When my sister and I were little, we used to run to my mother to ask her whose drawing was better. My mother would very wisely answer some variation on the following: “Yours is beautiful for a 3-year old, and yours is beautiful for a 6-year old.” We would walk away feeling very satisfied with our mother’s praise, even though she had not directly answered our question. (As the younger child, I’m sure I would have been on the losing end of that question if she had answered it!)
This gratuitous attempt at comparison came to mind today when I was working out with my personal trainer. Let me rephrase that: my 24-year old daughter and I were working out with my personal trainer. This is something that we have done together since the pandemic began a year ago. It’s great to have a workout partner and luckily I have learned not to compare my level of fitness with hers.
My daughter actually enjoys exercising, and before the pandemic, she was working out in some form of another nearly every day. She is a naturally slim person and has excelled in gymnastics and circus arts, accomplishments that I have never considered even in my wildest dreams.
So when we get to the end of our workout and we report our statistics to my trainer — calories burned, average heart rate, etc. — I have to remind myself that there is a 39-year age difference between us. If my heart rate spent any time in the range that is comfortable for her, I would probably have to go to the emergency room! My trainer is always telling me that I am at a great level of fitness for a 63-year old, just as my mother used to assure mini-me that my artwork had worth despite the fact that my sister had better fine motor skills because she was three years older.
It’s natural for us to compare ourselves to others, especially if we are feeling insecure about something. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your disorganized home, your overcrowded inbox, or your onerous to-do list, it’s easy to think that you are the only one with this problem and everyone else has already solved it. This is exacerbated by photos on social media and by magazines like Real Simple. Beautiful photos of serene spaces can make even the most organized of us feel that our lives just aren’t up to snuff.
When potential clients reach out to me, many of them are down on themselves because they haven’t managed to get organized on their own. I am quick to remind them that not everyone has the same skills, and that they should congratulate themselves for seeking help on those things that don’t come naturally to them. After all, I have a personal trainer to make sure that I exercise twice a week. Unlike my daughter, without someone keeping me accountable for staying fit, I just wouldn’t do it.
Rather than comparing yourself to the superficial or unrealistic portrayal of other people’s lives, compare yourself to you. Where have you made progress in your life that you can be proud of? What obstacles have you overcome? What challenges did you take on and manage to get through?
Focus on being the best possible you that you can. Let everyone else worry about themselves.