The comparison game is a game you will always lose
Note- This was first published here. This is an edited version
Have you ever heard of this game?
If not, this is how it usually goes.
You’re flicking through a magazine, social media or channel surfing and you come across a man or women (or both) who seem to have it all. They’re good looking and the total package.
And they’re wearing nice clothes (or hardly any at all), nice things and are surrounded by money and opulence. And rub salt further into the wounds, they’re doing it all at some far-off exotic location.
And because you don’t have any of that, you’re a little jealous.
Or you’ve started your gym journey with all guns blazing. You’re eating right, nailing your workouts and your scale numbers are looking better. Then someone who looks amazing walks past you at the gym.
You look at them and you look at yourself in the mirror and you think ‘I want to look more like that because I look like shit.”
Starting to recognize this game now?
Recently my son nailed 5 body weight chin ups for the first time. And rather than enjoy the moment and recognize his awesome effort, he downplayed his achievement by comparing himself to a classmate who can do more.
He didn’t give himself a pat on the back because he played the comparison game.
It’s only natural to play
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others.
A man sizes up another man to see if he is bigger or better looking than him. A woman looks at other women to compare how they’re aging. Or if they have better (or worse) body parts or shoes or clothes.
But I’m only going by the limited experience I have with the fairer sex.
However, I’m no expert with the comparison game in the outside world but when it comes to the health and fitness universe, it’s more in my wheelhouse. Because me and (some of) my clients have played this game.
But it’s not all bad.
Motivation to train when everything is going your way, you’re feeling good and you have the time and energy to get after it, is easy. However, how many days are like that?
There are days when you need a little kickstart and comparing yourself to someone else’s progress and realizing (if you fall short) if they can look great, you can too.
Although you can’t rely on external motivation to always get the job done, the occasional burst helps keep you going when you’re NOT feelingon top of the world.
It’s hard to argue against ‘comparison is the thief of joy.’
When you’re making progress with your training and diet, but your results don’t measure up to the person you see in the magazine, on TV or the sexy gym rat, you may feel like a failure, even when it’s not the case.
Robbing yourself of wins and not enjoying the moment and all the progress you’ve made because you’re playing the comparison game is easy to slip into.
However, it’s a deep dangerous hole to fall into and it will suck all the joy out of your current progress. Because if that’s all you do, then it gets ugly.
If you’re constantly comparing your progress in the gym to those around you or your social media feeds and not the person in the mirror then you’re losing sight on how much you’ve achieved.
Because when you’re comparing progress to someone who is more experienced, to a person you don’t know or who maybe was born with better genetics, you’re almost always going to end up on the losing end.
Even when you’re killing it.
What to do instead
When I’ve caught myself or my clients playing the comparison game here’s a few tips I use to turn this around.
- If you’re on social media and getting sucked down in the deep vortex of comparison, get off your damn phone, tablet or computer and do something constructive, like the dirty dishes in the sink.
- Participate in a mind and body activities such as yoga, tai chi or meditation. This helps you to feel whole, centered, grounded, and soothed. And you’ll be off your phone.
- Try to make someone’s day and change the world for the better because you’re more than just your appearance
- Realize that person has worked hard to get to this point and you still have plenty of hard work ahead of you. So, put your hard hat on and get to work.
- When you see someone in the gym who looks awesome, rather than stare and feel like a creeper, go up to them and compliment them on their appearance. And if you ask nicely, they’ll give you some tips to help your progress.
Although this game is okay to use for the occasional motivational boost it’s not a great long-term strategy.
But when you find yourself constantly playing this, then finding ways to stop this thought train in your head is essential. Because you should always find joy in your progress.