You’ve been following your workout plan faithfully and you’re seeing results, but your friend at the gym seems to be making more gains.
Even when you’re making progress, frequently comparing yourself to other people—at the gym, grocery store, Instagram or wherever—can leave you feeling frustrated or discouraged. So why do so many of us do it?
Comparing yourself to others can be a strong source of motivation and direction. After all, our culture and media are filled with messages of what someone should strive to be. Unfortunately, those messages are not always reasonable or realistic.
Moreover, instead of comparing apples to apples, we compare apples to oranges. The person with the toned abs you compare yourself to at the gym most likely inherited a different body type than yours, so they build muscle more easily or burns fat more quickly.
The images you see on social media are usually significantly altered and filtered to look perfect.
Constantly making unrealistic comparisons between yourself and others can leave you feeling like you can’t measure up, which tugs at your self-worth and can result in mental health issues such as depression and feelings of failure.
Comparison also causes you to focus on others rather than yourself, which makes you feel like you’re not “enough.” When you start worrying that you’re not strong enough or fast enough, you set off an internal dialogue that can spiral downward into anxiety and self-doubt.
This leads to mental distraction that throws you off your game, so instead of feeling confident and empowered, you end up draining your system of the energy you need to be successful, both mentally and physically.
Moreover, comparisons can negatively affect relationships with friends and workout buddies. If you’re envious of each other’s accomplishments, it’s also nearly impossible to be supportive of each other and truly celebrate when you reach milestones.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself. How well are you doing compared to where you were a few weeks or a month ago?
Comparing yourself to your previous self gives you vital information on your own progress and how to get closer to your goals while keeping your focus on self-improvement.
Of course, changing this behaviour is easier said than done. For some people, it may be an ingrained thought pattern that needs to be unlearned with time and effort, but it is possible.
The first step is to be aware of your thoughts; in other words, catch yourself making comparisons and shift your thinking.
Make a conscious effort to notice when you are focusing on others and redirect your focus on your own performance and goals.
Practice mental skills such as empowering self-talk, visualizations and breathing techniques can help you bring your mind and energy back to yourself.
Also, determine if the comparison is healthy or unhealthy. If comparison gives you hope and inspiration, and ignites your motivation, then it’s giving you energy. Learning how they reached their goals can guide you toward yours. But if you’re thinking things like, “I’ll never get there,”‘ or “It’s easy for them but not for me,” then the comparison is draining you.
Having a professional trainer or coach can go a long way toward helping you stay focused on your individual goals. A health and exercise professional can set realistic benchmarks and develop a specific plan to help you reach them, as well as make adjustments and “course corrections” along the way to keep you on track.
Self-confidence is about believing in yourself; not about yourself in comparison to someone else.