When You Compare Yourself to Yourself

Comparing oneself to others is natural. With media down our throats now a days, it is almost impossible not to compare oneself to others. From a young age, girls and boys learn what society thinks they should look like– how they should act–what they should wear– in order to “be accepted.” Waiting in line the other day for groceries I could not help but watch the eyes of a young girl the other day (by young she must have been eleven or twelve) flipping through a Woman’s Health magazine—the type of magazine which I now loathe– one which has scantily clothed women on almost every page, with unnatural bodies, pages filled with ways to curb your hunger, lose weight and “feel great.”

I am not unfamiliar with comparing myself to others. In fact, I’ve found myself going through different “stages of comparison.” Yes, when I was young, I compared the way I looked to other girls. I compared myself to those women in health magazines (now those magazines are banned from my house as there is nothing “healthy” about them). As I got older, I found myself comparing my athleticism to others, instead of looks. Ohh, I need to mention that during this “stage,” it was not young women my age whom I compared myself to, but the athleticism of men who were older than me.  Yeah I know, I’m weird. What young woman compares her half-marathon time to a guy 10-12 years older than her? That, my friend would be me. Now, I think the reason I was like that was because 1) I didn’t do many races at the time and 2) I didn’t really have many female friends who did the outdoor activities that I enjoyed.

Over time I realized it was quite silly to compare myself to older men (hah) and began to focus on women in my age group. I guess you could say that means I became a bit more competitive when it came to races I did, which isn’t a bad thing, as I never allowed myself to get so competitive that it took the fun out of races. It actually surprised me that I was able to do well in sports after growing up being a “so-so” athlete in school.

Last fall/winter I found myself running faster, and cycling faster/farther than I ever have. I seemed to surprise myself with my 5mile/half marathon/ casual run’s. I was able to hold a 7:30-ish min mile pace for a half marathon. Never had I been able to do that before. I was riding 100+miles a week, and felt great.Recently,  I began to notice I have been comparing myself now to how I was last year, and I think it has a greater impact on me than when I ever compared myself to other people. My last couple races weren’t horrible, but they weren’t my best, either. Long rides seem to be exhausting–not at all how I remember them to be last year. I’m not able to keep that 7:30/mile pace for more than 5 miles (well, honestly, I have not tried). When I find myself comparing where I am today, to where I was last year at this time, it almost makes me feel like I have fallen out of shape. How did I get to be so slow? Why am I not the way I was last year? In the middle of runs I would find myself wanting to just “give up and walk” since, obviously, I was out of shape since I couldn’t hold the same pace as last year.   In no time I found myself feeling horrible about where I am right now; comparing myself to myself is far more destructive than comparing myself to others.

When I find myself hearing these negative thoughts questioning why I cannot run as fast as I could, or other internal negative self-talk, I need to focus on where I am now. I work more than I did last year, I’ve started a side business, and, I am training for a much larger event than I ever have and ever was training for. My rides/runs/swims are much longer than they were last year. In fact, the workouts I have now are longer and harder than they were at the peak of my training for the Patriot Half last spring.

If comparing yourself to others helps you achieve specific goals, then that is terrific. But if comparing yourself to others–or, comparing yourself to yourself–becomes harmful and destructive, it may be time to step back and do some serious soul searching. How you can still achieve your goals without harming yourself, who is, ultimately, the person that matters most?

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mawil1
    Nov 16, 2014 @ 08:22:42

    I don’t have the answer, I’m also guilty! Identifying the problem is the first step to finding the solution. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else.

    Reply

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