Comparison is the thief of joy. This is what they tell us. “Don’t compare yourself with others, only compare yourself with the person you were yesterday.” While I can see some wisdom in this, lately I am finding myself thinking it also has a few fundamental flaws.
First off, I for one, am a highly competitive person. It is not at all unusual for me to see someone performing well, be it in the gym, or at work and to think to myself “I want to be more like her.” I see the talents of others and aspire to match them. This competitive part of myself is as much a part of me as my sense of humour or the colour of my eyes. Far from bringing me joy, trying to deny it has actually created conflict and anxiety.
You see, I have hunger. I have drive. I will always want to be doing more and achieving bigger and better things. Its just in my nature. So, how better to direct this drive than by looking to successful people and modelling my behaviour accordingly. In work, this might be working as hard as your boss does, because you would like to be promoted to her level. In the gym, this could be putting in as much practice with handstands as the guy who is always upside-down. Let me be clear, this is not the same as simply being jealous of what others have. This is unhealthy and will eventually drive you nuts.
The second flaw I see with comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday, is that is lacks context. Regular readers will know that the last few months have been a little crazy for me. I have to admit, as much as I will be happy to have this period behind me, it has definitely helped me to gain a little perspective. This is particularly true when it comes to training. In my quest to be better than the Arwen of yesterday, I was always striving to make improvements. I constantly wanted to increase my volume, to lift heavier and to finish faster. While I was never going to be an “elite athlete” there was a time for a while there when I wasn’t finishing last in every workout, and that felt like success to me.
During my recent busy time, I hadn’t been getting to the gym at all. I was able to make something of a return a couple of weeks ago, and I got my ass well and truly handed to me. I was standing at the bar, attempting to do chin ups. Before my sabbatical, I had been able to string a few together, but on my first session back, I was barely managing one. All the little voices inside my head started screaming at me. “I have lost all my fitness,” “I am pathetic,””I will never get back to where I was,” “I am going to be last!” These were just some of the thoughts running through my head as I attempted to get my chin over the bar.
After the first round of the workout, I stood up and literally shook my head. I knew I had a choice to make. I could either continue to feel sorry for myself, and let self pity take away all the enjoyment of the workout, or I could strap on my big girl pants and handle it. Thankfully, I decided to do the latter. Yes, I am not where I used to be and I certainly am nor where I want to be, but I am doing it none the less. It is a deeply humbling experience to realise you ain’t as good as you thought you were. Still more so when the struggle happens in public. Last or not, when I finished that workout I was greeted by the smiles and high fives of my Academy family and I am so very grateful for that.
When I look back at the time when I was “doing well” with my training, I would have beaten myself up for missing a single session. Now, if I get to the gym AT ALL it feels like a win. I have also gained a certain clarity that at the time when my training was going well, pretty much nothing else in my life was! Circumstances change, life throws us curve balls and more important than striving to be better than yesterday is learning to be where you are.
When the dust settles and I can start putting a little more emphasis on my fitness again, I hope that it won’t be too long before I am back in the swing of things. Until that happens, I will no doubt suffer many sore muscles and the occassional bruised ego. However, I am learning that if I can remain humble and hungry, no amount of comparison can truly steal my joy. Be well xxx