Comparison and Keeping Your Life Small

Sandra Barnhart
Sandra is an author and artist living and creating in the GTA.

Feb 06,2018

It is said that comparison is the thief of joy. Many of us find ourselves in an endless internal battle of comparing ourselves to others. The same can be said when we compare ourselves to where we used to be. I know that’s true for me, especially when it comes to fitness.

I competed in powerlifting two years ago. It was the strongest and most empowered I’ve felt in my life. I had overcome so many obstacles in my mental and physical health and when I was under the barbell I felt like my own superhero. After my competition in May of 2016 I began to crash. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. My body simply didn’t produce enough cortisol so I found myself exhausted, depressed, lacking in motivation and energy and I totally uninspired. Every workout felt like I was drowning in quicksand. Getting out of bed in the morning felt like a chore.

When I got the diagnosis I was relieved. I know it’s strange to be relieved to know something is wrong, but I had gone through various tests and kept hearing “everything is normal” Finally I consulted with a Naturopath and got the answers I had be desperately searching for. Her advice? Lay off the powerlifting, keep my stress as low as possible and stick to light and relaxing activities like walking and yoga but even that felt hard.

Several months later I was itching to get back into lifting. When I tried it out, squatting 45lbs felt like the 200. 10lbs dumbbells made my biceps ache.  Walking at a high speed left me sweating and out of breath. I felt so much despair realizing how physically unfit I had become. In fact, I felt weaker and more out of shape than I did the first time I ever stepped foot in a gym many years prior.

When I was comparing my current physical fitness to my competition fitness I wanted to hide under a rock. I had that old familiar feeling of being gym shy. I felt like I didn’t belong in the weight section if I couldn’t lift heavy. I wanted to hide in the back corner while on the treadmill so no one would see me red faced and out of breath walking at a light speed. I felt ashamed and began scolding myself for the last few months even though my current state of health was the result of many, many years of panic disorder, stressful corporate jobs, extreme yo yo dieting just to name a few factors. My adrenal glands had simply thrown their hands up and said ENOUGH!

I had to get reacquainted with why I wanted to exercise in the first place. I wanted to live a long, healthy life. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to fit back into my clothes. I wanted to feel excitement every time I walked into the gym stronger than the day before.

I’ve since been to the gym several times in the past couple of weeks. I can feel my muscles remembering the movements they used to do with ease. My mobility slowly increasing. The feeling of shame I had is beginning to fade and I remember that I’m there to do what everyone else is – to be the best version of myself that I can be. Suddenly it became easy to wake up at 5 to work out, even if my main motivation is to enjoy the hydro massage bed they have! The point is to show up and the rest will fall into place.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Comparing yourself to others is fruitless. Not because you don’t have what another person does, but because you don’t know what they’re going through. Comparison is an excuse to not do what you want to do for yourself and is disempowering and takes joy from ALL aspects of your life!
  • Comparing yourself to how you used to be or how you think you should be prevents you from taking action now. When you blame and shame yourself it keeps your life small and almost always causes self-sabotage.
  • It takes time to make big changes. Good habits are formed one decision at a time. If you slip up, it’s okay! The next decision you make can get you right back on track. Don’t let one “bad” decision get in the way of making 100 decisions “good” ones.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready choose well for myself no matter who or how I was in the past. We only have the present moment, what will you do with yours?