Is comparison driving you backwards?

As humans, we naturally compare ourselves to other people, especially if they are further down the path we have embarked on.

But being prone to making comparisons can put the brakes on your fitness journey, or even bring it to a grinding halt. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, but this can lead us to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself. It’s best to focus on yourself and your own journey. 

Here’s my most straight-talking advice about avoiding the comparison game – and what to do instead.

What are you comparing yourself to?

The most important thing to remember is that we never see the full picture, especially on social media. Public figures and athletes rarely talk about their struggles, and when they do we still don’t fully understand every daily detail of their ups and downs.

Whether we compare ourselves to a famous name or someone in our own circle, it’s not useful. There are too many variables missing from the picture. That person doesn’t have the same background, motivation, time, energy, support and resources are you do. Their goal setting reasons are not the same as yours.

If you had two children, you wouldn’t expect them to turn out as carbon copies of each other. Yet we often compare ourselves harshly alongside somebody else.

Getting out of the comparison trap starts with acknowledging your unique circumstances, character, and set of resources. Then it’s time to redirect that focus.

Take the focus inwards

Keeping your attention firmly on yourself can pull you out of the comparison trap, and even prevent you from falling in. There are two key things to focus on – and most people get this bit wrong.

Do not: focus on the end goal (outcome)

Do: focus on your “why” (motivation) and your journey (the process)

Neuroscience tells us that achieving goals requires both internally-generated motivation and an externally supported process. (1)

Comparing ourselves to others does absolutely nothing for either of these elements, and can quickly erode them.

Compare yourself to your past self

The optimal way to go about a fitness or weight loss goal would be to get your head down and focus on the daily habits that comprise the entire journey. This attention to “process goals” is far more rewarding than focusing on outcome.

But I understand that many people need to compare themselves to something along the way. This benchmarking is a natural human drive. This is where past-self comparison comes in.

As part of your fitness or weight loss journey, you will hopefully be keeping records of training sessions, changes in your body, strength gains, and other tangibles. This gives you valuable opportunities to compare yourself against your start point, using data and quality of life to celebrate wins along the way.

The importance of your “why”

My clients always start their transformation journey with some coaching around their values, habits, and vision. This helps them understand the underlying reasons behind their fitness goal. This “why” is hugely important to the journey and can be a powerful weapon against falling into the comparison trap.

Knowing your “why” and keeping it front of mind will help you stay motivated, stick to the plan, and overcome self-limiting beliefs during the process. “It’s too had” or “I’m not cut out for this” sounds much less persuasive when you are clear about why you’re doing this and what it means to you.

Four questions to ask yourself

How far have I come since I started?

Is the pace of my progress right for me?

How has my health/energy/performance improved?

What progress markers can I celebrate?

Have some self-compassion and remove the pressure of comparison. As long as you are making improvements, that’s progress.

Coach Joseph Webb.

‘The number one rated Personal Trainer In Henley and Oxfordshire’

References used in todays blog:


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