Why Comparisons Are Counterproductive


Denise Harris



We’ve all been there. Scrolling through our social media feeds, liking this photo and that one. Adorable baby, cute cat, funny video, and bam! That person with the body you envy! The comparisons begin rushing through your mind in waves of “I wish I had,” “if I could just,” and “it must be so easy for them.” Here’s where we must stop. Comparing ourselves to others is counterproductive and can lead to the development of an unhealthy self-perspective. Seeing ourselves in negative or unrealistic ways only sabotages our hard work in the gym and prevents us from taking pride in the progress we experience or the goals we reach. Here’s why:


Our Comparisons Often Miss the Process

You’ve heard it before: “Trust the process.” That is key. When we look at others for comparison, we’re often looking at finished products without seeing what work the person may have done (or had done) to get where they are. We don’t know their lives, their motivations, their discipline or their challenges. With all of those variables, we have no sound point of reference and the picture we see is incomplete. Therefore, we can’t possibly make fair judgment of a person’s progress nor can we liken their journey to our own. We can, however, almost always assume there was a plan followed and action taken. Focusing our attention there helps us to think more practically and, potentially, learn about how a person’s training, nutrition, or mindset may be useful.

Our Comparisons are Often Unrealistic

Anything that lives undergoes change, our bodies included. And every body is different, yours included. We must keep this in mind when we look at others in relation to ourselves. More importantly, we must bear this truth in mind when we self-compare. If you’re starting a new fitness journey after a period of minimal or no physical activity, it can be easy to think about where your strength and endurance levels “used” to be. But doing so can be paralyzing and detrimental to your current progress. Remember, our bodies naturally age and evolve over time so, technically, they won’t ever be the same as before. And that’s okay! Start where you are, not where you were. That’s the healthiest approach to measuring meaningful progress. Instead of thinking, “I used to be stronger” or “I’ve really fallen off the wagon,” try, “I am strong and working to be stronger” or “everyone starts at a different level and where I’m starting is just fine.”

Our Comparisons Blind Us to the Value of Our Unique Journeys

You are the only you in the world. Read that again. Your journey will never be exactly the same as another’s. It’s important that we learn to embrace our struggles, our triumphs, and all of the experiences in between. Not only do they shape our individual fitness journeys, they ultimately shape our lives. Each time we set a goal, we exhibit self-confidence. When we consistently do the work to reach that goal, we demonstrate our dedication and perseverance. And every time we achieve a goal, we prove to ourselves that we’re must stronger than we knew. Focusing on another person’s journey as a point of comparative reference prevents you from recognizing and celebrating your own growth. Instead, choose to own your story and find joy in every bit of progress you make. It feels so much better!

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