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360 YOU: Saying No to the Comparison Trap

Setting yourself up for success means being able to let go of comparison that isn't serving you.

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Running is by nature competitive—and whether you’re competing against someone else (or hundred of others!) in a race or trying to beat your PR, this competition can make it really fun and exciting and deliver motivation. But what happens when you let the competitive nature of running go too far?

This has definitely happened to me—and I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this.

In the times when my running has been in a downturn, I let myself compare and feel in competition to my training partners and other runners. This did me no favors: It didn’t make me feel better about my running. It didn’t make me feel more hopeful about my potential. It didn’t make me like these other runners more. It just all around left me with a bad feeling.

In the car on the way home from a workout that I had nailed, I saw on Instagram one of my friends run an amazing workout that day. All of a sudden my mind was spiraling comparing how I was running to her. In an effort to shut that down, I said aloud to myself: “I’m not going to do this. I will not take on jealous feelings and feel insecure about my running.”

I’ve learned that jealousy and comparison is a poison that will ruin your life if you let it.

You won’t succeed if you’re constantly operating out of fear, insecurity, and desperation. Our mind playing tricks on us and getting us to stack up our times and our worth to another woman’s is just that: a mean trick.

There is no comparison. We are all on our own journey with our own unique history and experience. The things we’re balancing on our plate are like no one else’s. To compare ourselves to someone else is totally unfair to us and completely counterproductive for success.

When I was in an insecure and competitive space with my running, I also isolated myself from the running community. I felt so badly about myself that I never wanted people to see me running or to know how fast or slow I was going. I thought everyone cared and was judging me and thinking I was slow and without potential.

Newsflash: No one cares or is thinking about you that much. And anyone who would second guess your potential, well, don’t worry about them. They aren’t worth your time.

When I felt like this, I shut myself off from my potential because a great training partner is such an easy and effortless way to get faster—and it’s a lot of fun. I didn’t run with people for years. This made every workout into a drag and something I really dreaded. It meant I didn’t get to experience the feeling of being carried by people in a workout, or being pushed in the speed intervals. Everything I was doing was alone and I was in a poor headspace doing it.

One day I decided to switch things up. Obviously my comparison and isolation wasn’t doing me any favors in my running. So I decided to try reaching out to a friend and start running together to see if that would help me.

It was exactly what my running needed. My running changed as I stopped obsessing and comparing, and decided to embrace training with people and put myself out there. I had to be OK with feeling like the slowest one out there so that I could finally start to realize my potential.

women high-fiving after a run in rainy London
Allowing yourself to be free from comparison can allow you to make strides in your running with friends. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are so many of us that are focused on the wrong things. We are worried with how we stack up to other runners when, instead, if we focused on working with them, we would see the results we are craving,

A rising tide lifts all boats. When we keep that mindset in our running, we can go so much farther than we think. Great training partners can help you to weather the ups and downs of running and to help push you to your potential. Let’s work with our running friends, lift them up, and work together so we all can be running to our potential.

Jealousy and insecurity are normal human emotions. But we get to choose if we will entertain them or focus on something more productive for our life and future success. You can’t control your thoughts, but you don’t have to dwell on things that don’t serve you. Remember that.

Working with women to accomplish more is what it’s all about. There are an unlimited number of us who can succeed. It’s not just two people that can get a sub 3. We can all do that. We never have to feel like it’s her or me—or that if she succeeds, that is precluding me from success.

The more we can work with other women, the more we can be kind and gentle to ourselves in the training process, the more we can believe in our goals and not let fear, insecurity, and jealousy get a foothold in our mind, the more successful, confident, and fearless we can be in our running. And your running deserves that.

I’m able to be so at peace with my own running journey now, after two years of dealing with illness and then pregnancy and postpartum, instead of having that be a time where I was discouraged, compared myself to others, and decide to retreat from the running community. I let it be a time where I was encouraged by others’ progress, was hopeful for my own comeback, and was confident in who I was and what I believed I was capable of. The more confident you are in who you are, the less likely you’ll succumb to those self-sabotaging feelings. Auditing how we are feeling and checking in with ourselves can be helpful to make sure we are staying confident in our own running journey and hopeful for the future so that we don’t let comparison and insecurity rob us of our peace and our potential.

Running is a gift. Don’t let your running be poisoned by emotions that don’t push your forward and make you a better person or runner. Auditing your heart and making sure it’s in a place that keeps you joyful and at peace is the best way to really help you to enjoy running with friends, competitors, and to enjoy your own running journey.