How often do we compare ourselves to others and become discouraged because we perceive others as being more polished, accomplished, knowledgeable or skilled. Is it discouraging or are you using it to benchmark and self-scout yourself to determine where you can improve and what your strengths are. We all do it, sometimes it’s an ongoing conversation…our negative self-talk.
I Suck at Sports
When I was a child, and as most of us did, I compared myself to others. I suffered from low self-esteem and a continuous cycle of negative self-talk, tearing myself down at every opportunity. I suck at sports…I was the kid that sat on the bench until the last couple of innings and played because it was required to play each kid an inning or two.
I’m stupid…In grade school I was a C student and had trouble focusing on anything the teacher said. I did not know it at the time, but I had ADD. I don’t even know if that was an existing diagnosis. I engaged in a perpetual cycle of negative self-talk reinforced by my grades. I dreaded bringing home my report card, because I knew my parents would be upset and disappointed.
I viewed everyone else around me as being smarter and better. After all, I wasn’t good at sports and wasn’t very smart. I hated school and would often fake being sick, so I didn’t have to deal.
My parents knew I was smarter than my grades, and at one time my father was going to make sure I knew all the material for my science test. The only problem, was he is not very patient which only made matters worse.
A Little Belief and Some Positive Reinforcement
Fortunately, in High School I had an epiphany. I did some self-scouting and came to the realization that my problem was not my ability but my lack of concentration and focus.
I still do not know to this day how I came to this realization but it led to a major decision in my life: Stop beating myself up and just focus on doing what needed to be done. That meant teaching myself how to concentrate while in school and doing homework not for the sake of completing it but to understand it.
It took work and awareness of not being easily distracted by every other thought that popped into my brain and distracted me. Even now, as I write this, I have multiple other thoughts that spring up and can (and probably will) distract me at least a few times.
My biggest challenge was to tell myself that I was as smart and deserving as other students of good grades and that my problems was not my ability but lack of focus. I did improve my grades and I went from a C/D student to an A/B student.
To this day, I don’t know what precipitated that thought or change, I just know that when I stopped comparing myself to others and changed my internal self-talk and held myself accountable, I was able to change my circumstances.
Did I mention that in High School my parents expected all of us to go to a private school and to pay for our own tuition in High School? So while I improved my grades I did it while working on average 30 hours per week. After school, I worked until 8 and then spend the next 2-3 hours focused on doing homework.
As my grades improved so did my sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.
Benchmark and Self-Scout Yourself to Strive for Continuous Improvement
I bring this up because yesterday I went out riding with a sponsored ride by the Bike Depot in Waxhaw. When the weather is nice 30-50 riders show up. Riders split off into groups based on their riding experience/ability.
The cold weather deterred most riders and only 6 of us met up. I started riding about 4 months ago and my schedule limits me to riding 1-2 times per week. While I’ve built up my speed and stamina, I struggle when I go faster than 16 mph. Yesterday, I knew I would struggle to keep up. The other riders typically ride at pace of 20 mph and think nothing of doing 60 plus miles. Some ride competitively.
I could easily have decided to go out on my own knowing these riders are in different league. I decided to use it as an opportunity to push myself and benchmark myself.
While I struggled trying to keep up, I was able to push myself and complete the ride. It would be easy to compare myself and get into that old cycle of negative self-talk, telling myself how poorly I ride and I’m not very good. I choose to reflect on far I’ve come. Five months ago I struggled to do 15 miles at 12-14 MPH.
This was a great opportunity to ride with much stronger and more skilled riders and it gave me an opportunity to learn from them. How to train and tips on riding. I also realized earlier in life while not as gifted athletically as others, there are certain sports I enjoy doing and it is not about comparing myself to others but challenging myself. As long as I enjoy doing what I’m doing and striving to achieve my own milestones, that’s all that matters. I am thankful there are others with more skills and knowledge than me. These are the people that I can use as mentors and learn from.
Welcome the Opportunity to Learn and be Mentored by Those More Skilled and Knowledgeable
We are all presented with these opportunities. Being open to learning from others and not comparing yourself negatively allows you to grow and become stronger, more skilled and more knowledgeable. We are always presented with opportunities to compare our self with others. How we view that will determine what benefit we derive from that opportunity. Will we grow from it or engage in negative self-talk about how we are not as good, as talented, as deserving?