Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” But how true are these famous words?
COMPETITION, NOT COMPARISON
Ultimately, comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You compare yourself to people you admire or want to be like, to a person who’s physique you want for yourself or who’s abilities leave you in awe. But whilst hoping this inspiration will make you better; make you fitter, stronger or leaner, it does just the opposite. You start noticing everything they have that you don’t. Everything they can do that you can’t. And in no way can this be a positive thing.
When a toddler is learning to walk, they aren’t thinking about if the toddler next door walks better than them. No, they’re just focused on the task. They’re focused on the next step. On putting one foot in front of the other (quite literally) to get to where they want to be.
So what about when you compare yourself, to yourself? Is this the same? When you look at what you looked like or what you were able to do last week, last month, last year? What about when comparison turns into (healthy) competition? When you want to run that 10km in a faster time than you did last month, or when you want to turn that 70kg squat into 75kg?
Not everyone is competitive. Not even with themselves. Its not uncommon to be worried about failing, so much so that you never try. Pushing yourself to complete a task or a challenge and then so many weeks later, pushing yourself to do it again to see if you can do it better, is a scary task. What if you can’t? What if you did worse than before? What if you embarrass yourself by doing worse? That’s a hell of a lot of ‘what ifs’.
YOU V.S. YOU
Want to be a little more competitive with yourself? A slight competitive streak can emerge from deep within and it can be a really positive trait. If you try a certain exercise, but don’t beat your previous PB, who cares? Just give it a go again. It’s time to stop caring about what other people think, and focused on trying to impress yourself with what you’re capable of.
This doesn’t just apply to fitness and within the gym either. If you’re not athletically competitive, think about it in terms of your job, or house, your money. Is anyone really happy chugging along, staying in the same place forever? No.
Being competitive is in your genes. All humans are designed to compete on some level. During the early days of our existence, people would all compete to survive. But today, when individuals don’t have to compete for food or for shelter, their competitive streak has become optional. However, even if it is deep down, people still posses that natural desire to compete. Especially with there selves. Everyone wants to see progress, right?
So why is healthy competitiion such a great thing? Competition can motivate you to improve yourself and teach you which skills and abilities you don’t yet have. Competition helps make you assertive; not aggressive (aggression is the intent to do harm, which is different from assertion and the intent to do well). Nurturing competitiveness against yourself also leads to higher self-confidence, and less self doubt. You wont get that when you’re simply comparing yourself to someone else.
Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to take on one thing competitive. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be scary. Sign yourself up to a race or a challenge. Set yourself a goal or a time you want to achieve, and then train your arse off to give yourself the best possible chance of doing so. But what if you don’t manage to? Still be proud of how far you’ve come… And then, if you fancy it, if you’ve found a burning desire to compete, sign yourself straight back up to try again.