I’m the first to admit that for a long time, I really struggled with comparing my life to other peoples. I know I’m not the only one, and in countless conversations, friends have opened up and told me that they have had this same affliction affect them for the best parts of their lives.
It’s that feeling where you actually feel good about your achievements and then all of a sudden, that overly critical voice peers in, offering its opinion that you’re never going to be able to do this thing, or that your thing wasn’t as good as the thing that the person you always compare yourself to did, three weeks ago.
I’ve learned not to judge myself by other people’s standards. I call this staying in my own lane. That doesn’t mean I’m setting myself limits based on what I think I can or cannot do, but rather I’ve learned to enjoy my experiences at my own pace and based on what I can achieve at that time based on a whole range of factors (like fitness, health, weather etc).
In adventure and the outdoors, we’ve become massively obsessed with achievement. It’s understandable. The idea of setting yourself the challenge of climbing a specific mountain or going on a multi day or week through hike is a fantastic mental challenge. It can also make us competitive, and not in the most serving way for ourselves.
As much as I’ve worked on the idea of staying in my own lane, and hiking my own hike so to speak, I’ve experienced this many times myself. If my achievement hasn’t been quite ‘as good’ as I’d hoped it would be in the outdoors, I’ll beat myself up for as long as possible so I can’t possibly feel good about what I did achieve. One such time has been recently on our hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada, California. We both came down with head colds on the way out and had much less energy than normal. It was incredibly frustrating because I felt like we’d been training for this for absolutely months. Getting there and having to turn back at a point earlier than we’d hoped was crushing. I’d been dreaming of that trail and that experience for months. I felt like I’d failed at this thing that I’d been training for, for months. I started thinking about all the other people I know who have done similar things and managed it no problem. As soon as I started comparing my hike to their hike, I lost my joy. I lost the moment I was in. I lost the joy of the scenery all around me.
I will also sometimes find myself comparing my physical and mental ability to that of Matt. We both have different things in the outdoors that we’re good at, and together we form a strong team. But that team isn’t formed stronger when I spend time wallowing in why he was faster there or why he seemed to acclimate better than me at a particular altitude that time around.
I often see on adventure groups I’m a member of online, that people will put their outdoor achievements down because they know that there are plenty of people out there who are doing much ‘harder’ things. The truth is, though, that your achievements are your own. Whether in the outdoors or in your everyday life. We are all on our own paths in life, and if we let ourselves, we all get to experience the growth we need at the exact time we need it. So what if you are proud of yourself for competing a hike that everyone else is saying was really easy and you found really difficult? It was your hike, you did it. You should be proud. Sometimes, ease is a matter of perception. Sure, the route can be classed as easy physically, but if it’s a cliff top hike and you’re scared of heights, you’re probably not going to find that hike as easy as someone without a fear of heights. That doesn’t make you any less of a person. It just makes you different.
Your hike is your hike.
Your life is your life.
I can guarantee you that staying in your lane is going to help you enjoy your life more.
Our lives are already stressful, and in modern society, the pressures that we face can mount up so much and cause depression and anxiety on a large scale. We don’t need to be adding more stress to our already pent up lives.
If you’re finding yourself to be stuck in comparison and down about your achievements, I want you to think back to why you got into hiking and adventure in the first place. I’m guessing that it ultimately wasn’t because of your intense calling to bag peaks, nor was it because you felt like you had something to prove to the world.
If I ever find myself going head on into comparison and beating myself up, I try to get out on a hike that will really help me reconnect with why I enjoy hiking. Yesterday, I had exactly that experience after our trip in the Sierra. We went and hiked a lake loop, it wasn’t particularly challenging, but there were some parts that tested my heights and drop offs fear, which allowed me to push myself mentally and see the bliss on the other side of fear. The scenery was beautiful. The temperature was just right. The water at the lake was soothing. I felt this rush of joy come over me and I felt in my element again.
We get so stuck sometimes in our heads and around what it is we want to achieve that we forget that we are more than one thing. We are more than hikers, travellers, adventurers. We are human beings, living a human experience, full of a whole spectrum of feelings and emotions.
Imagine if you could enjoy where your life is in the context of where you are.
All that you’ve achieved.
All the areas in your life that you’ve grown. How you’ve expanded.
Free from comparison.
Free from inadequacy.
Free from comparing your life to someone else, who, in turn might be comparing their life to yours.
Stay in your own lane, and enjoy the ride!