Seeing the World through Comparison Colored Glasses

This past weekend I shared something that I haven’t really talked about before. It was in a group discussion among 14 of my coaching clients who came from 7 states to spend a weekend with me and a bunch of other badass ladies in Greenville, SC.

The topic was the comparison trap, and how it can get in the way of our progress. I know I’ve discussed this a million times on runs, with clients, and in posts on instagram and any other platform. But this time I admitted to something I hadn’t really shared before.

When I was in high school and college I used to weigh myself daily. Although the daily number on the scale never really had an impact on how I ate or how I ran, it did affect how I saw the world around me.

Depending on the number on the scale, I would see the people around me differently. On days where the number was low, I saw myself as thin and everyone around me as heavy. On days where the number was high, it was the opposite. But the highest and lowest numbers were never even more than 5lbs apart!

It finally hit me that all these people can’t possibly be gaining and losing weight at exactly the same time and rate. And therefore, my own weight gain and loss must be equally imperceptible and likewise also irrelevant to my appearance, status, performance, and worthiness.

This perception problem also spread to running performance. If my last race was fast, I’d see everyone else as slow. If my last race was slow, I’d see everyone else as fast.

But similarly to the number on the scale, my times weren’t actually varying that much. Just like no one else’s were either. So why waste your energy judging yourself or anyone else?

It’s just like when you start shopping for a specific type of shoe, and then all of a sudden you notice everybody’s shoes as if you could buy them off of their feet.

I realized that I was shopping for a new me. My self-confidence was so unstable that it could be falsely boosted or suddenly dismantled by the slightest change in a number. And when I crumbled, all of a sudden I was shopping for someone else to be.

I wasn’t finding joy in my own success or anyone else’s. Every other person existed purely as a function of how I perceived myself. Everything was a comparison, and no one was winning.

I’m really lucky that I saw through that when I did and have been able to slowly wipe away these filters. I’ve done it through being around long enough to see the ups and downs in everyone’s careers. I see the value in variation. What goes up must come down, and in order for things to come down, they sometimes have to go up first! I’ve gained confidence in who I am as a person, nut just as a number.

And it’s a good thing because so far this year I’ve only run two 5ks and they were the slowest I’ve run in over 10 years. There’s nothing wrong with running 18 minutes for 5 kilometers. But there is something wrong with allowing any number to define an entire person. Even just for a day.

Photo Credit: Kate Dodds

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One comment

  1. 1

    Thank you for sharing this Esther! I have to remind myself fairly regularly that, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and remember to, like you, see the value in variation 🙂

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