“Back in 2010, I worked as a reporter at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. I interviewed gold medalists, last-place finishers, and everyone in between. I learned a lot during the experience – about people, about sport, and about life. But one of my biggest takeaways from the Games, which may sound surprising given that the Olympics are one of the world’s largest competitive sporting events, is this: In the end, even at the highest levels, a person’s real competition is himself.” - Todd Devlin, reporter.
I know, I know, it sounds cliche—and we have been hearing it since we were 5 years old—but I do think it’s important to remind yourself sometimes to STOP comparing yourself to others, and to FOCUS on becoming the best you can be.
If you just competed in the CrossFit Open, you likely know how hard this can be sometimes. You might have felt overjoyed with your effort and performance in the moments after completing each workouts, but then you probably grew more and more humbled and dejected each time you checked the leaderboard and watched your score plummet deeper down the list than you wanted it to. Yep, the Open has a way of humbling even the best athletes in the world to the point that we forget to take the time to recognize our individual improvements.
Heck, even if you didn’t compete in the Open, the current world we live in—where we’re inundated with what everyone else is doing on social media—makes it incredibly hard not to base our success on someone else’s. It’s no surprise many studies show social media is linked to stress, anxiety, depression etc…(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201609/when-social-media-sparks-depression). A 15-minute Instagram session make anyone feel inadequate and overcome with jealousy! This stems entirely from comparing what we see others doing to ourselves.
In light of this, I asked a dozen people this question: What moment in the gym have you felt the most proud of yourself?
Some answers included:
- Getting my first pull-up at the age of 40, something I didn’t ever think I'd be able to do.
- Getting my very first muscle-up
- Deadlifting 300-lb.
- Showing up 4 days a week for the last 6 months
- Losing 20 lb. since joining
- Conquering my fear of box jumps
Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, not a single answer was about beating anyone else. Each proud moment was about a personal improvement specific to each individual.
I think this extends to life, as well. I asked my mother what her proudest achievement in life has been, and she said it was raising two daughters. Again, not an ounce of comparison in her reply.
When you actually think about it, it’s absurd to measure our wins and losses, successes and failures based on anyone else. Cerebrally we know we’re all different: Our genetics, our upbringings, our past, our strengths, our weaknesses, and on and on. Yet we forget this on a a daily basis and let out egos get the best of us time and time again, especially as we browse through our social media feeds.
So just stop! Stop checking the leaderboard if it makes you feel worse. Stop scrolling through Instagram before you go to bed. And most importantly stop BLAMING social media. It has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with the person doing the scrolling (i.e. YOU).
This is far from suggesting you should adopt a ‘Pollyanna’ attitude towards life, where everyone gets a ribbon just for participating. Competition can be healthy. Having big goals is important. So is pushing yourself to achieve new heights. But of equal importance is recognizing who your competition is. And you can find that person by looking in a mirror.