Almost two years ago, I wrote the comparison game at the height of COVID 19 because I was sick and tired of clients downplaying their achievements. When someone does their best, breaks a PR, or gets a new promotion, they’re not satisfied because so and so is doing better.
They’re comparing their achievements with someone else and not enjoying their moment of doing something great. Now, there is nothing wrong with striving to do better but this is more about downplaying achievements. Because when you get to the point of putting yourself down, that’s too much.
And I’m not holier than thou because I’ve done this on several occasions. There are probably several reasons why this happens but it’s beyond the scope of this article. I’m no shrink, just a personal trainer who wears tracksuit pants and drinks too much coffee.
But recently, I’ve noticed a new comparison game some of my clients ( and myself ) are playing.
The New Comparison Game
If you’re a young whippersnapper, this probably doesn’t apply to you but if you’re a little older like me then pay attention. The new comparison game is comparing yourself to a previous self, way back. For example
“Ohh 10 years ago I used to lift this’
“15 years ago, I was full of energy and could jump puddles in a single bound.’
“ I feel so stiff and old. When I was younger, I never felt like this.’
Is this true? Yes. Does this type of comparison help them in the present. Probably not.
Comparing yourself to years past is a game you’re never going to win. Looking back at your past self with rose-colored glasses although nostalgic and doesn’t benefit you in the present. But does it feel good to reminisce?
This article is inspired by an 85-year-old client who is an absolute powerhouse. She is active in her church community, active in her retirement community and basically goes a million miles an hour every day. Physically she suffers from aches and pains like a lot of other people her age, but she is strong, mobile and her balance is top-notch.
But recently, during a down moment, while she was warming up, she said she ‘felt old’ and was thinking back to an earlier age when she didn’t ‘feel old’. She, I felt was downplaying her current powerhouse self.
Is This All Bad?
Of course not. Wanting to be better because you’re comparing yourself to a previous time when you could do more can be motivating. It may drive you to do more, set better goals, and focus on the task at hand.
“ I used to be able to do this (insert achievement here) and I want to be able to do this again.
Recently I made it a goal to bench press 225 pounds again because around 8 years ago I could do it and wanted to do it again. And I made this happen. Now, this is an example of a good comparison driving progress.
But (cliché alert) the other side of the comparison coin when you compare yourself to something that’s extremely difficult to do now but easy when you were younger. For example, running a 12 second 100 meters when you were in high school.
And then downplaying your current self because you cannot do this anymore. This is a game you’re never going to win because you may feel like shit.
And this is when you lose.
What To Do Instead of Playing This Comparison Game
It’s natural to compare yourself with your previous self. This is not wrong but when you put yourself down due to this it becomes a problem. If you catch yourself doing this, here are a few tips to get out of your own head.
1. Participate in mind and body activities such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation. This helps you to feel whole, centered, grounded, and soothed.
2. Try to make someone’s day and change the world for the better.
3. Remind yourself the only person you should be comparing yourself against is the person from yesterday. It is cliché but it helps.
4. Be grateful for who you are and what you are today. It’s more than likely you’re wise, have more disposable income, and are surrounded by friends and family. Writing this down in a journal helps.
5. Use this positively by doing better in whatever you want to achieve. Being a glass half full person is better than being a glass-half-empty person.
Although playing this comparison game is okay to use for the occasional motivational boost and to reminisce about an easier time it’s not a great long-term strategy for you in the present.
When you find yourself playing this new comparison game, then finding ways to stop this train of thought in your head is essential. Because you should always find joy in your progress