comparison, competition and why i am actively DIS-engaging

16 Dec

I’ve been drafting and editing and rewriting this blog post for about 2 weeks now.  Yesterday, watching the race, I was so excited to be around all the adrenaline and excitement that comes from racing and competing.  So I think it’s a timely post to talk about my battle with comparison and competition.  It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now…


I should preface this by explaining a bit about my childhood.  I was in the G/T program (aka nerd class) in my school.  I think it’s important to know because I spent most of my childhood comparing myself to other students and competing to be the best.  This behavior was encouraged in some ways by our teachers–they wanted us to be the best and work really hard.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you take a Type-A personality and put her in that kind of environment, it can get a little out of control.  I spent hours at night on homework, stressed over grade-school projects and cried many tears over “bad” tests (not a 90 or better?  not an excuse.).  As a Type-A personality, being in this class for my entire school career just helped to over-develop some unhealthy habits relating to comparing myself to others and competing unnecessarily.   Don’t get me wrong–there was a lot of good that came out of my early schooling:  a great work ethic, a TON of knowledge, some friendships that taught me a lot, and grades that allowed me to go to a private college for almost nothing AND do amazingly well in both college and grad school (not to mention my career and life in general).

Anyway, I have a competitive streak, and I attribute it mostly to my schooling.  I don’t think it has anything to do with wanting to “win,” necessarily.  It has to do with wanting to be comparatively better than someone else.  And the problem with wanting to be comparatively better is that you can’t compare yourself to anyone but yourself–it’s just not fair to either of the two being compared otherwise.  Different people have different strengths, different weaknesses, different priorities…  The other problem with comparison is that if you fail to be the better one, it’s very easy to just give up and throw in the towel.


All this thinking about comparison started because of the recent media buzz about women posting pictures of their bodies post-pregnancy.  I had a million thoughts with each one of the stories.  They ranged from “good for her for getting into that kind of shape” to “Who takes a picture of herself in her underwear and posts it on a public twitter account?” to “If you put a picture of yourself  in your underwear out there on the internet, you should expect to get some criticism.”

But then I thought about it some more.  And I realized how ridiculous it is to say that you should expect public criticism based on how you look.  It’s a ridiculousness born out of societal demands and expectations.  And comparisons.

The truth is, no matter what your body looks like as a woman, you’re going to be criticized by someone.  You’re too skinny, too muscular, too fat.  You’re too tall, too short.   All of these things are “too” in relation to someone else or some other fictional standard that society creates and then pushes on us.


What I’ve seen is that many women, regardless of their body, love to tear apart other women.  They wait for the opportunity to do it clothed in self-righteousness (“my priority is my kid, not my body”) or defensiveness (“i am lucky i even had a baby so i wear my stretch marks with pride”), and another woman posting a picture of herself in her underwear is that perfect opportunity.  A chance to be snarky and bitchy.  And I personally think that snarkiness is born out of comparison.  I see an incredibly fit woman and I get pissed that I don’t look like that, so I find something mean to say about her.  Because one part of my life doesn’t live up to hers, I find a way that I think I am superior, and I latch onto that.  At least, this is what I imagine is happening to most women who commented negatively about the women posting these pictures.  And this same process is what leads us to criticize about other things, too.

I started writing this blog a couple of weeks ago now, and since then I’ve been paying more attention, I’ve had a startling realization.  I’ve caught myself every day comparing myself to people.  Suffixes like “er” and “est” are a frequent part of my vocabulary.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s unhealthy.  I am over it.

So I am working really hard to actively disengage from this type of thinking and behavior.  The only person I should be comparing myself to and competing with is myself–I want to spend every day becoming a better version of myself.   I guess this doesn’t just go for these body image issues, either.   In every facet of my life, I am over it.  Teaching, being a wife, a sister, a daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, co-worker, cook, runner… So this coming year, I am trying to be more cognizant of my personal competitive streak and trying to reign it in (except when it comes to competing with myself.  If I’m not pregnant this spring, an ultra WILL happen).  Because in the end, all that really matters is that I am healthy and happy and making others’ lives better.

competition 2


One Response to “comparison, competition and why i am actively DIS-engaging”

  1. Martina Bex December 18, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Read this link today and reminded me of your post!

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