It’s 5:15 in the morning and I am my CrossFit gym for the first class of the day. As part of the workout we are all trying to establish a 1-rep max clean and jerk. Inevitably, as everyone is starting to throw weights on their bars, I am scanning the room to see how much. I’m ignoring their age, height, weight and countless other characteristics that distinguish them from me and making a superficial comparison. I take a deep breathe and remember to focus on myself and my own bar.
In the gym, especially in a group class setting like CrossFit, it is hard not to compare yourself to others, whether it be how much weight someone lifts, how many pull-ups they do in a row, or how many abs they have on display. Yet our tendency to make comparisons don’t cease when we leave the gym. We find ourselves examining every aspect of our lives, especially thanks to the more transparent world we live in via the internet and social media. Whether on purpose or not, we find ourselves comparing our lives to others via what they post on Facebook and Instagram. Vacations, parties, even lunches, are all ripe for envy when they are so accessible and in our face.
Over the last few months as I have focused heavily on my diet and nutrition, tracking macros and body metrics, I have learned that the best comparison is me to myself. It is not a revolutionary philosophy nor do I feel I am suddenly enlightened, but I have started to acknowledge that the comparisons to others are futile and undermine my own progress.
“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.” – Zen Shiu
Recently I recommitted to doing a daily online Yin stretching program called ROMWOD. Each day there is a 20-minute video of 1-2 athletes doing the routine for you to follow along to. Some of the athletes are extremely flexible and have a wide range of motion. For example, in a seated forward fold their nose is touching their knees. Mine is far from it. However, I appreciate that the instructor emphasizes to not compare yourself to the people in the videos. They are where they are supposed to be for their bodies and you are where you are for yours. This mindset is echoed in yoga.
If I constantly compare is will lead to a world of disappointment. “The grass is always greener on somebody else’s front lawn. Somebody else’s weiner always has a lot more relish on.” The fact is there will always be people smarter, faster, stronger, younger, skinnier who make more money, more friends and have more Instagram likes. Dwelling on those adjectives and those “more than” and “less than” me thoughts will create a negative mindset. It undermines my own progress and success. I need to focus on the before versus after, rather than the him versus me.
“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain
In that vain, I am not going to stop looking around the room, but rather than looking for comparisons I’ll be looking for inspiration. Who can I learn from? Who can motivate me to do better? Who has aced their meal prep or improved their mobility?
With that in mind, here are some people of late who inspire me:
- Dan Wells, a 42-year old dad in the best shape of his life
- Spencer Althouse, who gained 20 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks
- Dwayne, “The Rock”, Johnson, who is the hardest working man in Hollywood
- Jessie Graff, the America Ninja Warrior competitor who outshone all the men in the recent Los Angeles city finals