In some sports and activities you’re actively encouraged to compare yourself to other people, keep a close eye on the ‘competition’, be better than them and then it’s that which drives you and which pushes you to be better.
When I was younger I used to feel jealous (eugh such an ugly word) about so many things – both stupidly small and horribly big and I’ve spent years quietly and sometimes not so quietly battling my own world of self doubt about myself – my body mainly and constantly wishing and wanting to look the way others do and be able to do as others do. As I’ve got older I’m slowly (like a half dead snail kind of slow) learning to overcome this, but comparison is not a healthy tool for me – it doesn’t encourage me, it doesn’t help me strive to be better, it just makes me feel worse.
When I first started taking yoga seriously and going more than once every blue moon, I instantly began comparing myself to everyone else, with no idea where they were on their journey, how long they’d been doing yoga for or what makes up their bodies, how their particular bones, muscles and joints work. All I saw around me were yogi’s touching their toes, standing on their heads or deep in meditation and I instantly began to berate myself – i can barely touch my toes, i get dizzy and want to throw up if i try to stand on my head and whenever i try to meditate i fall asleep (hence why shavasana is and will always be my favourite part of my practice).
I even wrote in my first blog post here to give it time and I’ll be just as good as those beautiful Lululemon wearing yogi warriors.
In my first class at Putney’s The House of Yoga, I had a teacher, Monika, who reminded everyone to not judge yourself, that where you are in your practice that morning is exactly where you’re supposed to be, so if your downward dog feels a little different to last time, that’s ok – if your heels aren’t quite touching the mat – that’s ok, they might get there one day or they might not. Your body just might not be made that way.
And as the weeks have gone on I’ve realised she’s right. I have some days where i flow through sequences and can find peace and balance in my practice, feel all at one and very zen like and then there are days where I’m jumping about like an elephant, shaking like a leaf and feeling like my heels will never ever in a million years touch that sodding mat. These feelings happen from one day to the next and I just have to accept that at this stage in my journey I’m still finding my feet, I’m still learning how my body works and responds to the strain of half pigeon (not well…not well at all) and the many other poses I find myself in.
I had a class again this morning with Monika and she got us to do a sequence or two with our eyes closed, so that we could all do cat and cow and wave our bums about in the air without fear of any judgement from anyone and it was glorious – for a few seconds i waved my bum in every direction and forgot to care about what I looked like, what other people might think and whether my bum looked like that of the girl next to me!
So, not only have I realised that I have to stop comparing myself to others, I have to stop comparing myself to myself, stop judging and start being nicer to myself – every time i compare myself to anything it’s the equivalent of giving myself a tiny punch on the arm – if i keep comparing and keep punching eventually that shit’s going to hurt, quite unnecessarily so. And that’s just NOT ok.