Compare and Despair

The Fit Life Blog

Are you comparing yourself to others in a way that empowers you or do you compare and despair?

I think that you should compare yourself and hold yourself to a higher standard.

Sometimes it’s even appropriate to compare yourself to others. You always have to be careful what you are looking at. If you compare at the wrong point then you despair as you get frustrated at the distance you have you travel.

So what do you compare yourself to?

Gosh it’s different for everybody. Let’s look at a couple of real world examples.

Sometimes at our gym we write down on the board our times or scores for a workout. If 30 people write down a score then there are 30 different meanings for those scores. Let’s look at 5 levels (or types) of people.

The newby: “My score is on the board and I am excited. I did it!”

The Newby plus: (been coming to the gym 1-3 months) “Hey! My score isn’t last! I was better than so and so. Next time I am going to try to move up the list!”

The veteran: (Been coming a long time but not super competitive) “Top half. Yes! I been the girl that beat me last time. WooT!”

The new competitor: “4th on the board! I struggled in this one part so I am going to work on that. Shooting for top 3 next time!”

The top dog: “I won the workout. Wahoo! That one guy was pretty close so we pushed each other! I need to keep working hard to reach my goals.”

You see how comparing yourself can be empowering and help you move forward? Now, stick with me here, let’s look at some thought processes that can be destructive. Same workout. Different thoughts!

The newby: “The top dog lapped me. I’ll never be able to do it that fast…..”

The Newby plus: “I’ve been coming for 2 months now and I’m still at the bottom of the list. Why am I doing this….”

The veteran: “I hate when I have to put my name on the board…”

The new competitor: “Ugh. 3rd place. I need to beat that guy. Why do I suck so much….”

The top dog: “I kicked everyone’s ass today. I’m glad that I am the best….”

You see the difference? There are always different ways to look at every situation.

What if you are in a class and the goal is to do push-ups for one minute. 20 seconds in and you can’t do one more and every person in class is still going accept you? What thoughts go through your mind? Are you comparing yourself to others? Should you be? Did you know that there is one guy who had shoulder surgery a year ago and 9 months ago he couldn’t do a single push-up? Of how about the lady who had a kid 6 months ago and this is her first time doing more than 10?

You don’t know everyone’s story!

My first day of practice in the sport of cross country was in September of 1987. Would you believe that I was the last guy back to the gym that day? What if I had the mentality of, “Oh well, everyone is better than I am….” A month later I was on the varsity and 2 years later I led my team to the state championship.

Compare but don’t despair.

What about the way we look?

Can we compare ourselves to others? Sure. But don’t get hung up on the immediate results.

My wife Teresa (she will probably kill me for publishing this!) many years ago set a goal to look like Jillian Michaels. That’s a bad goal, right? For her it wasn’t! She know it would take a long time but she let it empower her to work hard. Now, at 35 and as a mother of 2 she looks BETTER than Jilian Michaels She knew the context and she let the comparison empower her to do better!

You run a 5k for the first time and you finish last. What do you think?

I would say that last is the best place to finish. Look how much room for improvement you have!

Look at the winner in that race. This person has been running every day for 15 years. Why would you expect to beat him or her?

When comparing always put the comparison in context!

I do the sport of CrossFit.

Do I compare myself to the others in my sport?

Hell yeah! Ben Smith is the reigning champion for the guys. Do I compare myself to him? HELL NO. Shawn Ramirez is the champ for my age category. do I compare myself to him. Well…. a little BUT I have perspective. Who do I directly compare myself to? I was 372 in the world this year. I will be comparing myself to those people around spot number 200 since that it what I need to be better than next year.

Comparing myself to someone a little better than me will drive me. Comparing myself to the “top dog” will be demoralizing. You see what I mean? Are you catching what I am throwing?

It’s always ok to compare. Compare yourself to where you want to be. Compare yourself to others along the path BUT don’t compare and despair. Don’t compare and let the comparison be an excuse for you to quit.

Remember these rules when you are comparing yourself to others:

Context: Always keep the context of the situation in mind. If you are walking on the treadmill at the YMCA don’t compare yourself to the dude next to you. It’s silly.

Time: Are you comparing your beginning to someone’s end? It’s a bad idea. Stop!

Win / win: Are you comparing to another that will potentially push both of you? Or make you both feel bad? Friendly competition is AWESOME. Bitterness sucks.

Attainment chances: When Teresa was looking at Jillian Michaels she was in her mid 20’s and 160 so pounds and willing to work hard over time. If she was 45 and 250 pounds and not willing to work then that comparison is bad. When I started cross country as a freshman you bet I compared myself to the 6th or 7th boys on the team. I waited a while before I compared myself to the top dog!

Let’s summarize what we learned today.

Many people will say that you should never compare. I don’t believe that. I think that, when appropriate, comparisons can help you to get results and drive you to be the best that you can be. He humble. Work hard. Fight to be better. Encourage and empower others along the way and you will be living the fit life.


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