Questioning Your Worth
Do you downplay your achievements? Compare yourself unfavourably to others? Feel like you’re not good enough? Well, you’re not alone. And I want to set a little challenge for you.
I’ll be upfront here and admit that this blog is aimed mainly at women however I do acknowledge that men are also affected by this. In some ways, it can be just as difficult for men to feel confident in their achievements in a world where it is acceptable for most men to be pretty vocal about their own. Especially when they are just getting started out on a new venture and feeling their way. I hope this article helps everyone that it resonates with. However, as the founder of a women-only adventure group, a coach in the Summit Strength team, and currently studying a certification in coaching women, my area of interest is women-focused. In this blog I am basing much of what I've written on what I’ve observed and heard over the years from women along with other stuff I see online.
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you’ll know I’m in a lot of different Facebook groups. Most of them are adventure or activity based groups and many are for women only. A few weeks ago I was scrolling through an online running group I’m in. This particular group is amazing; so supportive and non-judgemental! And yet, I read so many posts from women sharing their achievements but at the same time putting themselves down by comparing their achievements to those of others. It goes something like this. “I’m so excited because I ran my first 5kms non-stop! I know it’s only 5kms and that’s nothing compared to lots of you who run marathons” or, “It’s taken me 6 months but I finally got my pace down! I’m still slow and my pace is still only x which is so slow compared to most of you here” Notice the use of the word only? In this context, it’s used to minimise. Compare. To say, “although I'm rapt with my achievement it isn’t a big deal compared to everyone else”. Sound familiar? Have you done this yourself? I know I have. I’m working on changing this and I have to say, it’s pretty empowering now I’ve started to shift the way I think. It’s fairly easy to be confident when you’ve been doing something for a long time and feel accomplished but what about when you start something new such as hiking, running, gym, anything really? Or even if you’re not new but your goals are just different to those of others?
If you’re anything like me, when you’ve taken on a new interest, you’ll join all those online groups so you can learn and soak up all the awesome vibes. But then you notice just how accomplished everyone seems to be. And self-doubt creeps in. If you’re feeling super brave, you might write a post in the group like those examples above (but with the inclusion of that word only). But mostly, you’ll sit on the cyber-sidelines, silently watching, comparing and wondering if you’re even worthy of being in such a group. Crazy huh? But so many of us have been/are there.
Why Do We Minimise Our Achievements?
Where does this need to make ourselves look small come from? Well mostly, it’s born of a history of patriarchy where males have traditionally held power and women have not. Men have been encouraged to laud their achievements where women have been the ones to support and encourage. To not strive for something for themselves. Now I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole in this article; suffice to say that this is something that’s systemic and has been passed down through history. It’s the influence of generations before us and the media of today continues to perpetuate it to a certain extent. It may have been perpetuated in your own home. Your achievements may have taken a back seat to those of others around you. Or not taken seriously. Or you’ve never had any goals for yourself because that seemed ‘selfish’. However, the winds of change are blowing, my friends! We are seeing more women in positions of power and more inclusive, supportive and empowering groups by women for women. I, for one, am excited!
Many of us are stuck in the mentality that we shouldn’t talk about our successes for fear of looking like we’re showing off or that our achievements aren’t noteworthy. And yet, in my experience, when I see those posts in the Facebook groups where women minimise their achievements, all I see is an overwhelming response of positivity. I’m yet to see anything negative. But if I did, I just know that person would be shouted down lickety-split. I see only support, encouragement and praise. Pretty powerful stuff!
In the world of hiking, it’s much the same; those posts where people minimise what they’ve achieved. I recently saw a post where someone said that they felt a bit embarrassed to share their achievement alongside those of others that they perceived to be much more grandiose than theirs. But it’s all relative, isn’t it?
When I first started hiking, I went out there on my own and felt pretty darn proud of the fact that I even did that. My first hike was around 5kms. I felt on top of the world! I was so chuffed with achieving 5kms. Then I went on a 7km hike. Whoa hey! To me, that was borderline world-beating! My first pack carry around my neighbourhood (which was only about 2 years ago); I got home feeling sore and tired. But I did it! Not a big deal perhaps to others, but to me, these were all proud moments. There was no way I was going to let anyone take away my moments in the sunshine. And the fact is, most people won’t. They’ll be super happy for you! And these days, when I see others heading off on hiking adventures which could be considered harder or longer, I don’t see that as a reason to compare myself to them. I’m rapt for them that they’re chasing their goals. Their goals are big for them. But their big goals don’t make my goals any less big or important. And your goals and achievements are equally as important as everyone else's.
do you feel like you’re caught in the comparison trap and can’t get out?
I think it’s super important and helpful to acknowledge certain things. If you’ve heard me say this once, you’ll hear it a million times, no one knows your story. That’s right. Your story is unique. You are you. Your story may be influenced by your upbringing, what you’ve always been told, your religion, gender, social status, health, culture, mental health, family situation. The list goes on. I’d been told by a health professional I’d been seeing for 20 years that I’m ‘not built for running and should stick to swimming’. For 20 years I heard this and simply didn’t try running. On the odd occasion I did try, I would be chastised by him. I've recently switched to a different practitioner who encourages me to run and helps me realise my running goals.. Some of us may have had a parent who was hard to please. My late dad was my biggest supporter but also my biggest critic. He was almost impossible to please. A wonderful father in so many respects but, if he was proud of my sister or I, he never told us. Plus, he was old-school. Women had their role. Pretty typical for that generation. I'm sure some of you can relate. But the residual effects from that can carry on throughout our lives. If you’ve ever seen the movie, On Golden Pond, you’ll know what I mean. This is not uncommon for women of our generation. And many men also have fraught relationships with their mother or father in this respect too. So I think it’s important to remind yourself of this - often the stories you tell yourself are born of others telling you that you shouldn’t or can’t do stuff. And mostly, it’s just not true.
Your story is unique. You and I might have the same goals but what we each bring to the table based on what makes us us may make our respective journeys along the way vastly different. You might get there quicker and easier than me. You might not. The trick is to put that comparison aside and remind yourself that your goals are based on your life, not someone else’s.
Yes, I’ve fallen into the comparison trap. I recently commented to a friend that she is an awesome runner and that I’m soooooooo slow compared to her. She said, “Yes, but I’ve been running since I was 9 years old”. Well, that one comment changed everything for me. I only started running again last year at age 59. Had she not said that to me, I probably would’ve continued to wonder why I’m not as good as her. Her running story and my running story are completely different. Our start points are different and our goals are different. And now I look at her and others like her in awe but feel just as proud of what I’m achieving in my own right.
Another thing to remember is that the road from zero to your goal is rarely linear. Some people may sail through it but more often, the journey will be impacted by obstacles. Sickness, injury, vacations, lack of motivation, work and family commitments; these things can interrupt your training plans. So if this happens to you but you still make it to your ultimate goal, give yourself a huge high five! You are officially badass and deserve all the accolades!
Back to that comparison thing. You might have a goal to run 5kms. Your friend might have a goal to run an ultramarathon. That feeling you both get from achieving either for the very first time is awesome! You’ve both worked super hard to get there. Both your achievements are as awesome as each other’s. Remember, you each might not know what it’s taken the other to get there.
I remember the first time I ever ran 5kms (eons ago, before I stopped running for decades). I was at the local athletics track and I hit that 5km mark after months of training for it. At that moment, I felt like I’d won gold at the Olympics. I remember literally jumping around and fist-pumping the air like Rocky Balboa when he got to the top of those steps. Yes, I actually did this despite there being other runners there. I didn’t care. I was elated! That feeling? It’s freaking awesome and it’s absolutely relevant regardless of what other people are achieving.
My Challenge to You
Have you ever felt excited about an achievement in this way? In the Summit Strength group, we encourage our clients to share their wins. It doesn’t always have to be about achieving a physical goal. It may be about a behaviour change that improves hydration, sleep, time-management, stress etc. These things are also worthy of celebration as they are often life-changing and have positive impacts on both training and life in general. The end goals are great but the mini steps along the way are equally worth being proud of. Share them with others proudly!
So, at the start, I said that I wanted to set a challenge for you. And here it is. If you’ve recently achieved something (your ultimate goal, overcome an obstacle, seen some progress in something you’ve been working towards), I’d love to see you share it. Here. Online. This, in itself, can be a challenge for many of you. But I want you to take a big breath and just go for it! Don’t give a thought to what others might have achieved. That’s their story. Tell yours. It might just be one line. For example, “Last week I started an exercise program after being inactive for 30 years”. Or, “I took some time out for myself and went for a 15 minute walk”. Or, “I’ve just completed a big thru hike” Or, “I hiked up a hill and didn’t puff as much as last time”. Or “I’ve just completed my 10th marathon”. Or "I've consistently kept myself hydrated for a week". Don’t keep your exciting news to yourself. Let’s all celebrate you and each other. Believe me, once you see that encouragement in response, you’ll find it’s an awesome tool to help spur you on and keep that motivation high.
About the Author
Andrea is a coach with Summit Strength, who specialise in helping hikers get strong and pain-free for their adventures.
At the age of 54, she discovered a real passion for hiking. But she also discovered just how limiting physical fitness and pain can be on the trail.
After signing up to one of the Summit Strength signature programs, she discovered just how much of a difference the right training can make to a hiker's enjoyment and comfort on their adventures. She knows that the journey isn't always easy and 'life' can sometimes impact on our training goals. She shares her insights and experiences with us in her blog articles.
These days, as an Online Adventure Coach with Summit Strength, she helps hikers all around the world get fit, strong and resilient for their adventures.
WANT TO GET FIT, STRONG AND RESILIENT
FOR YOUR HIKING ADVENTURES?
THE ONLINE SUMMIT PROGRAM
Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.