Are you comparing yourself to others?
At Fitness Fables we always believe in a balanced lifestyle. For us, a nutritious diet accompanied by the appropriate exercise routine based on your goals and finally, some rest in between is considered to be a well-balanced lifestyle. While a balanced lifestyle is what we wish for all of our clients, this is not always the case.
As social comparisons are extremely evident in the world we live in today, we are constantly reminded that we need to compare our lives to those of others around us on social media to “keep up”. Leon Festinger, a social psychologist popularised the social comparison theory arguing that we all have an intrinsic need to assess our progress by comparing ourselves to others. He also says that we innately make what he calls “upward comparisons” in which we measure ourselves against those people we feel inferior to. Since everyone around you is posting the “best versions” of themselves on Facebook and Instagram, it is almost impossible to avoid upward comparison.
These social platforms tend to have a "highlight reel" nature in which users only share the best moments, best angles, highest achievements, and of course "couple goals". Upward comparison is something that happens every day and can cause people to feel dissatisfied, desperate, incapable, and can even lead to depression.
Upward comparison and physical fitness
The effects of upward comparison are seen year in and year out. Like we mentioned before, balance is the most important thing when we look at physical fitness holistically. Upward comparison has caused some to hit the gym for what we call some "instant exercising". When December is around the corner and we need to show off our toned bodies on the beach, we experience an influx of clients who would typically look for a "quick fix" for the extra weight they gained during the winter months.
Why instant exercising can be harmful
As gym-goers frantically try to get in shape before the festive season, it is usually accompanied by injuries, muscle fatigue, and frustration. We have all heard it before - You did not gain so much weight in one day, and you will certainly not lose it in one day. As upward comparison is on the rise, we tend to have the sudden urge to get in shape as soon as possible.
Nowadays we see that many people have a skewed perception of what it means to be healthy. An extremely toned body is not necessarily a healthy body.
It is what’s on the outside that counts
Beauty comes from within, and so does health. If you focus on your mental and physical health as a whole by eating the right food, staying active, and refraining from "guilty pleasures", it will certainly show on the outside. We would hate to see one of our clients defeating the purpose of physical exercise by being motivated by what they compare themselves to on social media and as a result sets unrealistic goals. Not all skinny girls and toned men are healthy and it all comes down to a combination of the cumulative efforts made to achieve your most balanced-self by eating right, exercising, and resting.
Overcoming upward comparison and instant exercise
If you were to offer some individuals a choice between good health or a beautiful body, you would be shocked at how many would choose the latter. As vanity and self-promotion are all around us it can influence many people to believe that looks are everything. If you are aware of the fact that you tend to compare yourself to others daily, we have some tips for you.
Remember that you are unique
This seems like a cheesy image-quote your one aunt sent to you on Whatsapp (we all have that one Tannie) however when it comes to your body-shape it truly is important to remember that your body shape can be different from the next person's. If it was easy to look like Victoria's secret angels or Calvin Klein underwear models, we could all probably look like that with a little effort. Unfortunately, that is not the case as genetics, metabolic rate, physical abilities, physical history, length, and many other factors determine the way we look. There are many body-shapes and it all comes down to the way you treat your body and exercise according to what works for you. We can blabber on and on on this point, but the bottom line is this - Don't be too hard on yourself and your body.
Seeing is not believing
Remember that social platforms are commonly used to promote an individual's image and status. What we see on Instagram is not always reality. The Instagram picture you liked earlier of the girl in her bikini captioned "Some vitamin sea" might have taken them twenty takes, five different angles, and ten filters before it was posted. Like you and me, everyone is trying to portray the best versions of themselves and the important thing to remember is that likes and flame emojis will one day be useless and well, stupid. Focus on yourself, don't compare yourself to others, and don't believe everything you see on social media.
Set some goals
And we don't mean fitness goals. If you are seeing a pattern of even slight obsession with your weight, size, and the way you look in your swimwear, set different goals. Try to steer your focus into something else instead like improving your writing skills, reading more books, learning a new skill, or doing online courses that can excel your career or other opportunities. Looks aren't everything and when it becomes the thing you spend most of your time on, you need to seriously check yourself before you wreck yourself, literally. Think of it this way - Imagine yourself as the 20-something Instagram influencer with the best body and a social feed to show for it. Now imagine turning 60, looking back at your life, and instead of traveling the world, reading lots of books, furthering your studies, learning new skills, taking up a new sport, and making the best memories with friends and family, you are left with a "nice-looking social feed of the body you once had and the likes you once lived for". That doesn't seem so great anymore, does it?
At Fitness Fables, we want you to live your best (balanced) life free from comparison followed by self-criticism. If you focus on your overall health and not just what we see on the surface you will reap the benefits of longevity and good health for years to come. Talk to one of our trainers for the best way to achieve your best self this year.