Comparing yourself to others is counterproductive.
Intuitively, we can agree here. But, it’s one nasty habit that goes away very slowly.
It’s human nature to feel that way. We are social creatures, and we always feel the need to know where we fall in the hierarchy - when compared to our family, friends, and society as a whole.
But how we see ourselves, especially in relation to others can have a massive impact on our beliefs, expectations, effort, and results, both in and out of the gym.
Your Job is To Do Your Best, Not Judge Yourself
If there is one thing I’ve come to realize in the last few years, it’s the fact that I’m the worst judge of myself. I frequently find fault with everything I do - my workouts, my writing, my coaching, and pretty much everything else I do, write or say.
And don’t get me wrong. I sometimes judge myself quite accurately. Some of my workouts DO suck. My writing DOES suck at times. I sometimes DO make poor choices with regards to what I say or do. In some cases, I do well with a bit of tough love from myself.
And I’m sure you’re a lot like me. No matter what you have going on in your life, you probably feel a lot of the same things as me. And that’s normal.
But, here’s the thing:
If we constantly give into our fears and criticisms, we’ll never get far. Always assuming that what we are doing is not good enough, that we aren’t good enough. A healthy dose of fear or frustration can be helpful, but too much and too often is not.
So, what can we do about it?
We can do our best. We can set a schedule for ourselves and attack each day with what we’ve got. Do your best and work on getting better - at school, at work, in the gym, and everywhere else.
Some days will be more favorable than others - your workouts will be better, your productivity will be higher, and you’ll feel happier and more confident. Other days won’t be as good. But, again, that’s life.
Social media has made it look like everyone out there is grinding 24/7 and enjoy success after success. But things aren’t always that way. Everyone out there struggles. Your favorite athlete has bad workouts. Your favorite actor feels wooden from time to time. Your favorite writer endures the occasional mental block.
What matters most is that, over time, you get better, that you move closer to your goal, not in comparison to someone else, but to yourself.In the wise words of Neil Gaiman:
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be, which was an author, primarily in fiction - making good books, making good comics, making good drama, and supporting myself through my words - imagining that that was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that, as long as I kept walking toward the mountain, I’d be alright.
The Dangers of Comparing Yourself to Others (Especially on Social Media)
Some time ago, I came across a Youtube video from a young guy with an amazing physique. And when I say amazing, I mean it. He had great proportions, decent muscular development, and low body fat. He was also very strong - his bench was in the low 300s, squat was in the mid-400s, and he could deadlift about 600 pounds.
I found his Instagram page and saw dozens of perfectly-angled photos. Like most, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I look like this guy?” I also thought to myself, “You dumbass. Get off Instagram right now!”
The dude’s name doesn’t matter. You can place your favorite fitness model in his place, and the scenario will be pretty much the same, but with a different face.
Comparing yourself to other people is self-destructive at worst, and counterproductive at best. This goes double for doing so on social media.
A lot of people these days have body image issues precisely because they keep comparing themselves to others. Plenty of fitness models out there are ripped 365 days of the year and are more than happy to boast about it on social media. Good for them. But when the average person compares themselves to that model, they lose confidence in the way they look and the progress they’ve made so far.
First off, always remember that what you see on social media are the highlights. The person probably took a hundred selfies before the one you’re looking at. Secondly, you can never know what it’s like ‘behind the scenes.’ There is a lot of angle work, a lot of Photoshop, filters, and of course, steroid use.
So, the next time you’re scrolling through Instagram and you come across something that makes you feel bad about yourself, stop and realize that these people get paid to look a certain way and that what you see in the photos isn’t necessarily their real, unfiltered self.
My recommendation is to spend less time on social media in general, but since that’s a difficult habit to shake off, at least use some common sense and remember that what you’re seeing there is a carefully constructed image of that person.
One other common scenario has to do with us comparing ourselves to people who are ahead of us in the game. The gym newbie who feels terrible when they see that one jacked guy. The new blogger who desperately wants to be like their idol. The fresh entrepreneur who feels awful in comparison to people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson.
Here’s the thing though:
You’ve been at it for a week, a month, or a year. The person you’re comparing yourself to has been at it for a decade, two, or more. In other words, they’ve been at it for much longer than you. They’ve spent more time, made more mistakes, learned more things, made more connections, and have naturally gotten the results you crave so badly. But it didn’t happen overnight for them.
Nobody out there got jacked in a month. Nobody made their blog successful in a few weeks. And those entrepreneurs you compare yourself to have made thousands of mistakes before getting to where they are today.
They are merely farther down the line than you are. You need to give yourself time. Focus on your own thing, track your improvements, and be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Trust me - you’ll live a happier and more satisfying life that way.
Take The First Step to a More Productive Future
Maybe I’m onto something here, or perhaps I’m full of crap. I leave this up to you to decide. But I’ve found that when I focus on myself and my work, I feel much better. I’m more focused, more motivated, and more grateful.
It doesn’t matter what the next person is doing - that’s their life, and it doesn’t change your bottom line. What you should focus on is your own life - your work, your successes, and your habits.
How that compares to someone else’s result doesn’t matter. Your job is to create a life you love and work you are proud of. Who cares what anyone else has achieved or what they think of you.
If your work, your results, and your achievements don’t resonate with someone (or a lot of someones), that’s their problem. Whether someone likes you or not depends on lots of factors, many of which you cannot control. You can’t please everyone, and you certainly can’t make everyone like you.