Even though I’ve hung up my running spikes, there are lessons I learned during my track career that are still very true in retirement. I live by the motto that “comparison is the thief of joy” and this is true reguardless of where you are on life’s journey.
As someone who is naturally competitive, I’ve learned that being in competition with the person you were yesterday is a much better use of your time than trying to compete with your peers or friends. This was the case even when I was literally paid to compete against other woman, and having that mindset contributed to the longevity of my track career. It also kept me sane.
When we try to measure up against someone else’s barometer, it is often futile and a waste of time. We were all blessed with unique talents and we are called to fulfill different missions in life. I have to continually remind myself of this when I get into to a comparison rut, which happens from time to time.
How the comparison bug can manifest:
- A full time corporate worker glamorizing the lifestyle of a professional athlete. They see the benefit of being able to travel the world while perfecting a skill you love but don’t realize the diet, sleep, and physical commitment it takes to remain competitive. Not to mention, being a successful pro athlete comes with tremendous sacrifice, and saying no to a lot of things you don’t always want to say no to.
- A professional track athlete being envious of the more predictable lifestyle of a person working in the corporate world. They see their ease of not having to commit every waking moment to their craft while forgetting that the corporate worker may feel stuck and be craving variety.
- A stay at home mom not bringing in income feeling inadequate as she romanticizes going into the office like her working mom counterparts. She sees the benefit of that mom’s salary and being able to take a break from the kids while forgetting the working mom is often plagued with tremendous mom guilt.
- A working mom earning a high salary and feeling inferior for not being with her kids 24/7. She sees the stay at home mom experiencing every child milestone and being hands on with everything while forgetting that the mom may sometimes feel a little bored with the routine.
- A young new graduate who just got hired being envious of the confidence, wealth, and legacy of a more seasoned worker. They see their older counterparts being skilled and respected, while not realizing the years of work and dedication it took to gain the experience in their field.
- Baby boomers being jealous of Gen Zs for their vibrancy and innovation. They see their youth as an asset, forgetting that many young people often feel dismissed, undervalued, and overlooked in the workforce.
There is an art to staying in your own lane and remaining focused on your unique journey. Trying to run someone else’s race is similar to comparing apples and oranges because not everything is meant for everyone.
Everything has its season and with patience and grace your winning season will exceed your expectations.
My first hand experience with comparison:
When I was running professionally, I would sometimes envy my peers who retired after their college sports careers because of the apparent ease of their day to day lives.
Yes I was incredibly grateful to be getting paid well to do something that I absolutely loved, but with that came its own set of challenges.
It didn’t seem like they had to deal with the diet changes and sacrifices that were required to be a successful pro athlete.
It didn’t seem like they had to deal with the pressures of keeping sponsors and federations happy by regularly getting medals.
It didn’t seem like they had to deal with the constant travel and living out of suitcases and inside of hotel rooms.
It didn’t seem like they had to deal with the overwhelming feelings of disappointment that come along with a disappointing race or championship performance.
It didn’t seem like they had to miss the whole summer season with non track loved ones due to being overseas and competing on the circuit.
It didn’t seem like they had to get used to being alone and sometimes feeling isolated even despite a meet going well.
In no way am I complaining about being a professional athlete, because if it were all bad I wouldn’t have done (and enjoyed) it for 12 years of my adult life. I just want to paint a picture that we can sometimes see people’s lives and not fully understand what goes on behind closed doors.
Now that I’m retired and have that more traditional lifestyle I often craved, I definitely do miss the thrill of competing some days despite genuinely loving this new phase of my life (read this blog).
Life is funny like that.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, but I have always been a believer that the grass will be green where you water & nurture it.
While it is natural to see other people’s lives as perfect and even aspirational, I would like to encourage you to take everything with a grain of salt and appreciate where you are and what it is that you’re called to accomplish on your journey.
I know firsthand how easy it is to get caught up in the comparison game, but let this be a reminder to dead that in 2022.
Repeat after me:
We are doing a great job
What’s for us will come easily
We will be prepared for our blessings
With everything in life, there are trade offs and starting each season in life with gratitude and a bit of perspective will take you very far.
We’ve got this!