How I deal with comparison in running and in daily life
In today’s social media obsessed society, it’s so easy to look at other people that we admire online and start to, consciously or not, compare ourselves to them. Are we as pretty as them? As talented as them? As strong or as fast as them? But reducing the impulse to compare myself with others is just another benefit I have experienced since I started running.
There are so many reasons that running has helped me limit how much I compare myself to others and instead focus on comparing only with my past self. We all have to start from somewhere, and I can look back and see how I have improved on a personal level since my first venture into running. Thinking about my first parkrun, for example, it’s easy to see how my pace and technique have improved over the past two and a half years. Not only have I reduced that original 5k personal best by almost 15 minutes but I’ve also run a distance 4 times as far in my first half marathon in April.
I have focused on setting achievable personal goals, working my way up to marathon distance, and even though I would absolutely love to finish the Paris marathon in under 4 hours, I know that whatever time I complete it in, I will be proud of myself for pushing myself to run that great distance. For setting a goal and achieving it. Somebody recently revealed to me that their running mantra is “complete not compete”, which I absolutely love. It is a perfect phrase to motivate yourself to keep going even when it seems that everyone else is gliding along while your legs feel like they are wading through treacle.
Of course it’s not always so easy to let that comparison to others go, and I do worry about keeping up with the long-legged beauty that is my Paris marathon running buddy. It would be so great to run the entire course together, but I’m also trying to remember not to push myself further than I can manage; my little legs might not be able to maintain her pace! But no matter what, I know we will meet for celebrations at the finish line!
Although the online community has been a vital support to my running journey over the past few months, Instagram in particular is a haven for judging yourself against the success of others. It may seem like everyone else is running further, faster and more frequently than you, but it’s so important to remember that Instagram more often than not only shows the highlight reel of someone else’s experience; the best bits they are willing to share. They might not always post about the runs that didn’t go to plan or the times when they stayed in to watch Netflix instead.
I’m sure you’ve also heard the saying “Don’t compare your Chapter One to somebody else’s Chapter Fifty”. We are all on different journeys, and I truly believe that what’s right for us comes to us when we are ready, so what’s the point of comparing? Just keep on working hard on your own goals and everything is likely to fall into place along the way.
This message isn’t just true for running, but for all aspects of life. The minute we stop comparing ourselves with others, we immediately free up more headspace to not only focus on our own goals but also to be unbelievably proud of the achievements our loved ones are celebrating. This also leaves less space and time for negative emotions like jealousy. I’m absolutely not saying that I haven’t had doubts about what I’m doing with my life! When I hear about my friends getting engaged or buying houses there is often an instinctive feeling of anxiety that I’m not matching up to them. Thoughts like “Maybe I would be getting married if I was thinner or cleverer…” are thoughts that sometimes cloud my mind. However, I’ve got to remember that they are on their path and I am on mine, and I am so grateful for the amazing opportunities and people I do have in my life.
Finally, I’m trying to get to a place where I accept that inconsequential things such as my weight or dress size do not bear any significance on my ability to run a marathon. Thinner does not necessarily equal faster, and as long as I am treating my body with respect and fuelling and training appropriately, it doesn’t matter if I’m a size 8 or a size 18. The diet culture industry thrives on us thinking we are never good enough, so how about ditching it and working towards making our peace with the fact that some people are smaller, some people are bigger, some people are taller, some people are shorter? Some people like running, some people like rowing, some people like reading, some people like roller-skating. If we were all the same, life would be pretty monotonous, right?!
If you take one thing away from this, I want it to be that you are enough. You are the only person in the world with your experiences and your personal achievements. You are the only person with your smile. That makes you pretty damn special. So try to leave that instinct to compare or judge at the start line of your next race and focus on competing only with your former self.
Still struggling with accepting yourself? Why not learn more about how running helps me take pride in my body by reading Body acceptance…
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