Comparison isn’t always based on other people. Sometimes the hardest comparison to kill is comparing yourself to who you used to be. Because, in theory, you were that person once, you should be able to do it again.
I hear it all the time from athletes. “I used to be in better shape,” or “I used to be stronger, it’s embarrassing”. The inspirational quotes telling you to only compare yourself to who you were yesterday? Yeah, that’s not helping you accept your body.
Because some of our yesterdays were pretty epic. For some of us, our past self was “better” than our current self, by most cultural standards. So no, don’t compare yourself to who you used to be. That’s actually what’s stopping you from ever accepting your body.
So how do you let go of the idea you need to get your old body back and allow yourself to exist in the body you have today? It starts with examining your priorities.
I’m not saying this so you “get your priorities straight!” and hit the gym. No, quite the opposite. This gives you objective reasons your body looks different.
Maybe in college you had more structured physical activity or roommates you worked out with. If you were an athlete for crying out loud, of course you were in good shape…it was part of your “job”.
Compare that to your priorities now, things are different. And that’s okay. It’s unrealistic to expect adding a career wouldn’t shift your priorities.
Being a fully functioning, independent adult is no joke. Keeping up with friendships, family, a FULL TIME JOB, grocery shopping, paying bills, laundry…AND getting regular exercise? That’s a lot.
Look at your priorities objectively. What I mean is, don’t assign morality to what your priorities are. Don’t call some “good” and some “bad” they are what they are…it’s not about looking impressive right now it’s about being realistic so you can make an informed decision on what to do next. It’s easier to accept your body when you understand what’s changed.
Why do we think we can do it all…at the same time? The career, the relationship, the friendships, the house, the body….BLAH! What actual person has all this? No one. And if someone does, I guarantee they can’t enjoy any of it because they’re so exhausted or so afraid to lose it. Take it from someone who has experience feeling both.
Remember, if you aren’t prioritizing strength training you’re going to lose muscle mass. That just makes sense, it’s not that there’s something wrong with YOU.
So figure out how many things are practical for you to prioritize right now and accept your body changing because of it. These priorities change from season to season. In order to pick something up, you have to put something down.
I’ve found I can really only have two priorities at once and do them well. Right now, those priorities are my career and my friendships. Everything else I’m aware of, but it’s not a priority. I’m not looking at those things to measure progress or success.
And you know what?
Sometimes I make progress in ALL areas because I’m not beating myself up over the fact I didn’t make it to the gym this week. If something that’s not a priority slips…I move on and don’t waste any energy dwelling on it.
Your most valuable asset is your attention (AKA: energy, focus, mindshare, etc.) Comparison is an attention vampire. It sneaks in and instead of doing something useful with that bit of energy you have, comparison drains it with negativity.
Whenever a client is stressing about comparison I ask, “why are you giving your energy to this?” the phrasing here is intentional. I ask why they’re GIVING this their energy, because it’s 100% voluntary.
Are you going to get a different job so you have more time to exercise? Are you planning to restructure your entire life to change your eating habits? No? Okay then. Stop having the same expectations of your body if you don’t have the same priorities as before. Make peace with your priorities, or change them. Fighting them does you no good.
You control where your attention goes. At any point, you can decide to shift your focus to something productive. No matter how long you’ve been dwelling on comparison, it only takes one moment to reclaim that energy and move forward.
What do you need from your body each day? If you’re being realistic, you don’t need 6-pack abs from your body.
You don’t need defined biceps or thin ankles. What you need is functional movement. If you have that, thank your body for being healthy and showing up for you every day!
Maybe your job requires more from your body, that’s okay, whatever actual needs you have are valid. The purpose of this question is to get rid of the diet culture expectations of our bodies and get back to the functional expectations.
Bodies need sleep, nourishment, movement, and hydration. If you can give your body that everyday, you’re doing just fine. Acceptance comes when you align your expectations with your priorities.
Rebekah Buege is a body confidence coach helping strong women process critical thoughts and heal insecurities.
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