It’s time for the first Coach Tip Tuesday of the Spring! This week’s tip is for all of you out there who have met the Comparison Monster.
Rendezvous with the Comparison Monster
Who/what is the Comparison Monster? Well, simply put, the Comparison Monster is someone else who you compare yourself to, who you measure yourself against.
The Comparison Monster can show up in a lot of places. I’ve observed that people see the Comparison Monster in the lane next to them in the pool, outside on their bikes, running on the track, or (possibly most commonly) on social media platforms.
The Comparison Monster is most often someone who you identify to be “better” than you at a particular thing. What the Monster is “better” at could be anything - swimming “effortlessly”, running fast, or looking comfortable doing what they’re doing. And often, the Comparison Monster can make people feel like they are not a “real” or “serious” version of something (i.e. a “real” runner, a “real” triathlete, or a “real” weightlifter).
Here’s the trick: The Comparison Monster isn’t actually better; it is only better in the story that you tell yourself about the Monster. This is a very important distinction.
Because of that, when I observe that an athlete who I am working with has seen or encountered the Comparison Monster, I gently offer this advice, which is the basis of this week’s tip for all of you:
You know nothing of that person’s story, where they came from, how much work they put in, or where they are at in their journey. And even if you have conclusive evidence (versus a story you are telling yourself about the person) that they are currently “better” than you, remember this:
Before someone did a lot of something, they had to do their first something.
No One Starts Great
Eluid Kipchoge, the fastest marathoner in human history, wasn’t always the fastest; once upon a time, he ran his first mile, and later ran his first marathon. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, was at a point in his life once where he hadn’t ever toed the water of a swimming pool. Way before she had the most Grand Slam Singles titles of all time, Serena Williams didn’t know how to effectively serve a tennis ball. Before he became the greatest closer the game of baseball has ever seen, Mariano Rivera had to be called up from the minor leagues by the New York Yankees.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Each and every one of us - no matter where we ultimately land or get to - starts as a beginner, as someone who is not proficient or a master at the thing we are doing.
So when you feel clumsy and like you don’t know what you are doing, know that you are in the company of the greatest athletes of all-time. EVERYONE has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is at the very beginning - at square one. EVERYONE. No one just jumps out of the gate and is the best, whether they are an age grouper athlete (as 95% of us are) or whether they are a professional athlete. It takes time, patience, diligence, consistency, and practice to get better at something and to work towards a level of mastery.
The Bottom Line
The Comparison Monster may very well try to come and visit you. It may knock very loudly at your door. I encourage you not to invite the Comparison Monster in your door. Send the Monster away with a courteous wave and a firm, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Base where YOU are on just that - where YOU are.
Before you get great at something, you’ll have to do your first one of that thing. And then you’ll have to rinse and repeat, continuing the process of honing your craft. Be encouraged that all things that become great begin with that very important first step. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.