We all do it, it’s hard not to. We all compare ourselves to other people. We know we shouldn’t and it’s not helpful for our self-esteem, but we continue to do so. We become so fixated on what other people are doing, what they can do better than us and what they have that we don’t, that we forget to enjoy the here and the now. We forget to enjoy the journey we are on as individuals, and what we do have. The only way we are going to be comfortable within our own skin and be confident in our own ability is if we focus on ourselves and our own potential.
This is especially relevant for me when it comes to training and racing. In the past I have found myself focusing on the training other people are doing and the times they are running, that I have forgotten to pay attention to myself. I have become so preoccupied with comparing myself to them, that I have forgotten about my own mental wellbeing. As a result, I have become so demotivated and down. Instead of looking forward and enjoying the journey I am on, I am caught up in a cycle of believing I am not good enough. We don’t need to compare ourselves to one another; we are all different. We are all good at different things and are at different stages of our own journey, therefore comparisons can’t be made. No two individuals are the same. We are all wonderful in our own way.
Of course, I am still guilty of comparing myself to others at times, it can’t be avoided, but it is important to know how to stop it when it happens. I have learnt how to be happy in my own skin, and what to do if I struggle to believe so.
One of the steps I took to stop comparing myself to others was to come off Strava. Don’t get me wrong I think Strava can be an excellent way of following your own progression , and as a virtual training log, but I feel its benefits operate privately. There is no need to publicise all the training I am doing, it doesn’t benefit me psychologically.
Why was this?
I would find myself running faster than I was supposed to on easy runs because I was conscious of people seeing my run and thinking I was running too slowly. I was also preoccupied with constantly ramping up my mileage week on week, so people didn’t think I was slacking, that I forgot about the impact this would have on my body. I was constantly obsessed with loading my runs up to Strava to get my daily dose of ‘kudos’ that I forgot about the importance of stretching and recovering properly after sessions. I was wasting time obsessing over everyone else. I would check Strava constantly throughout the day to see what other people were doing that I wasn't. This is not the way it should be. Strava began to overtake my life and cloud my judgment of what I should be doing. It made me question what I was doing and if I was fast enough.
I don’t believe Strava is a demon for everyone, but for those of you out there with a similar personality to me, it isn’t constructive. It’s just another device for us to obsess over. It caused me to become preoccupied with what everyone else was doing that I forgot to focus on myself and my training. For those of you out there who are able to distance yourselves from what other people are doing, Strava may be perfect for you. But if you are like me and end up constantly comparing your training to everyone else’s, it may be better for you to come off of it. Consequently, when it came to racing, I had psyched myself out before the race had even begun because I believed I wasn't good enough. I believed there was no way I could be if I hadn't done as much training as everyone else. But it doesn't matter, what matters is you. Everyone is different, focus on your own development.
Don’t force yourself to do things that are destructive to your self-belief.
I for one, love Instagram. I think it is a great way to document your journey and keep up to date on what your friends and family are doing. I think it is amazing that we can convey such important messages through photos and inspire others, but it is also important to recognise what does and doesn’t help your own wellbeing. If people are promoting messages you don’t agree with, don’t be afraid to unfollow them. That is the wonderful power of the unfollow button. If there are people who cause you to feel like you aren’t good enough or make you feel self-conscious, UNFOLLOW them. There is no rule about who you should and shouldn’t be inspired by and enjoy following. If they make you feel demotivated, you don’t need to follow them. If they cause you to question what you look like and how you live, take that negativity away. Think about yourself and your own welfare. This is what I had to do.
At times I go through stages of overly comparing myself to those I see on Instagram, and this is the point at which I allow myself a temporary break from it. Whether it be a few days or a week, we all need an Instagram detox every now and then. Don’t be afraid to do it. You are all that matters, and if social media isn’t helping you believe that, come off it.
Personally, when it comes to focusing on myself, I am better with as little interference as possible. I feel much more confident in my own skin the less I focus on other people’s training, and that is not something to be ashamed of. Be comfortable within yourself, no matter what you have to do to achieve that. Enjoy being unique and different to everyone else that surrounds you. It is important to love yourself, not beat yourself up for being different to those around you.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!