In honor of a month dedicated to love of your body, it’s important to address one of the obstacles to truly loving your body: comparison. Though there are many benefits to being active in a health and fitness community, it can be an easy place to compare yourself to one another. It’s frustrating to feel you are falling short even though, most times, you are going at the pace that is best for you.
Eliminating comparison from your life is easier said than done. It can be an ongoing process to see where comparison stems from and the best ways to combat it. In the meantime, here are four things you can do now to embrace the health and fitness community and be free of comparison:
Audit social media use
I’ve witnessed many joys of social media, especially in the health and fitness community. You can find new recipes, exercises, and be motivated by your friends — some of whom may live across the country! On the other hand, it’s easy to get bogged down by expectations of what you are supposed to look like, how strong you are supposed to be, or how much progress you should be making.
Take a good look at your social media use. What takes up most of your time? How do you feel after using it? What are triggering images for you? From that, come up with a plan. Many phones have a timer that limits your social media use. Look at the accounts you follow and see if you need more positive reinforcement or elimination of negative content. This will look different for everyone — for some people, it means deleting social media apps for a while. For others, it looks like regulating how long they spend on social media each day. Work on figuring out what fits your needs.
While you assess, recognize that social media is never the full reality. A lot of the content you find on your apps is carefully crafted and doesn’t capture the mundane aspects of life.
When we compare ourselves to others, we forget our own blessings. Even just thinking about the way our bodies work is enough to harbor gratitude. Every system of our body keeps us alive and breathing — it’s pretty marvelous when you stop and think about it.
Any time you find yourself struggling with comparison, start to make a list in your head of the things you are grateful for. At first, the material possessions or people in our life may surface, and that’s a good thing! However, remember to also be grateful for the good of who you are. Each of us is created with our own individual strengths — think of how boring the world would be if everyone was the same.
No matter what your strengths are, use them to thrive in your unique way of tackling health and fitness. A strength I see in myself is that I’m very disciplined. This can help me get back into good habits when I’ve spent time away from working out or eating healthy.
Be authentic and vulnerable with the people you are comparing yourselves to
Although we were just talking about gratitude for our strengths, I’ll be the first to admit that I am very impatient. I want to see my results, and I want to see them now. When I pretend that isn’t the case, it catches up to me pretty quickly, and I get frustrated that I am not instantly reaching what I’m striving for.
Chances are, when comparing yourself to others, you envision the subject of your comparison doing things perfectly. In reality, everyone is struggling with something. I learn the lesson over and over that revealing my difficulties, though uncomfortable, is liberating. Authenticity is contagious — the more you share your challenges, the more others will feel comfortable sharing theirs.
This relates to the health and fitness community, but extends outside of it as well. People who seemingly have ideal lives are, in many instances, secretly struggling to get by. Solidarity eliminates comparison, regardless of what you’re sharing.
Do things you enjoy doing — even if you aren’t good at it
I talked in a different article about how I tried broomball with a few friends this year. What I didn’t mention was that I am extremely uncoordinated on ice. As a first-timer, I wiped out countless amounts of times — but still wound up having a blast. I thought less about how everyone on the ice was better than me and more about how empowered I felt that I was trying something new.
Being able to playfully laugh at myself reminded me that I wasn’t doing broomball to win a championship. I did it because my friends asked me to, it sounded fun, and I like staying active and trying new things. When you are doing something you really enjoy, and not to earn something, you focus on the activity itself and not where others stand. Ultimately, with whatever you are doing or feeling, saying goodbye to comparison brings freedom.