The Comparison Trap
I’ve been relatively quiet lately because quite frankly, I just got tired and I didn’t have much to share/say. And I’d rather be silent that write something crappy for the sake of writing – so…yup. Anyways, a thought occurred to me the other day when I was reading blogs, checking social media, etc. that I thought was worthy of discussion: we have a serious comparison problem in the healthy living/fitness/whatever blog world and frankly, in the “real” world, too.
Now, I think comparison can be a good thing – it’s good to know where you stand amongst a group of peers. It can drive you do better and serve as a source of motivation. The problem comes when we look at everyone else and start to feel really shitty about ourselves for no good reason. We look at what everyone else puts out there and feel like we’re not good enough/should be better/jealous of what they’re doing. At some point, it stops being motivating (I’m going to work my ass off to squat/deadlift/clean more than her) and starts becoming destructive (I’m a failure as an athlete because I don’t squat/deadlift/clean as much as her). The line is fine and grey but when you cross it, you know. You start second-guessing yourself and start feeling bad for yourself. “Why can’t I do that many kipping pull-ups?” “Why can’t I snatch that much?” Why? Because you can’t…right now. But you could if you got out of your own negativity filled head and worked hard. I mean, what is the point of all that negative self-talk? It doesn’t serve a purpose. Bashing yourself isn’t going to add 10lbs to your jerk or your bench. Hard work will do that – throwing yourself a pity party will not. It does nothing but force your head into a negative space and that’s a bad place to be when you’re working towards goals.
I think we all get stuck in comparing ourselves to others and of wanting to be good at everything. Crossfit kind of does that to you – you want to be the best runner, pull-uper, deadlifter, and weightlifter all at the same time. But really, that’s pretty freaking hard. The vast majority of us aren’t “elite” athletes, the majority of us aren’t going to the Games or on a podium…AND THAT’S OK. Seriously, more power to you if you have those goals and are working like hell to reach them, I don’t think they’re bad goals at all but when it becomes a point of feeling shitty about yourself because you don’t have those goals – well, I’ve got an issue with that. Realistically, the majority of us just want to feel better, get stronger, and maybe even look a little better in the process. You don’t have to be a crazy competitive athlete if you don’t want to, you can just be you – a stronger, fitter you, but you nonetheless. I feel like there is a lot of pressure on people to have certain goals and that makes no sense to me. I want a 200x5 back squat, that’s my goal and I don’t expect anyone else to have it or think that it is a goal everyone should want. Someone else probably wants to get better at butterfly pull-ups to place a certain rank in a competition – and that’s great for them. My point is that no one should feel pressured to want to be a certain thing. They’re YOUR goals, so who CARES what other people think of them? Those that care will support you and those that don’t, well you probably don’t need them in your life anyways.
Comparison can also get people to a point where they think that “more is more” – more volume, more weight, more everything all the time. Then they complain that their body hurts, they’re exhausted beyond belief, and they don’t feel that great…but they keep doing “more” because, that’s what you do right? You just do more all the time and you get better? Not so much. I think there can be pressure within the Crossfit community for everyone to be “super hardcore” and do 3 sessions in a day or whatever. If you feel like shit after 3 sessions a day but do it anyways, and follow it up the next day with just a “light metcon” or “a 3 mile run” for some “active recovery”, and continue that pattern, you’re probably not going to feel all that great, especially if you’re not used that high level of volume. Just because that other girl can do it, doesn’t mean you can or more importantly, that you should. Running yourself into the ground to try and “beat” or be better than the other girl is just going to take the fun out of what you’re doing and you’re going to beat yourself up in the process. Beat the other chick by actually doing high-quality work, truly recovering from said work and getting stronger – not by trying to do more low-quality work all the time.
Basically, there is NO need to make yourself feel shitty by spending time worrying about what everyone else is doing. Put your head down, do the work, work smart, and reap the rewards.