Beyond Comparison: How to Find Motivation and Success as an Athlete Without Comparing Yourself
Comparison is the thief of joy. As athletes, we are constantly pushed to be the best version of ourselves. We train hard, push ourselves to the limit, and strive for improvement every day. But, in this pursuit of excellence, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. We look at other athletes and compare our own skills, accomplishments, and even our appearance to theirs.
While a little bit of healthy competition can be motivating, the dangers of comparison can be destructive to an athlete’s mental health. Here are 5 reasons why comparison is damaging to athletes:
Comparison breeds insecurity: When we compare ourselves to others, we can’t help but focus on the ways in which we fall short. We see their strengths and accomplishments and feel inadequate by comparison. It creates an inferiority complex which leads to feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, which can have a ripple effect on other areas of our lives.
Comparison steals our joy: It’s hard to enjoy our own victories and accomplishments when we’re busy comparing ourselves to others. Instead of celebrating our own achievements, we become fixated on how we stack up against others. This can rob us of the joy and satisfaction that comes from working hard and achieving our goals.
Comparison can lead to unhealthy behaviors: In our pursuit to be the best, we may engage in unhealthy behaviors like overtraining, undereating, or even resorting to performance-enhancing drugs. These actions can have serious consequences on our physical and mental health.
Comparison takes the focus away from our own progress: When we compare ourselves to others, we often lose sight of the progress we’ve made. We become so focused on how we measure up to others, that we forget to celebrate our own improvements and milestones. This can lead to a lack of motivation and a feeling of stagnation in our own personal growth.
Comparison can cause severe anxiety: Comparison can create feelings of pressure and stress as we strive to measure up to others. This can lead to a constant state of stress and anxiety as we worry about meeting these expectations and fear failure.
So, what can we do to break free from the damaging cycle of comparison? Here are 5 strategies:
Practice gratitude: One of the best ways to combat comparison is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have or what we’re not able to do, we can shift our attention to the things we are grateful for. This can help us appreciate our own strengths and accomplishments and put things into perspective.
Focus on progress, not perfection: Comparison often stems from a desire to be perfect, but perfection is an unattainable goal. Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on making progress and celebrating your small victories. Small daily victories will compound over time and help you remain motivated and engaged in your training.
Build your “Power 5”: Surround yourself with 5 genuinely supportive people. You become an average of your 5 closest friends. It’s hard to avoid comparison if you’re constantly surrounded by people who are critical or judgmental. Seek out people who encourage and uplift you, rather than tear you down or encourage a comparison culture. Positive relationships like these will help you build confidence and resilience.
Practice self-compassion: It’s normal to feel discouraged or frustrated when we compare ourselves to others, but it’s important to be kind to ourselves in these moments. Practice compassion toward yourself by acknowledging your feelings and reminding yourself that everyone has their own unique journey.
Set your own standards: It is easier to avoid comparison when we have our own set of standards to measure ourselves against. Determine what success looks like in your own eyes and define it clearly. Make sure it is your own definition, not anyone else’s. When in doubt, fall back on these standards.
Let’s remember that we are all on our own unique journey and that comparison is not only unproductive, but it holds us back from reaching our full potential. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, let’s celebrate our own strengths and accomplishments and focus on becoming the best versions of ourselves. By doing this, we can find true happiness and fulfillment, both as athletes and as individuals.
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