They say you shouldn’t compare your ‘behind the scenes’ to someone else’s ‘highlight reel.’ This is meant to make us feel better about the narcissist posts we see on social media.
The unfortunate side of social media is that it’s turned us into our own monsters. We compare our significant others, our training, our bodies to those on our social feeds and feel like crap about ourselves in the process. We look at another’s body or success and wonder ‘why am I not there yet?’ Then we punish ourselves with grueling workouts, restrictive diets, or shit talking to ourselves.
The comparison trap is a de-motivator! You can look to someone for inspiration or, you can look at that same individual and think ‘I will never look like that! No matter how hard I try, I’m not getting stronger and this training is useless. Let me go find another program/trainer/gym. I suck.”
Fitness professionals are not immune to comparison either. I thought I had a strong self-image but once I saw my photos from my recent photo shoot I went on a crazy, mental spiral of self-loathing and bashed myself all over the place. ‘Omigod’, I thought. ‘Why did I choose to do a photo shoot the day after a cross-country flight and weekend binge fest? I look so bloated! Where are my abs? Omigod, no one will take me seriously because I don’t look fit. I look normal! You can’t look normal in this business.”
I know. Ridiculous, right?
This got me thinking about the issues around comparison and body image. The only reason I felt ‘less than’ was because I conditioned myself to think that all trainers look like shredded fitness models. Somewhere deep in my psyche I accepted that being fit meant looking a specific way and that the only way I could demonstrate my value as a trainer is to fit a specific aesthetic mold.
We all know that’s complete bullcrap, amiright? So here’s how to get out of it:
Acknowledge the limiting beliefs brought on by comparison
The comparison trap brings up a host of feelings, and when you get right down to it, those feelings are merely limiting beliefs in disguise. When we look at someone else’s success in the weight room and think “I’m not as strong as her” what we’re really saying is that we don’t believe in our own strength and abilities.
Comparison reveals our deepest fears in ourselves. Suddenly we’re no longer good enough, lean enough, working hard enough. Once you acknowledge the hidden beliefs you’re carrying around when you compare yourself to someone else you can get down and do some serious work.
Take inventory of what is real…and what is not
Let’s say your limiting belief is ‘I am not as strong as her.’ Perhaps this statement is true but the reality is your goals are entirely different than hers. A novice lifter can’t compare himself to an intermediate or advanced lifter. A CrossFit enthusiast can’t compare himself to an elite CrossFit athlete. Likewise, we can’t compare ourselves to a bodybuilder when we train for powerlifting or marathons. These are completely different goals with different training schemes. Of course the results will be entirely different!
Take a step back and take inventory of your goal. I often catch myself comparing my lifts to more experienced lifters. But then I remind myself that I’ve been at it for less than a year while the woman next to me has trained in Oly lifts for 5. Obviously, I won’t look or lift as heavy as her.
Comparison is a de-motivator. Focus on what you got
Comparing yourself to someone else will not motivate you. It will diminish your own work and belittle everything that you do in and out of the gym as ‘less than’. When we focus on someone else being ‘better than’ ourselves in someway, we adopt a lack or scarcity mindset. But when you express gratitude for where you are and what you’re capable of right now, you change that mindset from lack to abundance.
When I compare myself to someone I feel defeated. But then I start looking at all the things I’ve got right – I exercise 5-6 times a week, I eat healthy and meal prep every week, I can go rock climbing, surfing or running without my body falling apart. My clothes fit great. My legs are looking more toned, my cleans are getting stronger, and I can jump into a CrossFit class any day of the week without getting crushed. When I frame my thoughts around gratitude and abundance I am super proud of what I do now and how far I’ve come in my training. I am fit, strong, and I can enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle because I have great habits locked down. Suddenly, the fact that I don’t look like a cover model doesn’t matter. It’s called perspective. Try it. Just write down 5 things you kick ass in and start to feel your perceptions shift.
Remember that no two people are the same
This is an apples and oranges issue. Comparing your body to someone else’s discounts the fact that you are unique. Your goals, training, circumstances are entirely different than someone else’s. The effort I put into my nutrition and training is different than someone who trains 2x a day and works a job where they’re moving around constantly. You are not the same as the one you’re comparing yourself to.
No one knows your body like you
This is important. We trip up when we start comparing someone else’s training methods or nutrition to ours and decide that their version is better. The low-carb diet your friend is on make work for her but you know how crabby you get when you go no-carbs and train 6 days a week. A girl needs some carbs! And if one person prefers to go nuts with protein shakes but you hate the taste, who says that getting your protein from whole foods is somehow less effective?
It’s one thing to seek professional guidance when it comes to changing your habits or to reach a specific goal. However, don’t assume there’s only one way and that your way is not as good.
Work on being #selfapproved
Building self-confidence is a lot like marriage – you need to work on it daily and it’s not always easy. Rather than focus on all the negatives about yourself, bring your attention to the all the things that you like and appreciate. Self-approval begins with appreciation of where you are now and where you came from. It involves taking daily, consistent action on the habits and activities that bring you the most joy and make you feel your best. For me, working out daily, meditating in the morning and eating healthy makes me feel good. These habits help me feel more at ease, focused and #selfapproved. Self-approval takes effort but it pays off big time in every area of your life.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever fallen victim to the comparison trap? If so, how did you overcome it?