You walk into the gym ready to have a great time. Your favorite coach is on the floor, the music is on point, and you are so ready to sweat your worries away. You catch a glimpse of your reflection in the window and think, "I am loving myself!" Then, all of a sudden, your gym's "comp crew" starts crawling in. You see some of the comp girls wearing sports bras and booty shorts, and their abs, quads, and arms look even more defined than before. You look back at your reflection and think, "I want to look like that!"
One of the beautiful things about CrossFit, Weightlifting, and Bodybuilding is that there is a more accepting view of muscular women. It is actually highly celebrated! Instead of working on getting smaller and smaller, with time, many women that walk into a CrossFit gym start creating goals that are more focused on building their bodies to achieve a physical goal instead of a purely aesthetic goal. This is amazing because finally, strong, powerful women are being celebrated!
While the normalization and celebration of strong women is great, there is something to look out for. The comparison thief. This thief is sneaky but can rob us of our beautiful goals and dreams.
Instead of competing to be the smallest or feeling bad about not being "skinny" enough or "pretty enough," a new phenomenon is starting to happen. People are starting to judge themselves for not being big enough or ripped or jacked. Everyone sees the CrossFit Games athletes, and they think that if they have any competitive goals, they have to be ripped with zero body fat ( Fun fact* You actually need more body fat to be competitive. Fat = energy! So when you need a little extra push in your workout, your body needs that energy provided by lovely fat!)
It's okay to want to look strong; it's okay to see a strong woman and admire her body and all the hard work she's put in! The goal is to get yourself in a state where YOU feel YOUR best. If we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and basing our goals and how we want to look off of someone else's body… how will we ever know who we truly are or who we are supposed to be? There will only ever be ONE of you. So why are we trying so hard to make ourselves copies? Your uniqueness and originality is a gift to the world. Ideally, we would all like to get to a point in our life where we can cheer on the girl next to us, admire her dedication and hard work, AND equally admire ourselves.
As clinician psychologist, Dr. Alexandra Solomon writes in her book Loving Bravely, "Awareness facilitates choice."
Sometimes we are so deep in our own thoughts; we don't realize exactly when we start comparing ourselves. Think back. Do you start comparing yourself when you have been scrolling on Instagram for a while? Is it when you are feeling a little uncomfortable in your body?
When you identify when you start comparing yourself, write it down. Write down a list of who and what you frequently envy or compare yourself to. Write how these feelings negatively impact you and then think about why these comparisons are a waste of your time. Then promise yourself that you will be more vigilant of these triggers so that you can catch yourself in the future. This might mean taking a break from social media for a while.
2. Ask Why
When we compare ourselves to others, we consciously and subconsciously tell ourselves that we are less than. Comparison is natural, so don't feel too bad when you catch yourself doing it, instead commit to uncovering the reasons behind it, ask, "why?" What is it about the person you are comparing yourself to? As always, any good therapist, counselor, coach, or mentor can help you dig into your past to uncover where your comparison beliefs came from. This isn't always easy, but it is so worth it with the right tools and resources!
3. Take the gratitude road
When we are working to be our best selves, it is vital to stay in our own lane. Our society has always tried to pitch women against each other and to view each other as competition. Competition is also used as a motivator to help us accomplish our goals. But, it's important to remember that competition is not the only source of motivation; you can be competitive and supportive. Comparison comes from a feeling or belief that we are lacking. So we begin to focus on all that we are NOT. As soon as you start thinking about what you are not, try this process:
- Let's say you are comparing your legs to a Comp girl. You start thinking, wow, she has awesome legs! Mine are so *small, full of cellulite, too big, not defined* When you catch yourself thinking negatively about your body, think back to where those words came from. Where did you learn that having *small legs, big legs, legs that are not defined* is such a bad thing? Did someone make a negative comment about your body? Did you grow up listening to people praise a certain type of body? The messages we receive when we are young can play a part in shaping our views of ourselves and others and facilitate and even encourage us to think and say negative things about ourselves. As they say, the first step to any change is recognizing it.
- Okay so you recognized your negative thoughts and you did some reflection on where you might have learned that negative thought language. Now it's time to redirect and reframe those thoughts. Instead of saying or thinking, "my legs are not defined enough," say "my legs are working really hard for me and we are working on getting stronger to meet my goal of running a 10k in a few weeks." Change your language so that it adds value to your body, not language that communicates lacking or devaluing.
This might seem simple, but if you have ever tried to stop bad thoughts about yourself, you know it is harder than it seems. But just like any habit, the more you do it, it starts to become second nature. When we recognize our negative thoughts and do a little digging into where they might have stemmed from, we have the knowledge and power to change our internal story. We can change our story to one of gratitude. We can be kind to ourselves for comparing our bodies to others, but then we turn inwards and say, "I recognize that I am comparing my body to hers. She works so hard and is accomplishing amazing things with her body, and I applaud her! I am also accomplishing amazing things with my body. My body is unique because there will never be another me. I am grateful for the body I have and what it is helping me accomplish in this world, and I applaud myself."