Acceptance Instead of Comparison
At the gym as in life, we are all at different places on our journey. Comparison is both meaningless and self-defeating. And yet, while working out around people at different levels, it’s all too easy to find ourselves making comparisons; some even favorable to ourselves.
There’s no way for us to know where anyone started except ourselves. The only valid comparison is where we are now vs. where we were at some specified point in the past, and then, only to show ourselves how far we’ve come.
Each of us progresses in our own unique way. A heavier person might have 4 or 5 times the strength of a wispy woman. Then again, she might not. Outside appearance is the least accurate barometer for forward progress.
Looking at the Outside Misses Where Our Real Changes Occur
Sure, you can look at someone who’s dropped 50 or 100 pounds and see progress. But what you see is superficial compared to the internal changes they made in order to release the weight. Those outward changes couldn’t have happened without a lot of internal redirection, a huge shift in mindset and values, and a decision to make those changes plus the will to make new habits. How can someone on the outside looking in possibly know the mountains we move to make those changes?
By the same token, we don’t have any way of knowing how far another person has come, so how on earth can we possibly compare ourselves and our journey to theirs?
Comparison is a momentum killer.
Comparison is a short road to discouragement. It allows us to fall back into “you’re not good enough” mode where we ignore all the progress we’ve made, looking instead at how far we have to go. But our progress wasn’t made in a series of giant leaps. Chances are, we took a lot of baby steps and maybe, just maybe, the occasional giant leap. The mountain we set off to climb must be scaled one step at a time.
Focusing on Our Own Progress
That doesn’t mean the steps don’t get easier as we gain skill and strength. Nor will those baby steps remain the same minuscule size as we learn and grow. But as we progress our perspective changes too. What was once a major accomplishment is barely a blip on our personal radar. We reset not only our goals but our expectations as we go. That too is progress.
Expecting more of ourselves when we’re ready, or almost ready is what makes us reach for loftier and loftier goals. If we set our bar at a level too far beyond our current capabilities, we’d get discouraged and give up before we made what we’d consider significant progress. But if we set smaller, reachable goals, we’ll experience a feeling of accomplishment that will motivate us to keep trying.
My biggest challenge is to release the excess weight I’ve accumulated over the years. Though it’s been rough going the last few months, I can stop myself and remember that there are about 20 pounds I’ve released and not allowed to creep back. Yes, there are also 5 or 10 which have, but the ones that haven’t motivate me to keep trying because I have some success to look at.
Meanwhile, I’ve gone from barely being able to lift a pound with my left arm, courtesy of a herniated disc in my neck to getting comments from men at the gym about how much weight I’m lifting now. It didn’t happen over night, and it’s not helping me take off as much weight as I’d like, but it is progress. In fact, when I pull up MyFitnessPal to see what weight I’m using on various machines or free weights each week, I’m often surprised to see the numbers have climbed as high as they have.
Figuring Out What Motivates Us
Most of my progress has occurred in the last year, when I finally found a schedule I’d follow consistently, and created what I hope will be a lifelong habit. It might have taken me a few extra decades to get there, but that’s how my journey is unfolding. I’m OK with that.
Comparison has another ugly side. When we see ourselves as less, or not as good as, we tend to treat ourselves unkindly. We give up on ourselves. We feel unworthy. None of that crap is true. We slip back into old habits, but we don’t have to stay there. We need to remind ourselves it’s OK to make mistakes or fall off track as long as we treat ourselves kindly and get back on that track before we do ourselves too much damage.
The trouble is, we tend to be quicker to beat ourselves up than forgive our own transgressions. And boy are we stingy with praise for the person who deserves our praise the most!
Focus on Now and the Rest Will Follow
One way I’ve found to get off the comparison merry-go-round is to focus on what we are doing, thinking, and feeling in the current moment—in the Now. Feel how our bodies and minds are responding to the new tasks we’ve set, and don’t worry about what happened 5 minutes ago. If we ate a cookie, or skipped a set, it’s done and can’t be re-done. So let it go and embrace this moment, making it the best we can.
I also like to make lists. At the end of the day, I make a list of at least 10 things I accomplished. They don’t have to be big things, and often, I give myself a couple of “gimme’s”. They’re things I do every day without thinking about it like writing my Morning Pages, and making the bed (another habit I had to work to achieve). To the outside world, they might seem insignificant.
To many of my friends, making the bed has been a lifelong habit. For me, as the Queen of Clutter for so many years, it was one more thing I had to learn to find important. But forming and keeping the habit taught me that climbing back into bed during the day was no longer an option. Ask anyone who has fought depression at any point in their life, and you’ll understand why such a small, seemingly ordinary task can make a huge difference in how a day unfolds. Learning to make my bed every morning turned days on end of laziness, lack of motivation or inspiration, and long-term failure into the desire to finish what I started and form more healthy habits.
What I’m saying in my usual long, roundabout way is, if you must compare, look at who you are today, what you have accomplished, and how far you’ve come. The only person we have to be better than is ourselves. The only improvements that matter in our lives are the ones we make to the person we are now, and the person we want to become. Look objectively. Look without judging. See yourself without unrealistic expectations. I promise you’ll see someone marvelous, accomplished and amazing who’s conquered a lot of odds and challenges to become the ever-evolving person they are today.
Remember to Be Grateful for Accomplishments Both Large and Small
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for my evolving perspective.
- I am grateful for the many accomplishments which continue to help me evolve.
- I am grateful for reminders that I’m perfect the way I am, but can always make myself a better me.
- I am grateful for people who can be examples for me rather than comparisons where I find myself lacking.
- I am grateful for abundance; self-love, joy, health, new habits, friendship, dancing, inspiration, motivation, prosperity, peace, harmony, and philanthropy.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward