy. It’s natural to aspire for certain goals and to want to better ourselves. So when you see someone who is where you hope to be (say, a career you’d love) or is able to do something you want to do (maybe run at a certain pace/lift a certain weight) then you can quickly compare yourself to that person. This is especially discouraging when you have been actively working towards that very goal.

 

When we look inward, we tend to consider our present situation against where we were at a different point in our lives. A perfect example of this for me is after I had my children. It was hard and humbling to return to exercise after delivering the girls. I had a lot of postpartum pain and was still dealing with some nagging injuries. Plus I was running on little to no sleep at the time. But I felt like I should be able to jump back into working out and it was frustrating to feel like I was starting over in terms of my capabilities and strength. I was holding myself to an unrealistic standard and that was not healthy. In fact, it probably delayed my recovery even more.

 

Can comparison be beneficial?

Yes, I think it can be helpful at times. You can look back at how much progress you’ve made and use that as inspiration to keep going. On the other hand, you might realize it’s time to make a change and you decide to modify your behavior or decisions. Additionally, seeing someone else accomplish what you want can be the motivation you need to just go for it. From a fitness standpoint, I think some healthy competition in a workout class can push you more than if you were working out alone. This is definitely true for me!

 

I think the key is to recognize when comparison become destructive. This is the moment when you start to let the negative talk take over and you begin to put yourself down. Pretty soon you have spiraled out of control. Why can’t I do that? What’s wrong with me?

Here are some things I’ve learned about comparison:

 

Seek a different perspective.

This can be really helpful when done with another person. For example, when my friend and I shared the things we were comparing to other people we each offered a totally different view about it. She offered her opinion about why I’m in a better place. She also pointed out the things that I do really well and that I should be proud of. Sometimes all you need is a shift in perspective.

It’s also helpful to remind ourselves that appearances are just that – appearances. We never know the challenges, struggles, or insecurities of another person.

Understand and accept where you are now.

I’ve written before about feeling lost after becoming a parent. I kept trying to get back to the “old” me – the earlier version of myself that I identified with. A person I thought I should be. What I should have done was accept and honor the new me. Having children definitely changes you. My body won’t look the same as when I was in my 20s. I have scars from pregnancy and the stress and anxiety that comes from being a parent will always be there. But I am waaayyy more confident in my appearance now than before and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I’m much stronger than I was a few years ago and I think that’s worth recognizing.

Getting older also makes you think much less about these things (a tip for all you young’uns). I have gotten to know myself really, really well over the last 33 years and I don’t doubt who I am like I used to. But I am still learning. I’m still discovering things about myself and finding my way. We all are. There is so much we can gain from each other and our experiences.

 

I would love to know what you think about this.

Do you feel comparison be helpful?

Is this something women tend to do more than men?

 

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