A Mile is a Mile – The Danger of Comparison

Almost from the moment we are born we are taught to compare ourselves against our peers.  Baby weights go onto a graph and parents compare percentiles and growth curves.  The silent competition continues our whole lives, and perhaps it is nowhere more pronounced than in how we look and physically perform.  I am inclined to think there is something in our nature as humans that compels us to look at the others in our species and say, “Am I better or worse than him? Is my child progressing on the same schedule as that other child?”

A Mile is a Mile - a post on the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. | Simply Fit & Clean


To our pre-agricultural revolution ancestors, this comparison was vital to survival and creating strong progeny. Being the fastest sprinter could mean the difference between eating and starving. Today, though, whether I can run quickly doesn’t influence whether Kroger has bananas in stock.  My survival doesn’t depend on the performance, shape, or fitness level of my peers.

But I still compare.

We all do.  I see snapshots of Garmin watches on Facebook showing running paces and distances that are well beyond my current capabilities, and I have a hard time not feeling bad about it.  Just a few days ago I was next to a girl at the gym who was doing all the same dumbbell work I was doing but with 25 pound weights while I used 15.  Again, I felt like I was not doing enough.  After I have felt the frustration of not being as “good” as someone else, I have a harder time wanting to go back to the gym and subject myself to more possible comparisons, more tiny failures.


And that is the danger of comparison.  I was 1) at the gym and 2) using 15 pound weights when I used to use 5.  Both of those are victories, not failures.  Yes, there are people who thrive with a little healthy competition, but when it comes to our bodies much of the competition isn’t really healthy.  If you are an Olympian or a bodybuilder, go ahead.  Wrap that measuring tape around your bicep or stress about cutting five seconds off a lap.  If you’re like most people, though, you just want to be healthy.  You want to fit into your favorite jeans.  You want to run up a flight of stairs without getting winded.  You want the health benefits of exercise.  Comparing your progress to anyone else other than yourself is just another way to talk yourself out of lacing up your running shoes or turning on that exercise DVD.  It’s hard enough to keep to a good fitness schedule without feeling bad about yourself.  Not only is it a mental road block, unnecessary comparison can encourage injury by pressing you to pick up weights that are too heavy or ramp up your mileage/pace too quickly.

No matter how fast you run or walk, a mile is a mile.  A pound lost is a pound lost.  Try to be your best self, not someone else’s.  Set goals based on your capabilities, your starting point, and your end desires.  We are all on our own journey and every path is going to look different.  And that’s a good thing.

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What small victories have you celebrated lately? Be sure to subscribe to the blog, like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, and use the social media buttons below this post to share this post with friends who need a little reminder that a mile is a mile, no matter how long it takes.

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About Sarah McMullin

Mother of two, Bachelor's and JD, married to a crazy high school teacher.
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