“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I love this quote so much. In just six words, Teddy R sums up my entire attitude towards my running performance.
Picture this: you have what you thought was a great run one morning, finally breaking that 14-minute mile pace after weeks of trying. You hop into the FB group to celebrate your success but before you can post, you see that someone else is complaining that they ran soooo slow that morning – only 12 minutes per mile and they feel really bad about it.
Suddenly your 14 minute mile seems terrible. All your good feelings about yourself go right out the window and instead of telling everyone about your accomplishment, you send a text to your sister about how you’ll never be a real runner.
See? Comparison = joy thief.
But here’s the thing. Your slow run will always be someone else’s fast run. You can always find someone better off than you, and someone that’s worse. They might not be running the same race as you, but they’re out there.
Comparing yourself to others is all about your perspective, and most of the time we choose to see how we don’t measure up, rather than all the ways we do. Which is why most people say it’s better to just compete with yourself.
Here’s where I heartily disagree.
Comparison is the act of setting a standard and then measuring yourself against it. Whether the standard is someone else, or just a past version of yourself, the fact remains that one side will be more, one less. If you meet or exceed the standard, you win – and you get to feel awesome. If you don’t, you get to feel like crap.
If competing against yourself and winning is the only thing that allows you to feel good about a run or race, you’re screwed as soon as you fail to beat your past self.
Here’s my suggestion: Stop judging your runs based on your pace (or just stop judging them altogether).
Ask yourself these questions: Did you enjoy yourself? Did you feel good? Do you feel better for having run today?
It’s OK if the answers to all of those questions are no, but I’d strongly recommend figuring out how to make at least one or two of them a resounding YES.
Why? Because the day will come when you’re no longer able to get faster or run farther. And if you haven’t learned to love running for the sake of running by that point, your runs are REALLY going to suck.
Comparing is just another way of judging, and we all know what happens when we get all Judgy McJudgerson on ourselves: our Inner Mean Girl gets loud.
So try this on your next run – drop the comparison of yourself to others, AND your past self. Just run for the joy of it, without worrying about the outcome. You might just like it!