In many aspects of life comparing yourself to other people can motivate you to get better. It can cause you to see others doing something that you aren’t able to do. That is a genuinely helpful and positive aspect of comparison and that’s not what we’re talking about here.
There are also two very negative things that can come out of constantly comparing yourself with others. In a negative sense, when you compare yourself to someone else one of two things happens: you feel superior to them or you feel inferior to them. Neither of these two things really do you any good.
You see this all the time. Someone squats two plates for the first time and then starts looking at members of the general public as weaklings. To them everyone who doesn’t squat is an idiot and the people who squat 20 pounds less than them are weak novices. They can readily spout off a dozen reasons why their program is superior and they love to look at others doing less than them to feel gratified about how far they’ve come. They love to give advice and “help” others who aren’t as good as they are.
Even if you change this scenario to a competitive lifter who frequently places in the top in his or her region, it doesn’t do them any good to look at people who are weaker than them in order to feel a sense of superiority. If you already feel you’ve made it and can look down upon others where will you get your motivation to improve yourself? Some people feel the need to look at others who aren’t as good as them to validate their progress and feel better about themselves. That’s just sad.
We all know that everyone has to start somewhere. Looking down on a beginner who is trying their best to learn and progress at something is a great way to discourage them from continuing and isn’t even fair to begin with because you’ve been doing it longer than they have. Even looking down on someone who you just narrowly beat out isn’t helpful. There are plenty of others who could just as easily compare themselves to you and be unimpressed.
The other side of this is people comparing themselves with others who are better than they are at something and feeling inadequate. Watching elite level athletes or practitioners in any field do what they do best can be inspiring. It can motivate you to push yourself to get where they are. Or it can be discouraging and make you want to quit. There is a tendency to look at your own progress, compare it to someone better than you, and feel weak and discouraged.
I don’t care how strong or awesome you are at something. If you look around long enough you can find someone better than you. Even if you’re the best in the world at something the chances are you won’t be forever. There will always be someone bigger, stronger, smarter, faster, more creative, and more successful than you. You should embrace that. If you keep trying to compare yourself to these people you will only feel down about how far you’ve come.
Some people refuse to pick up a new skill or start a new sport because before they even begin they’re discouraged that they could never be as good as the best in that field. I remember someone who was a pretty good musician telling me they quit guitar because they saw too many awesome videos of guys playing way better than them and it made them feel they could never get there so they didn’t feel a need to even try. Clearly if your comparing yourself to others makes you want to quit, it’s not helping you!
Compare Yourself to Yourself
So instead of constantly comparing yourself to others and wondering if you could lift more, if that guy could beat you up, if this person makes more or less than you, if you look better than that other person, etc. what should you do?
Compare yourself today with yourself yesterday. Compare yourself today with yourself several months ago. Compare yourself today with you when you first started. How much have you progressed? Do you need to change something up to keep getting better?
This way you can celebrate your achievements in the weight room and in life in general without feeling inadequate. You will also have a bit of humility and the feeling that you can always improve but you won’t feel complacent and superior to others. You can get a sense of how far you’ve come and feel secure in your achievements but there won’t be any need to look down on others. The best mentors and motivators are like this. They might be elite in their field but they won’t put a complete novice down and they also won’t feel inferior if someone does it better than them.
You can always push yourself to be better than YOU have been. You are you and other people are themselves. Forget about them and push yourself to be stronger, faster, smarter, or whatever it is.
What has been your experience with comparing yourself with others? Leave me a comment below!