Getting out of the comparison trap

Hi friends! How’s the day going? Happy almost-weekend! 🙂 I’m excited to spend time with the fam in Vegas and enjoy some of your kid-friendly suggestions. 

So this post is a little bit all over the place, but I’m just going to roll with it. 🙂 It started yesterday when I was thinking about changing and modifying workouts, and how I’m scaling back a bit after working hard to lift heavier weights, sprint faster, etc. It would be easy for me to compare myself to how things were before, or even to last pregnancy (which felt entirely different and my workouts have changed a bit since then). Instead, I’m too focused on right now and how my body feels, and enjoying taking it day by day. It took me a long time to get to a place where I’d be cool with that -back in the early early days, I pushed myself hard and didn’t have a great sense of intuition- and now that I’m here (and don’t get me wrong, I still have off/blah days), it feels good. t was thinking about comparison and how it has the ability to help or hinder us along the way to our goals. 

Treadmill walk

On one hand, comparison can be a good thing. You can look back, compare your present situation to quickly assess how far you’ve come, or determine tweaks you can make to accomplish more. You can use comparison as friendly competition, which is a tactic many people find motivating. Or, you can use it to change actions along your course when you realize something isn’t working particularly well. I think many of us have experienced comparison in some form or another, and experienced how it can assist us, or be a negative presence in our lives. This could be in your family, at work, on social media, and is especially prevalent in fitness/healthy living. 

When I was first getting started with fitness and healthy living, I hit some bumps and obstacles along the way. I had the problem of being flooded with too much information (and little experience/education to separate the good from the trash), and quickly found myself stuck in a comparison game between myself and other people. Equal work does not equate equal results, which can be a frustrating and hard-to-grasp concept in the fitness world. Genetics and physiological components can greatly affect how or why our bodies react a certain way. For example, two people could follow the exact same eating plan and training program and have very different results. This is why it was frustrating to me when I saw friends accomplishing their fitness goals at a more rapid pace. (Little did I know at the time, many of them would quickly gain the weight back or lose muscle because they weren’t creating an attainable lifestyle for the long term.)

I think it comes with age -ahhhh so many good things that come with growing older- but after a while, you stop caring about how green someone else’s grass is, because you’re too busy watering your own. When I finally jumped out of the comparison game, I was able to accomplish some of the fitness and health goals I’d set out to do, without the negative voices in my head.

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Here are some of the things I learned about comparison:

-It can negatively affect your results. Are you going to do your best work when a nagging voice is over your shoulder and telling you how someone else did it, and why you suck? NO. When you can allow yourself to think positively without the comparison culprit, you can see the whole objective picture and do what you need to do. 

-Know that every body is different. It took me a long time to learn this, but my body doesn’t do well on a high fat or high sugar diet. I can do moderate levels of both, while some people I know can eat handfuls of candy and still crush their fitness goals, which I’m crashing from a sugar coma. This is why it’s so important to do YOU. Listen to what your body is telling you and adjust from there. In yoga teacher training, we learned that an asana is not simply one pose: it’s the act of posing and then re-posing. You settle into the pose, you breathe and adjust. It’s not total stillness. This is the same idea. You are moving along, listening to your body, and making small changes as necessary along the way. 

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(Photo: Danny Chan)

-Know when to compare. Maintain awareness of when comparison is going to help you, and use it in a manner that positively benefits you. For example, if I know I’m working on achieving something at the same time as someone else, I can talk with them and we can motivate each other along the way. We can also collaborate and assess what’s working and what isn’t.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. <3 Do you ever find yourself in a comparison trap? What was a turning point for you? 

xoxo

Gina

More:

Things that almost ruined my fitness life

The art of moderation

While I was editing/scheduling this post last night -I wrote it yesterday morning- I saw Monica’s awesome post discussing something similar if you’d like to check it out. <3

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Comments

  1. It’s so easy for me to get stuck in the comparison trap. I find comparison is really helpful for me when I look back to how far I’ve come. I’m capable of so much more than when I started getting into fitness.

  2. I agree, not comparing is one of the best things you can do for your sanity, happiness, and mental health. Energy I’m using to compare myself to someone else is energy I’m wasting not working on making me the best possible version of myself.

  3. You’re too busy watering your own grass! I love that! I would say I’ve never compared myself to anyone except for myself. Unfortunately I’ve found that to be a dangerous and motivating thing. I’m constantly comparing my body to what it was before my injury last year. Frankly it’s caused tremendous stress for me. I’m working out a lot more now and keep changing things too but not getting my body back. Some of this is hormones. When I’m under too much stress, my body just doesn’t want to cooperate. But when it does work, in able to push myself harder by comparing myself to what I used to be. Like I said, it’s a double edge sword. I wish I knew how to be intuitive. I don’t think that is something in wired to every be. Sorry that was a lot of rambling.

  4. I definitely agree with this. I have written so many posts on comparisons and I see them coming up more and more lately. It is so easy to objectively know we should stay away from comparing, but actually putting that into practice is the hard part that I have to continuously practice!!

  5. This is such a good point! We all get caught comparing our blogs, our pace, our Crossfit abilities so much that we lose focus and site on the reason we do everything – FUN and health!

  6. I love this! the comparison trap is such a hard thing to NOT fall into. She runs faster, she teaches more classes, she has more followers, she has better style…. But you’re right, when you stop and look at all YOU have, it’s a much better and healthier way to look at things. thanks for the reminder 🙂

  7. Cassie Vaughn says:

    I’ve definitely been there! I still compare, but I cut myself a lot of slack. Yoga has really helped me with this. It also helped once I found what really worked for me – a weight I really liked, lots of energy, etc.

  8. I agree, its always nice to read posts like this, they serve as a great reminder to me that I have to compete with myself only and trying to be a better version of myself, sometimes its tricky but I try to listen to my body, intuition and in the end to make the best choices for myself.

  9. Great thoughts! I couldn’t agree more with you. I think a major turning point for me was when I started working on my own self confidence and became more secure with myself and who I was as a person instead of feeling like I needed to be like everyone else.

  10. I love “know when to compare”. You’re right that comparison can sometimes be a good thing but more often than not is detrimental!

  11. such wise words! comparison with myself is typically a good thing but with others — not so much.

  12. Great post! I find myself comparing myself now to myself back pre kids 8-10 years ago. That was a long time ago and my body is different now. Focusing on my strengths and what I can do now is more important. Thanks for the inspiring post.

  13. Thanks for sharing monica’s post too, I so get what she means! You are right there is a balance between comparing our past to see where we want to go and comparing that just plain makes us feel bad. I feel like it’s always something I go through cycles with!

  14. I compare constantly and it really kills me. I lose all motivation because I think “What’s the point? They’re/She’s faster/fitter/better.” My friends are mostly super fit, crazy fast runners, who are BQing and I am no where near that. My future goal is to do a sub-4 marathon and that seems super unlikely. But I don’t want to just give up and eat pizza non stop (well, i do, but I shouldn’t)… It’s really hard. I’m in a super comparison/unmotivated trap right now.

  15. I love the saying “don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”.

    I think comparison to yourself can be a great thing, as long as you give yourself grace for things that have changed (pregnancy, injury, etc…) Instead of setting huge goals, I just strive to get a little faster, go a little farther, lift a little more than the previous times.

  16. It’s easy to wind up in a place where you are constantly comparing yourself to others! I think it’s especially relevant in the blog world. The sooner we all realize every one and every BODY is different, the better! It took me a while to get there, but I’m with you… you have to figure out what works for you and roll with it, even if that means changing what you did throughout your first pregnancy! 😉

  17. Michelle says:

    Yes! I am trying to get back into running and keep feeling discouraged because I’m not where I was a couple years ago. This morning, I did a trail run and just focused on enjoying being out there and doing what I can do–even if there was some walking–I even stopped a couple times and just enjoyed the silence and all the wildflowers. (Hungry Runner Girl’s post yesterday also relates to what you’re talking about)

    Fitness is a gift! So many people out there are struggling even to climb a flight of stairs or walk around the block.

  18. What a great topic! I have definitely fallen victim to comparison plenty of times, even as I’ve been accomplishing things I should be proud of like gaining muscle and reducing fat. This post inspired me to unfollow a couple Instagram accounts that pretty much show 2 things: 1) the person taking selfies in a bra and shorts showing off their rock solid abs, or 2) before and afters of people – these accounts do little other than make me feel worse about where I’m at, and I don’t need to constantly see these in my feed.

  19. Crystal says:

    I agree with you on how getting older will change how we view things (I think we’re close to the same age, I turned 30 last Oct). I used to compare myself to other people ALL the time, in all aspects of life. Comparison really is the thief of joy! As I get older I am learning how not important all that stuff is. Great post!

  20. Great insight! This is something I definitely struggled with in the past but as you said with age comes wisdom. I’m much better about comparisons now than 10 years ago!

    More recently I’ve been working on not being distracted by other yogis around me during practice… I try to focus on me, my mat, my breath and how I’m feeling!

  21. Three cheers for this post!! Love the honesty and completely agree with age bringing some wisdom 🙂 I think my turning point on ditching the comparisons was getting divorced (at 30). Among many not so great things, my ex was very competitive. Everything was a competition and I found I was constantly comparing myself to others – looks, weight, money, job, whatever, and was always concerned that I didn’t measure up. Getting out of that unhealthy relationship and getting divorced was truly liberating for me. I believe divorce still comes with a bit judgement by some. That experience in my life truly has allowed me to let go of comparing where I am to someone else. We’re all on our paths being led by the universe so we have to trust! I have a new appreciation for what other people are going through (that we can or can’t see on the surface), so I find I approach things with more compassion and less competition. Also I am getting remarried this year to the most wonderful, kind, loving, supportive man 🙂 so hellz to the yes for that too! Thanks for the post Gina and for the wonderful 10 mins of reflecting I didn’t think I was going to have today! xoxoxo

  22. This is such a great post. I used to be terrible about comparing myself to others. I finally realized that there will always be someone way ahead of me in terms of fitness level and there will always be someone facing more of a challenge than me. Really, everyone has a challenge of some sort, even if its not that obvious to others. what made the light bulb go on for me was finally realizing how thankful I was for the abilities that I do have (and trying not to take my health for granted).

  23. Always such a relevant topic, Gina! I love that you don’t say “NEVER compare!” knowing when to compare and how to use comparison for good is a very realistic approach. I love it!

  24. One thing I really admire about you is how balanced you are in your approach to fitness, food, and really it seems life in general. I know a lot of people in the fitness world who constantly want to compete and compare, and if you’re a professional athlete whose life and career involves competing, then it’s a different story. For the rest of us, I think comparing often leads to unhappiness and injury at worst. I know that for me, I try to push myself outside of my comfort zone but I don’t do it to keep up with anyone else. My fitness routine revolves around what feels good both mentally and physically for me. There’s someone who works out at the same studio as I do and they are constantly trying to compete with me in a very obvious/often verbal way. It used to bother me but I just focus on myself and my goals and as a result, enjoy my fitness life and what my body can do today 🙂

    • Fitnessista says:

      thank you so much, lovely. <3
      ahhh that can be a tough one. when we were in north carolina, i had a similar situation and i ended up putting even more pressure on myself. smart that you can brunch it aside and do what you need to do for you <3

  25. I really liked this post! A few years ago I gained weight due to a health issue and had trouble losing it due to the same issue. Once I got the issue under control with meds, I started on an intense workout and stricter eating path (I have Celiac, so I’m pretty strict to begin with) to lose the weight I had gained. I felt like I did it in a healthy way and lost all of the weight and toned up in a few months. I was able to maintain what I had achieved for about a year. Then I moved to a new city and gained weight due the same issue along with lifestyle changes I wasn’t quite ready for (higher stress, not as much time to workout, gluten free treats everywhereeee). I’ve been trying to lose that weight for the past year and I keep comparing my method last time around to now and trying to see what I can do to make it work as well again, but it’s just not the same (for so many reasons). This post was really helpful!

  26. Jessie says:

    I find your words so relevant- thank you! I’m 31 now and also believe as you get older you become more comfortable with who you are and also care less what others think. Not too long ago I often compared myself to others and tried so hard to “fit in” more so when I became a mom. I wanted a sense of community so much. I was so worried because my family doesn’t have as much money as others who I was around and I had to just take a step back and realize that money isn’t everything. And be thankful for what I do have. I learned that if people judge me for what I have or my husband’s occupation, they’re not the friends for me or people that I want to associate myself with any way. Also, this is partly why I haven’t started a blog. I feel taking a step back from social media has been good for me. I was comparing myself with what others do and how many “likes” they get. Anyway, sorry for the ramble! You made great points!

    • Fitnessista says:

      totally agree. social media can definitely be discouraging in that aspect, and many others. xoxo

  27. THis topic is exactly why I follow you. One thing I genuinely love is that never in the 5 years I’ve followed you have you made me want to compare myself to you. You’re always giving great tips, advice, encouraging others to listen to their own bodies, etc. It’s refreshing as a health professional to witness other health professionals who too believe in this philosophy. What could nourish me may be your poison. All that to say, thank you, for constantly bringing positivity into an arena that can often feel scary, congested and quite frankly discouraging. I look forward to your uplifting posts, your open mind and your authenticity! <3

  28. I love this – great reminder.

    I’ve been becoming more and more aware that I need to work on noticing my intuition. I would love a post that describes how you came to a place where you’re more aware of your needs/desires. 🙂

  29. Emily B says:

    “Equal work does not equate to equal results, which can be a frustrating and hard-to-grasp concept”…ohmygoodnessyes. Those exact same words just came out of my mouth about 10min ago, although not related in any way to fitness. I’m a med school student and right now I am STRUGGLING. A good friend of mine who studies with me literally day in, day out, is CRUSHING IT. It’s sooooooo very hard not to compare (and right now I’ll admit I am totally failing at not comparing) when you feel like you’re doing all the same things and the results are just not equivalent. (It certainly doesn’t help that med school classes are ~100 super type A personalities that later have to compete for residency spots, but I digress…) I haven’t found my turning point yet obviously…

    • Fitnessista says:

      that is intense. i’ve thought about going back to school, and thoughts like this intimidate me. thinking of you!! you’ll hit your groove <3

    • I can relate! I went back to school for nursing and was just thinking this same thing as i got a lousy grade back on a test I took the other day and a friend got an A+. Hang in there. 🙂

  30. I have a problem with this is so many aspects of my life. Especially when I’m in the gym, I see other girls and think “lucky,” while I feel horrible about myself. I’ve had my last 10 pounds for about the past 5 years and they really weigh down on me mentally. But it seems like no matter how little/much I eat or workout, nothing works! And I live in a small town so there aren’t many options besides a home gym for me. I need help 🙁

  31. One of my favorite quotes (sometimes a mantra to myself) is:

    “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

    And it is a favorite because I’m still working on learning it 🙂 Thanks for this lovely reminder.

  32. This is such an important topic and you covered it so beautifully! It is so hard to not fall into the comparison trap in our society between the media and social media. Everyone’s lives are so “available” to everyone else and it is often easy to only see the good stuff.

  33. I struggle with this a lot, especially with social media! Being pregnant it’s hard not to compare what I’m doing now to what I was doing and what everyone else is doing. But it’s important to remember what you see is just the highlight reel. Here’s a little trick I created for myself when I fall into the trap: http://www.livehalffullblog.com/2014/10/16/a-new-way-to-avoid-the-comparison-trap-on-social-media/

  34. Ahh! It’s so nice to hear that others struggle with this too. Thank you for sharing!

    And I think you’re the best 🙂

  35. I just had my first baby in March and I have to catch myself because it is easy to start comparing my current body/fitness level to other new moms or my ‘before baby’ self. I have to take a step back and be proud of what my body accomplished….growing a healthy little human and continuing to nurture and provide for her and set a positive healthy example for her!

  36. Virgilio says:

    Comparing myself to others was the thing that most intimidated me about getting out to exercise… I found a super helpful trainer at http://www.jobquotes.com/ though who helped me to realize that I would see so much progress and really enjoy myself more the more I worry about MY progress and not the lack of progress that I seem to be having compared to others.

  37. Faye Holloway says:

    I really got a lot out of this post and think you are such a great inspiration when it comes to living a life of balance. Will you do a post some time on how you deal with really bad workout days? I know it’s so trivial, but I had a terrible day at OTF where I just didn’t want to be there and just went through the motions and feel like I’m in a workout funk now.

  38. I fall into this trap a LOT. I just had two kids about 18 months apart, so I have almost 60 pounds to lose. I see people around me losing the weight so much faster and it makes me crazy, but I try to remember that I’m still not sleeping much which hurts my metabolism, and I’m juggling the kids, school, and work. All I can do is watch what I eat and workout, and if I’m patient the weight will come off.

  39. Great thoughts. I shared similar feelings in this recent post: http://www.breathedeeplyandsmile.com/2015/05/a-mile-is-mile-is-mile-workout-comparisons.html

    Workouts and health are different person to person based on genetics and lifestyle. It’s so easy to compare in our culture of over-sharing and social media bombardment!

  40. So true and great way to look at it!

    I’m sure you have experienced this, I am an avid Orange Theory goer and you know there is always that really in-shape person that you end up next to on the treadmill that you sneak a look at their pace, and you get a little frustrated that they’re pushing at 8 and all out at 10…but then I look at my own pace and my own fitness level and realize mine is as good FOR ME and I’m working as hard as they are FOR ME and you forget about stuff like that. Its hard to rationalize (I mean, if they’re in that good of shape they must know something, right?) but I do think as we get older the competition factor vanishes and you remember what its all for…health and longevity!

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