Hello, I’m comparison. I make you evaluate yourself while looking at someone else, and often the end result is seeing yourself in a harsh light. I exist everywhere and my intention may be to keep you striving for more and better – but I don’t take into account all the different variables that stand between you and the other person and I often set up unrealistic expectations which lead you to feel inadequate. This inadequacy can be related to your physical appearance, where you are in life, your achievements, or any other area where you feel that you are lacking in some way.
Hello, I’m self criticism. I am an inevitable part of life, creeping up unnoticed when you assess your current standing and seek to improve on all areas of life. I’d like to think you need me as a kick up the backside, a “tough love” way of getting sh*t done. I can be mean, deflating and nagging. I come masked as a reality check, blinding you into seeing only what needs to be done or what you don’t yet have, instead of what you’ve already accomplished and attained.
COMPARISON AND SELF-CRITICISM
So there they are. You know them. I know them. We have all met our little inner demons.
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t quite enjoy something because at some point you had it figured out but things have changed and now you don’t? Or maybe you think you’re doing okay now, but let’s face it – someone else is doing better than you? Someone else has what you covet?
Okay, I’ll go first…. yes I have. So many times, in so many ways.
Here is just one example. Late last year I returned to my favourite sport after a break of about 8 months due to illness. For anyone who doesn’t know, I love Muay Thai more than I can put into words. I have trained pretty consistently over the years, but at times I have had to take a step back for different reasons, though I always get back into it at some point. So after my most recent break, I did just that.
And I sucked. I felt like I just couldn’t string anything together. I was tired easily; my hand to eye coordination was slow, my conditioning was lagging… I felt frustrated and annoyed that something that once felt so effortless now felt like hard work. The frustration was almost palpable – I thought to myself, I have trained in this sport for around 15 years… shouldn’t I be good at this thing by now?
Well I guess I am good at it. But not good enough for ME. Not enough for my own expectations.
While it seems so logical that we all have ‘off days’ and that the body needs time to get used to either mastering a new skill or performing a certain action again, the brain knows exactly how it should be, or it remembers exactly how it used to be. Result: while the body is doing its best to catch up, the mind is racing miles ahead. And don’t we all want instant results?
That day when my body felt uncoordinated and just didn’t seem to do what it was supposed to, it made me think to myself… how? How is this possible, when I used to compete…? I used to be so fit, I could do so much more… And look at that guy/girl over there, they are so good… was I ever that good?
Yep. I am guilty of COMPARING. And what goes hand in hand with comparing? You’ve guessed it – self-criticism.
Realistically, I did alright. But if I received any positive feedback, I couldn’t help stamping out any kind of compliment with a flood of self criticism and excuses as to why I wasn’t performing at my best:
“oh I haven’t trained in a long time, just getting back into the sport”
“Actually I haven’t fought in over 10 years, I was a lot younger and fitter back then”
“I’m so unfit at the moment, I would normally do (insert high number) times this”
And so on and so forth…
I genuinely felt inadequate about my performance and inadvertently started to excuse myself, when no one was even expecting anything out of me.
The truth is, those nice people offering positive feedback weren’t even there when I felt like I was training at “my best”. They saw me on what I perceived was a “bad day”…and they thought I was good enough.
What about you?
Have you found yourself criticizing your own skills to other people? When in reality there are people out there who would love to be where you are or have the skills you have? Yes, those same skills you shun and take for granted, because they aren’t good enough for you.
Maybe they aren’t good enough for you because you know how it used to be. And you can’t forget. So your brain automatically compares all your achievements to that “back then” time period, when you were younger, had a completely different lifestyle and well, basically everything was different. And since you can be so hard on yourself, let’s face it – were you even really happy with your performance back then? Chances are you were feeling like you weren’t as good as someone else, or that you should be doing better than you were anyway.
Or maybe your achievements aren’t good enough for you because you log on to Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest or whatever it may be, and you see someone who is younger, prettier, richer, bolder, fitter and they seem to be perfecting that skill you’ve so badly wanted to master. Of course, you know nothing about that person…except of course, that they are doing better than you. Maybe you personally know someone who seems to just have their sh*t together and you don’t know how they do it, but you feel as though if they can do it, why can’t you?
This feeling could be attributed to anything in life, really. Often times it is our own expectations that make us feel like we aren’t good enough.
When these feelings creep up on you and start stealing your joy, I want you to remember these two things:
The life you led 5 years ago (or sometimes even 6 months ago!) is never going to be the same as it is now. Regardless of how minor, there will have been changes. At times, these can be very significant changes. Perhaps you had children; moved overseas, interstate or regionally; started a new job with different working hours; had a change in your financial situation; went through a tough break up; suffered an injury or setback. There are countless ways in which variables in your life change or are unique and different to the lives of others. Adjusting to change can be really hard, especially if it involves the feeling of ‘losing something’ in the process.
Not long ago, I read a quote from professional surfer Owen Wright, who attempted to surf again after a debilitating brain injury. He briefly celebrated his own achievement, before becoming overpowered with the destructive influence of comparison and self-criticism. Here is his quote:
“Sharing my journey – I went for my first surf a couple days ago. It was the funnest thing in the world. Funny thing is… i couldn’t get to my feet. So I just layed there. It was about knee high and the drop was.. well there was none but it felt like I was dropping into 10ft teahupoo. I finished the wave and I was so stoked I let out a hoot and claimed it and high fived kita.
5 mins later I was on the beach and started to think about what I actually did and started comparing it to what I used to be like or what everybody else was doing out there… and started to question why cant I….this I found started to ruin my experience and change how I really felt.
It made me realise that ……self improvement is necessary but to focus on camparison of what used to be, what others can do or why you’re not good enough is detrimental to the now; negative emotion in your self will hinder improvement and happiness.
Simple statement …. challenging to practice”
See full post here:
Sharing my journey – I went for my first surf a couple days ago. It was the funnest thing in the world. Funny thing…
This really hit home for me. For some reason, it really struck a chord, because I felt like I could relate to that feeling of disappointment and comparison. After reading that, I vowed that I would stop comparing my now self with my previous self, when I had a different set of circumstances (and what feels now, like a different life). Not only that, but I also vowed that I would stop comparing myself to others so much and in turn stop being so self critical when I don’t even know their situation or in some instances, don’t even know them at all.
(Well – I vowed that I would at least try!)
This year, Owen Wright went on to win the Quiksilver Pro in a fairytale come back which only proves that limitations are largely a by-product of your mind and what you think you can achieve. That post was shared only a year ago, so one can only imagine how hard he worked to go from that, to winning a championship. It also goes to show the human body (and the brain!) can do amazing things, if we let it…
2. YOU ARE UNIQUE.
When comparing ourselves to other people, we rarely take into account every aspect of their life. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, we don’t know what sacrifices were made, we don’t know their individual circumstances. We want to pick one aspect of their life and apply it to our own, without realising that it’s all a part of a big jigsaw puzzle. No one has it good all the time, and you can’t just have all the good parts without going through the bad parts as well!
Comparing yourself to someone else is probably the most counter productive thing you can do… it’s like the good old saying – “you can’t compare apples to oranges”. It’s perfectly fine to be inspired by the achievements of other people, but if their greatness is causing you to feel insecure, look inward. It’s not the other person that is perfect – it’s your perspective of them that makes them perfect. You are not admiring – you are comparing. And that’s definitely not “inspiration”.
We learn to compare from a young age, and it’s the basis for all competition. But we need to maintain perspective and remember that not everything is a competition and there are no rules in life. It’s not a race. We don’t have to be better than anyone and we don’t have to be at our best all the time. What we do need, is to be kinder to ourselves (and others) and to celebrate our achievements at every stage of the process.
If you are constantly frustrated at where you are in life in comparison to other “more successful” people, when will you have a chance to stop and enjoy your own achievements? When was the last time you congratulated yourself on how far you’ve come without looking around and using someone else as a parameter?
It is undeniable that a healthy level of comparison can lead us to strive for more and better; without having anything to aim for we may not have the extra motivation to push ourselves to our limits. However, that same comparison that keeps us hungry can also be a thief of joy, in that we stop being happy with our small victories because “we used to be better”, because “we aren’t at our best level yet” or because “someone else is better” (or just seemingly better in our own mind).
I borrowed this quote from The Minimalists – they are a huge inspiration for me, not only in blogging but in all aspects of life – I love the concept of minimalism and getting back to basics, letting go of the things and feelings that don’t matter and holding on to what makes us richer on the inside. Letting go of thoughts and feelings that are harmful, like negative comparison and self-criticism.
Don’t be haunted by your aspirations; look inward and grow; love others, there is enough in this world for everyone. Read it here:
So I guess the message to take away here is, celebrate. Whatever your win is at the present moment, celebrate it. And if you can’t see a win, try to find one. One day at a time, one step at a time if you have to.
Don’t get disheartened. Stop self-sabotaging your beautiful life with negative, unattainable comparisons and tone down the self-criticism.
Keep doing your own thing. Keep being you. Keep on striving. You are good enough.
Love, Cristy xo