How comparing to others can make you hate yourself, and what to do to stop it.
Do you ever feel like the body you want is always just that little bit out of reach?
Like you’ll never be as fit as you want, never strong enough, and certainly never lean enough to be content with yourself.
There’s always going to be someone fitter and stronger than you, so what’s the point?
Well here are a few things that you can use to stop hating on yourself and start putting things into a bit of well-needed perspective.
I’m going to use myself as an example here.
Simple because I’ve been there myself and from time to time it’s still something I have to pull myself up on when I feel the comparison mindset creeping back in.
I started my fitness journey off as a skinny 17-year-old. After years of struggling to put on weight and feeling generally shitty and unhappy I turned to the gym.
Smiling on the outside, but grossly unhappy on the inside.
After an on-again-off-again relationship with the gym and various forms of sports n fitness, I wound up in my mid-40’s still not happy…
Fast forward to the year of my 50th birthday, and I set the goal to get into “cover model” shape - thinking if I didn’t do it now, I never would…. Sound familiar??
And I did it - got into the best shape of my life and stood have naked in a gym full of bodybuilders that I idolised and had my picture taken…. The sense of accomplishment was amazing.
I was fitter, stronger, leaner, more energetic, more productive and my whole persona had changed for the better as I was a lot happier than I’d ever been.
Well that soon wore off.
“What next?” I thought.
I wanted more. I wanted more muscle, better abs, and to be leaner. To look like the people that graced the cover of Muscle & Fitness and men’s health magazines you find on the internet. To compete…
There was always someone better to compare myself to, and the unfortunate truth that everyone has to accept is that there is ALWAYS someone better looking, with more muscle, and with better abs than you. Even if you are in the genetically elite, of which I certainly am not.
Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey right now, it is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL to feel these things and be unhappy with your progress.
To not feel good enough.
To feel like everyone is doing better than you.
To feel like giving up because what’s the point when your Instagram feed is full of influencers that ALL look better than you? (forgetting the fact they are PAID to look like that and they’ve built their following from this)
It’s that Comparison Conundrum that led you to click on this article in the first place.
If you relate to even a single statement above you’ll know how demoralising and absolutely soul destroying it is when comparing your seemingly insignificant self to that of your favourite influencers right?
It doesn't have to be that way, and I’m going to tell you why.
Before I begin I’m going to tell you a secret that you may or may not already know.
EVERYBODY IS DOING IT.
Even your idols are comparing parts of their lives to others and feeling unsatisfied with what they have or what they have achieved.
Your friends and family are doing it too.
So why can’t we be happy with what we have?
Well, according to science it’s human nature.
Social Comparison Theory.
Coined by the psychologist Leon Festinger who explored why we as humans compare ourselves to our relative peer groups. Our relative peer groups meaning our friends, family, and colleagues.
The problem we have now is that social media is everywhere. We get up close and personal with our favourite celebrities and influencers that we feel like we know them. We are a part of their world and we share their experiences through them.
So because we spend so much time investing into these people’s lives we feel like we are connected to them and they become part of our social circle and in turn part of our “peer group”.
This is where the unhappiness and resentment develops.
Ever binge-watched 5 seasons of a series on Netflix and become distraught when a favourite character dies? The character you’ve spent 50 hours getting to know and love, only for them to be cruelly killed off?
It’s the same with Facebook and Instagram, we spend so much time following their lives we feel like we know them inside and out so when they share their experiences, we feel them too.
The theory of social comparison discusses that when we think we are more successful than 2/3 of our relative peers then we switch to a different peer group. That peer group being the celebrities and influencers you have spent so much time invested in.
This is exactly where the problem lies when you start comparing yourself to extremely successful or attractive people. The 1% of people that ever reach the dizzying heights of stardom and the peak of their chosen profession.
We demonize social media for the huge negative impact it can have on your mental health, but we willingly do it to ourselves!
Social media isn’t the enemy here, it never has been.
We are our own worst enemy and will continue to be until we can acknowledge that our behaviour is actually detrimental to our success.
We don't have the 6 pack abs, we aren’t driving the Bentley, and we’re taking our annual holidays in exclusive beach clubs in the Seychelles or Maldives...(and if you are, why are you reading this?!) but who cares?
So before we get all doom and gloom about the things we don’t have I’m going to talk about a few things you can start doing right now that will have a positive impact on your mindset, and remind you that you are doing well and that yes you should carry on.
FOCUS ON ACTIONS NOT OUTCOMES
With the highs, come the lows.
You reach your goal, you celebrate, you have a few days off.
Or what if you don’t reach it at all?
Have you failed and was the whole journey leading up to it a complete waste of time?
What about all of the work you put in?
This is where focusing on actions and not the outcomes works so well and it’s something I practice with all of my clients.
Want to lose 10kg or bench 150kg?
Then what actions do you need to implement each day to get you closer to your goal?
How many calories do you have to eat consistently per day?
How does your training have to be programmed to ensure you still progress?
If I prep my food for the week will this ensure I stay on track?
Take the small wins daily instead of focusing on the big outcome and I promise you that you will instantly start feeling more successful.
ELIMINATE YOUR TRIGGERS
Ever heard of the saying you are the product of your environment?
Or you are what you eat?
You are also what you consume on social media so if these things are having a negative impact on your mindset and wellbeing then why would you continue to follow them?
You wouldn’t hang around shitty people so the same principle should apply for social media.
Ever seen someone squatting some ridiculous weight and wished it was you?
Or seen someone’s ridiculous 8 pack and thinking “fuck me, I’ve got no hope”
What used to be inspiration and motivation, is now just resentment and jealousy?
Pretty fucking simple.
Unfollow, avoid, and don’t consume their content.
Give yourself some headspace to get some perspective on where you are and what you really want to achieve. Do you really want those abs or is social media telling you that you should have them?
Only with time away can you really evaluate what you want and then take steps forward from there.
It really is okay to switch off from social media sometimes.
You aren’t missing anything, trust me.
SET YOURSELF REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
People at the top of their game have usually been at their craft for at the very least 10–15+ years, and also have the genetic potential to be elite, so why are you comparing your relatively short fitness journey to theirs?
It’s unrealistic and does nothing but cause dissatisfaction with your own results and your own success.
You want to lose 2 stone but you’ve only been dieting for 4 weeks so what are you expecting - miracles?
Refer to my first point one if you’ve forgotten about this already.
Want to bench 150kg but you’ve barely been training a year?
Then dream on because when you can only bench 60kg right now 100kg may be a more realistic goal for you right now. 140kg will come in time, but setting a goal so far above where you are will leave you feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated.
Again refer to point 1.
TAKE A STEP BACK AND PUT THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE
6 months ago you were 2 stone overweight or had barely lifted a weight and where you are now?
You’ve come pretty damn far right?
Setting goals and being ambitious is always something I would encourage but it’s always good to sit back on occasion and realise just how far you’ve come.
You’re so set on your goal of benching 150kg that you’ve forgotten that a year a go the bar was heavy for you. Since then you’ve done 60kg, 80kg, and even 100kg has fallen so surely they are reasons to celebrate too?
Learn to take the wins along the way and be grateful for your health which allows you to follow your fitness endeavours.
So let’s remember.
Comparing ourselves to others is human in nature, but there is a lot we can do to start turning it into a more positive experience and start recognising just how well we are doing. Even if we haven’t reached our ultimate goal just yet.
So are there any of these you are going to implement or already use on a daily basis?
If you’re struggling with where to start on your fitness journey and want a little more guidance then drop me an email through the FitSELF website and tell me your biggest struggle right now.
Or simply find me on Instagram and connect with me there: @brad_fitself