When you are learning a new skill, looking and learning for others isn't a wrong thing to do. However, it can be detrimental if we don't remember that we are looking to the other person because they have already mastered the skill we are learning. Forgetting that they, too, were once novices and instead comparing novice self to their master self can lead to feelings of frustration, doubt, self-loathing, etc.
I almost fell into the trap of comparison on Thursday morning.
I have a runner friend who I greatly admire. She is currently running 85 miles a week. She gets up at 4:45 in the morning every day to run at least 10 miles; longer runs on the weekends. She is diligent and determined to meet her goal of qualifying for the Olympic marathon trials. She is bad-a$$. And on top of that, she is super kind.
She is an inspiration.
I also recently read a Facebook post from a friend quoting Kobe Bryant. He was getting an ESPN inspiration award. During his acceptance speech he said he wasn't on stage because he had some super-human skill. He was on stage because of the hard work he had put in; the 4 a.m. practices, the double-days, the never letting anyone dissuade him from his dream. He was diligent and determined.
So, back to Thursday morning.
I generally meet a friend in the mornings at 5 a.m. to run. Thursday morning the alarm went off as usual. I checked the weather and saw that it was 13* but felt like 5* with the wind. I sent a text to my friend saying it was too cold and I wasn't going to make it. The text was sent and the negative self-talk immediately started.
"Your bad-a$$ running friend wouldn't cancel. There is no quit in her"
"Guess you don't want this BQ marathon goal bad enough"
"You should be a little tougher"
"I can't believe you cancelled. What is wrong with you?"
The self-insults went on for a few more seconds and then I said to myself, "Stop it! You can't compare yourself to T. She is on a different journey and has different goals. Let's take a look at all that you have accomplished so far this year."
- I reached 100 miles for the year even though Mother Nature has been making it quite challenging to be out on the roads. Don't compare yourself to T's mileage. She is training for the Olympic Trials!
- I have learned to not dread the treadmill and can now run 6-8 miles on it without feeling like I want to gouge my eyes out.
- I have been doing double workouts almost every day. I try to get a run in the morning and then weights or yoga at night. On days when I didn't get in a morning run, I will run either before or after weights/yoga.
Reminding myself of my progress and my own goals helped draw me out of my self-loathing funk. I also reminded myself that if I compare myself to someone else who is more of an expert, I lose focus of the joy I have discovered in my journey.
Comparison isn't always bad, especially when trying to learn a new skills. But comparison can be the thief of joy if we only focus on what we don't have yet.
As a friend pointed out on my Facebook video on this same subject, sin is the thief of joy. Yes, it is. And comparison can be sinful if it causes us to become envious, covetous, and full of self-doubt. Turning to God and asking for His help and grace is the cure for those behaviors, as another friend pointed out during the same conversation.
I will always look to my friend for inspiration. But I will remember that her journey and goals are not my journey and goals. She is much farther along in her running journey than I am. I will find joy in where I am at and the progress I am making. And I will remember that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.