Why comparing yourself to others stops you from being awesome

I was in Taumarunui, New Zealand – Day 68 and 1,032km into #WalkNZ.

I was just sitting, eating breakfast, really just minding my own business when the Dutch Te Araroa trail walker sat down next to me and proceeded to interrogate me.

“How many kilometres are you walking a day?” was his first question as he tucked into a juicy peach.

“Er, well,” I stumbled, feeling the familiar feelings of self-doubt bubble to the surface. “I’m, umm, averaging about 20km a day,” I said sheepishly, knowing full well I could be pushing more than that.

“Only 20?”, he queried, with just a hint of smugness. “I walked the 85km Timber Trail in two days. The day before that I walked 38km and the day before that was about the same. I can walk 6km an hour on the flat. I like to have clocked up 20km by lunchtime; so what you’re doing a day.”

I looked at him. Inside I squirmed, mentally thinking “yeah thanks mate for reminding me I’m shit”.

What was it with people suddenly asking me how far I walked in a day? I’d already had a handful pose this question in the past few days.

My tendency to swerve towards self-doubt made this development rather annoying. This wasn’t a competition.

That understanding was a steep learning curve back in week four when I stumbled into Ngunguru, exhausted and almost broken.

I was so depressed that I was struggling with the trail in those early weeks. Everyone else was better – they were fitter than me, faster than me, covered more kilometres than me, had fewer blisters than me, took fewer rest days than me, had lighter backpacks than me. The list could go on.

It took some interesting conversations and a fair amount of navel gazing before the light bulb went on – click, I was comparing myself to others who were completely different to me and who were on their own journeys. I couldn’t compare my journey to someone else’s which was totally different. It would have been like comparing apples with oranges.

After that revelation, I felt more liberated and didn’t beat myself up so much.

But sometimes I’d still get caught in the trap – like when the Dutch guy seemingly compared our walking abilities, or at least that was how I interpreted it.

But it’s easy to do, right?

We look at Facebook, at Instagram, at our friends and work colleagues and compare their holidays, their jobs, their lives.

But we only see a fraction of their story, or their journey. We tend not to see the hard work, the heartache, the worries, the insecurities or how they might, in fact, compare themselves to us and find themselves lacking.

By comparing myself to all the other walkers on the trail, I was focusing on them and not focusing on me.

I wasn’t factoring in how I was progressing or what was making the authentic me tick.

But more importantly, it didn’t allow my inner awesomeness to shine.

I let the comparisons feed my self-doubt, which then consumed me. It clouded my thinking. I didn’t think or feel like I was awesome, so I believed I wasn’t.

The more I compared myself based on some random, made-up expectations of what I should be like or should be able to achieve, the more I found myself lacking, the less awesome I felt and, in effect, became.

What a crap way to live.

Walking 2,000km made me realise that everyone is on their own unique journey of awesomeness if only we took the chance to look inside ourselves to find it and to listen to what our gut tells us is the next step, what is right for us and us alone, on that unique journey.

The steps the Dutch guy took on his journey aren’t relevant to me. They are his steps, not mine.

Or put another way, his awesomeness is not my awesomeness, and my awesomeness is not his.


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