How to Rid Yourself of Body/Training Envy

poison-envyI am a huge fan of Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach. She’s helped me a lot with my own writing habits through her newsletter and blog, one-on-one coaching a few years back, and  continuing resources from the time I did her Extreme Writing Makeover many years ago. This week she wrote a fabulous post about “How to stop envying other writers.”

Just about everything she says can apply equally well to the envy some of us might experience when other people seem to be doing and achieving what we wish we could do and achieve in the training / results of training department. Since I doubt there’s a ton of overlap between Daphne’s audience and ours, I thought it might be fun to share some of her wisdom on envy as applied to bodies and training.

She says: “If you’re a writer who’s envious of other writers, you can be making your own life miserable.”  Yes, you can. And if you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, gymnast, yogi, triathlete, body builder, cross-fitter, shot-putter, skier…you get the picture — if you’re any of these and you envy others who do it too, you are very likely making your life miserable.  When we envy others, we shortchange our own selves and undervalue our accomplishments by comparing.

Daphne offers five bits of advice for dealing with the green-eyed monster:

1. Understand that envy is an evolutionary hiccup that comes from your reptilian brain. Also known as the fight or flight response, envy (and anger and fear) cause your heart rate and adrenaline to increase. Your blood pressure rises and your breathing changes. You sweat more and your hands become moist. Acidity increase in your stomach. In other words, you’re going to feel crummy. But don’t blame yourself for envy, because blame will only make things worse. If anything, curse your reptilian brain and take steps for better self-care.
This applies to envy no matter what its source, so no need to belabor the applications to training envy here. She goes on to point out that
2. We don’t know the other person’s whole story. You have no idea about how hard the other writer worked. Was it easy for him or her? Or fiendishly difficult?
It’s so true in the case of bodies and training. We just don’t know. But there’s a good chance that the most accomplished athletes train hard and for long hours. If you envy someone’s progress from year to year, do you envy their training schedule, too? Or do you just want what they have without doing what they do? This has become clear to me over and over again. When did I make the most progress in my swimming? The year I trained diligently, never missing a 6 a.m. training session in the pool.  When did my yoga headstand get solid and strong? The summer I dedicated 20 minutes a day, every single morning, to practicing yoga–always including a minimum 5-minute headstand.
Daphne makes this excellent point:
3. Remember that the success of others has no impact on yours.
Unless you’re at the top of the game, always competing for one of the prize spots at your events, no one else’s success has to affect yours. This is especially true for those of us who are setting personal best type goals.  I’m in the lower part of the middle of the pack in my running. Others’ success has literally no impact on my potential. None. Nada.
And this is most definitely the case for body envy. There are all sorts of reasons not to envy other people’s bodies.  But for sure, if you’re trying to change your body composition (which is no easy task), your neighbor’s body-fat percentage is totally irrelevant.

Here’s the thing. We’re much better off to keep our eyes on ourselves.  Meaning:

4. Focus on yourself instead of others.

Then she lists a bunch of things writers can do to write better. All these things that are under their own control. Same with working out. If I want to do better, I can commit to going to the pool twice this week. I can sign up for a yoga workshop. I can make a commitment to meet some friends to go running. Join a clinic. Make a reasonable schedule and stick to it. Do a challenge, like the one Sam wrote about.

Stewing about someone else’s success or longing that it should or could be mine contributes nothing to my goals (unless others’ success inspires you, in which case you’ve got no worries about envy).

Daphne’s final suggestion is that you:

5. think about how envy harms you and turn your envy into appreciation instead. Envy will poison you and make it even more difficult for you to write.

The same is true of envy over someone else’s training results. I’ve talked about the inspirational dis-value of fitspo.  For me, the focus on others just doesn’t really get me where I need to go. It keeps me stuck and demoralized, and more importantly, inactive. We think we’ll be happy when we succeed. But, citing motivational expert Sean Anchor, Daphne suggests that we actually succeed when we’re happy.

So there you have it. Envy doesn’t do anyone any good, whether we focus on other writers or other athletes. Instead of spiraling into negativity and comparison (we’ve talked about comparing here too), I find I’m much happier when I do what I can with what I have based on a realistic and self-compassionate assessment of where I’m at today. It’s a lot easier to do that when I stop wishing I had what others have and focus instead, and with appropriate gratitude, on my own life.

Feel free to share your own experiences with envy and how to overcome it. Many thanks to Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, for her wise words about envy. To read Daphne’s full post about envy, follow this link.

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