I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to avoid comparing yourself to others. Especially in the running community emphasis is put on competing against yourself, not others. But what about comparing ourselves to our past selves? Is that a positive or a negative?
Marathon enthusiast and motivational blogger Dorothy Beal decided that she will never delete a bad race photo of herself. Her reasoning? To remind herself that real life happens, and that it happened in the past.
We have a habit of only keeping good pictures of ourselves. Generally speaking, our mind will naturally only remember mostly positive experiences (except perhaps the really bad ones).
For example, think back on a vacation you had a few years ago. If you are thumbing through pictures then you probably remember the beautiful landscapes, the great food, and the smiles you shared with friends and family. Luckily we don’t keep too many memories of the long bus rides, uncomfortable plane seats, or hundreds of mosquitos bites.
As our running careers mature, it’s important to have a strategy in place to avoid comparing ourself to our past self’s highlight reel. Maybe you aren’t close to an old PR or don’t have the glowing skin you used to have. That is okay. If we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, that needs to include our past self.
Avoiding comparison takes practice. As you learn to live in the moment, be grateful for who you are and what you have, and truly love yourself, comparing yourself to others will naturally fall by the wayside. Along your journey of self love, here are three things to practice and consider.
Loving yourself isn’t a one and done to-do item. Just like running it takes continual attention, training, and proper prevention. Preventative care includes visiting a therapist even if you don’t think you are in a current crisis. It includes slowing down once in a while to think about those things that trigger critical self-talk and how to avoid them. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you drinking enough water? You know yourself best, make sure you are doing what it takes to be in a position to love yourself.
Positive Self Talk
While positive affirmations are good and encouraged, this has more to do with how we talk about ourselves out loud and in public. If you want your children, siblings, friends, or nieces and nephews to love themselves, then you need to be the example.
Children especially will pick up on what you say to yourself. Avoid saying subtle things like “My legs look too big today,” or “Why can she eat anything she wants and still look the way she does?” Those that look up to you will inevitably do what you do even if you post motivational self talk quotes on your instagram every day.
Dorothy started a movement called, “I have a runner’s body.” You can find the hashtag on social media platforms where people are embracing who they are. The simple fact is that if you run, if you are a runner, then you have a runner’s body.
Love Yourself So You Can Love Others Better
A wonderful motivation in learning to love yourself is that you will be able to love others better. Take the time to build up who you are so that it doesn’t get in the way of helping others.
It also works the other way around. If you take time to love others, you will naturally find more room to love yourself. Love is limitless. There is no limit on how much you love someone or how many people you love, so don’t worry about your heart getting too full.
Loving others means that you are thinking about yourself less. Sometimes simply focusing less on our problems and more about how we can help others is all it takes to foster more love for ourselves. And remember, it’s not thinking less OF yourself, it’s just thinking less ABOUT yourself.
Competitive Without Comparison
If I stop comparing myself to others will that mean I have to be a casual runner?
Dorothy emphasizes that you can still be 100% competitive while avoiding comparison. Racing hard doesn’t have to be about anything other than you wanting to do your very best. Do everything you can to beat the person in front of you. It’s okay to let anything motivate you to run hard, but after all is said and done don’t let your mind wander into the buts, the what ifs, and the not fairs. After all, comparing yourself doesn’t really help you progress.
So get out there and compete! Work hard, love yourself, and love others. You have a runner’s body because you are a runner. You don’t need to compare yourself to your past self or to others to know that you are enough.
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Thank you to Dorothy, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.