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Recently I started exercising regularly with a girlfriend. We do pilates at my place on my reformer machine (thanks to my father-in-law) and we go swimming once a week too and just do laps!
We have gone 3 times now and the first time I surprised myself and we think we swam around 1km. The second time I couldn’t get my rhythm right and struggled to get past 1km and was stuffed the whole time. And the third time we went I found my rhythm and we both smashed out a 2km swim in just over an hour.
We started slowly and warmed up doing breaststroke and then moved into a few laps of freestyle. Suddenly I was knackered but Kylie was only just getting started. How is this right I thought? I’m just as fit as Kylie, why am I so stuffed and she is fine!?! Doing laps of freestyle I was struggling and started falling way behind Kylie and suddenly she had overtaken me. So I switched back to breaststroke and without realising it I nearly swam over the top of her. I was so much faster at breaststroke that I am at freestyle. So I kept up with her for a few laps until the lane next to us cleared and I claimed it. Suddenly I was in my own lane, not following anyone, and I was able to get my rhythm right. I didn’t have the splashing of the aqua class to disturb me or wobble me around in the lane, I had a clear lane and no one to compare myself to. I got into my rhythm and in the wise words of Dory, just kept swimming. Before I realised I had swum breaststroke without stopping for 30 minutes straight and had actually gone a tiny bit faster than Kylie doing freestyle. But we kept pace together.
It dawned on me that swimming behind Kylie I was so preoccupied with keeping up with her while doing the same stroke that it was interfering with my swimming! Once I stopped comparing myself to her and I realised I’m actually stronger at breaststroke, where Kylie is stronger at freestyle, we swam a solid 1.3km in our own lanes, utilising our own strengths and it was easy! And it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter that we have different strengths that I’m not as fast as her at freestyle and she isn’t as fast as me at breaststroke. It doesn’t impact our friendship or mean we now can’t swim together. It’s just life.
While I was swimming along, lap after lap, the anxiety of the day washed and away and I was able to think clearer and it dawned on me that over the years I have done this so often. I have compared myself to so many people and it certainly has never helped me accomplish anything!
I have compared my handwriting to my sisters and actually thought that I should practice my handwriting to make it nicer. (Like that will make life easier!)
I have compared the clothes my boys wear with that of other kids, in the playground, with kids in our mothers group, and thought I should spend more time on making them look cuter. When in reality my boys get dirty just by looking at food or dirt and I would probably spend more time feeling anxious about getting pricier clothes dirty.
I have compared myself in so many ways to other people. To my sisters (both of them in different ways), to my friends, to the people I worked with at the pubs, to Mums at the play centre, to the other Mums in my mothers group and to random people I walk past in the street.
This comparison has never once served me in making me happier. It has never made me a better person or mother. It has caused me anxiety, feelings of guilt, and stress. Stress that I’m not as good as those people, or my kids aren’t as well behaved, or my clothes aren’t that nice, or as simple as my handwriting is crap and messy.
And swimming along in my lane this thought occurred to me. ‘If more people just got in their own lane, focused on their own breathing, arms and kicking, then we would all get a lot more done, with a lot less stress. We could be happier with what we do have instead of focusing on what other people are doing.’
So I am making a pledge, that I will never again compare myself to another person. Not only because it doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help others either. I might be comparing my clothes to another Mum who has a lovely dress on, and it might be because that’s the last clean thing she owns. She might have a laundry overflowing with dirty clothes that she just can’t get on top of because her kids are always on top of her. And really who is ever on top of their washing!?!?
But because of this comparison I assume that she is happy and fine don’t offer to help her for a few hours so she can put a load of washing on and start to tackle the washing monsters.
By just focusing on being ourselves, our own messy versions of ourselves, we can focus on being happier and more present in our lives.