The Thief Of Joy


If there is a character defect of mine that likes to weigh me down, it’s that of comparing myself to others.  Yes, I have written about this before, and I am sorry to say, I will probably write about it again. And perhaps again after that.

You’ve been warned.

I am not sure why, but there is something about comparing myself to others that keeps bringing me back to pain over and over again.  Regardless of how injurious it is to me, on all fronts, I find myself settling into my default position of “not good enough”.  It’s somewhat hardwired in me, and even with the introspective work I do and speaking to others about it and praying about it, it still floats to the surface.  It’s emotional and mental deadwood that keeps washing up on my shores.

I understand all the anti-comparison thoughts and arguments – on the surface.  I understand how comparing oneself to another only puts me at emotional harm.  I understand that we are unique and that there is no other like us and that we only need compare ourselves to ourselves, and that’s it. I get it all – intellectually. At heart and soul level, not so much.  At the level where it counts most, I still fumble around in the dark.  And I keep bumping into walls. No light.

This compulsion to compare myself has been really revved up in my running life.  Runners are fantastic folk, and outside of the recovery community, I haven’t met a more welcoming and supporting group of folks.  But runners don’t often speak of runs as being “easy” or “fun” or “pleasant”.  In a technological-based world, we have raw hard data.  And we share that with one another.  We often display what distance / pace / heart rate / elevation grade, etc. we have recently endured.  What personal bests we achieved that week.  Pictures of those GPS watches on our wrists are common on social media.  It’s not about competition, but about documentation, for the most part (and perhaps some humble bragging too.)

So when I see all those numbers, I immediately mentally put my own numbers up for scrutiny. And for a slow running dude like me, I almost always end up holding the short-straw.  And then the whipping happens – “Why are you bothering to do this?”, “Who do you think you are wanting to be like them?”, “They were born to do this – you weren’t”, etc.  It’s an internal and self-directed version of a prison shower beating scene.

Cue the Facebook inspirational quotes and memes:

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Run your own pace.

Be yourself – everyone else is taken.

The only one you’re in competition with is you.

…ad nauseum.


And while they come from a place of conventional wisdom, they fail to quell that deep dark place in me that still screams out “you run like a pregnant yak”.  I see folks who were at once my speed now bolting ahead, darting and flitting about with the gazelles ahead.  I see people running their first marathon and crushing my own time by enviable amounts.  I hear the endless chatter of Boston [Marathon] Qualifying and how cool that is.  Then I watch my plodding times and wonder what it is that I am missing.  Genetics? Mental toughness? Competitive fire?

Well we all know ego loves this kind of thing.  Self-pity is a drug and my own mind has an endless supply if I play into it.  It’s my pusher. I was reading a post last night by a fellow runner who spoke about similar feelings held by her.  It was a relief to know I wasn’t alone in feeling like this.  Perhaps the fact that I have been sidelined for more than a week plays into this whole thing. Fear of missing out is no doubt at play (and a topic for another post!)

And of course ego and mind collude to bring me to extremes – maybe I should quit running for good.  I should quite my running club (which I stopped running with because I am too embarrassed to run with any more). I should stop pretending that I am a runner and just sit in a corner and eat cake (mmmmm….cake.)  Which I understand to be ridiculous, but it can feel as real as the chair I am sitting in right now.

The idea of comparing myself to others is something I wish I could let go of, but I struggle with it. As good ‘ol Dr. Phil would ask – what are you getting out of this? Well, healthy doses of ego-satisfying self-pity.  I get to stay frozen and to play small.  I get to satisfy that part of me that still think he’s a piece of shit.  It plays into the darkness that once ruled my life and can again if I don’t continue to shine light into the shadowy crevices.  What am I getting out of this, doctor? A lot of self-inflected gun shot wounds and then wonder why I am bleeding all over the nice carpet.

And look, I get it – I am comparing my behind-the-scenes to other people’s highlight reels (oops, another Instagram winning quote!) and I get that I am comparing my first chapter with someone else’s chapter 20 (okay, last one, I promise.)  I would say the same thing to someone else who came to me with the same issues.  But to take my own advice, to feel it in my bones, down the chambers of my heart?  Not at all.

Runners aren’t the problem.  Running isn’t the problem.  If I took up knitting, I would be doing the same things before I knew it, wondering why my sweaters weren’t as good as so-and-so’s and why my stitching isn’t so clean and tight as others. I would wear my own knitted mittens as badges of shame rather than accomplishment.  In the end, the problem is me.  Until I cultivate a healthier sense of self-worth and self-value, I will continue to play this game of  “let’s twist this deeper”.

So for now I just do my best to keep the ugly thoughts at bay.  I have days where these thoughts are fleeting.  I have others where they consume me and it goes past the running into well-tread territories. I stay open as to why I self-flagellate and try to listen to that voice that tells me that I am okay.  That I am okay.  That I am OKAY.  And then hopefully one day I will embrace it.  I will make it my own.

Until then…


66 Comments Add yours

  1. jenkirk72 says:

    YOU. ARE. OK.
    I personally think youre awesome! But you know that I understand. I get it!! OUR exercise is to let our best be good enough for US!! Because the running community already knows we are good enough. 🙂
    Great heartfelt post!!

    1. Thank you Jen. I can’t remember where I read it (your post? someone’s comment? somewhere on Twitter?) that no one complains about us being a slow runner except us. And it’s true. I have never, ever had a runner snub their nose at me (consciously or blatantly at least) because I am a turtle. Many fast runners actually thank us for being there, not so much to make them look fast (we do) but because they love to see us improve. To hear the stories of triumps and the small and big victories. Okay…lol. Still hard for me to get it, but I am doing my best.

      I’ll get there one day, but knowing I am not alone is a huge thing, Jen…you have been more helpful than you can know.


  2. REDdog says:

    Nailed it, as per usual Paul. It’s easy to relate to the little fish wishing he was the big fish, I get that, but I wonder, is it possible that sometimes we are the big fish wishing we had some blue gravel?

    1. You made me laugh about the big fish wanting the blue gravel. I guess the grass can seem to be greener, but I believe that it’s never that simple. I know that those folks I compare myself too have their own shit going on. Maybe they see me with my kids and wonder when their family is gonna come, or whatnot. I don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives.

      Anyway, thanks for being here. Makes me smile when I se you here.


      1. REDdog says:

        Yeah, it was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek mate, and yet you reminded me about keeping things in proper perspective. And who doesnt want a bit blue gravel in their bowl every now and then?

  3. ainsobriety says:

    If you like, you can compare yourself to me. I am not a runner. I have crossfitted, bootcamped, spun and zumbad for hours. But i could never , ever find that runner motivation. I am impressed by you love for something that i hate, lol, because i can only assume you must love it to be willing to do it.

    I have also struggled with comparion. My sister said one day that i excel at evrything i do. My response was maybe i only choose to stick with things i know i can be good at. Hmmm

    Anyway, the philosophy of yoga has seriously limited my personal comparison. I know those thoughts don’t help me. Especially when i am gloating that i look better, am stronger, etc than someone else.

    So i try to bring the focus back to self acceptance and approval. Of today, as i am. There is a lot of peace that comes from being satisfied.

    Think about why you run. Why you would run even if you were alone and no one ever knew. And you will find some of that satisfaction.


    1. There are two things that stuck with me in your lovely response, Anne:

      1) the idea of sticking to things that I am good at. i was going to mention that in the post but didn’t want to go on a tangent. But I have felt the same – stick with something safe. But I don’t know if that would serve me in the long run.

      2) Yoga (and I know someone else has mentioned it here) – I keep hearing about yoga. My wife practices it. Lots of runners do it. I or my ego does not enjoy it much (I have done it in the past) and it was for the same reason – I was too busy comparing my pathetic attempts at getting into a pose than doing it. I had more blocks and bolsters and ropes, etc. it was hilarious. But I am not there yet with comparing to myself in yoga. I still look around. And that is why I left it.

      One day I may try it. Who knows, all that wonderful stuff you talk about might stick! 🙂

      Thanks for this


  4. bgddyjim says:

    Change the tape you play in your head my friend, change the tape. You are not fast as some others because you don’t train as hard (or as long) as they do. Your life is full, you have fun as you are. The proper way to battle the committee in your melon is to remind them that you seek balance, not blazing speed, you seek contentment rather than a 38 minute 10k time.

    Forgive, but the problem is not that you compare yourself to others but that you compare your insides to their “outsides”!

    What you want to ask is, “what did they have to give up to have a fast 5k”? Time, lots and lots of time. That’s what. Are you willing to trade your hard-fought balance for a neat time on a watch? “We think not”!

    Be at peace my friend.

    1. You mention something VERY important Jim, and something that I had noticed earlier on, and something that I will probably post about soon. And that is the balance / life part. 95% of the runners I know in both real life or online are either single, or married without children. They are a bit younger. They have more disposable income. Running is a big part of their lives. And for me, I don’t have that luxury – I have two kids, work which requires me to stand for 10 hrs a day, I bike to work, I do recovery stuff, I do the chores in the house, etc. So running is somewhere in the middle there. Not at the bottom, not at the top.

      I need to remind myself that those folks who can and will take advantage are the ones that will prob get that 38 min 10K (wow…that’s an amazing time!). So when I read this and thought about it, I thought just how right you are. I am already shifting my thinking a bit and it’s already relieving me.

      Thank you. I will do my best to change the tape. It may get put back on, but I will at least look at what else is in the library 🙂


      1. bgddyjim says:

        Changing the tape is just like the third step Paul. Progress, not perfection. God Bless you my friend.

        1. Makes sense when it put it like that 🙂


  5. Paul says:

    Hmmm, that’s a good one Paul. “Rinsing the cottage cheese…” I bet the vast majority of humans share your concerns (that you can’t run very fast – Bwahahaha! – sorry, couldn’t resist – no, that they also compare themselves to others and come up short). There’re a number of points here – some physical, some psychological and some spiritual. Let’s start with the physical. “No man can have more than one master”. I’ve known a number of superb runners Paul, and every one of them got that way by making running THE most important activity in their lives – above children, above spouses, above job, above sleep, above sobriety, and above food, amongst others. There was a classic Business book written by Jim Collins about excellence , entitled “From Good to Great”. Even the Wiki article is valuable to read if you can’t get the book. I find the info in thsi book to be personally valuable as well as commercially. The author is a renowned Business Prof and his wife is a top runner. In a section of the book he considers what makes her so good at what she does. One of her habits is to watch every singe morsel of food she consumes and its precise make-up. Cottage cheese is very nutritious but the fluid contains a few calories – so she actually rinsed off her cottage cheese before eating it. It is that single minded deication to every detail, to the exce;usion of all else in life that caannot nold otself to the runners’ habits, that helps provide excellence. The question the is , Do you wish to give running that place in your life? If so, then you can, if not then there will always be those who are better runners than you. As you will be better at something that they are not..

    Then there is psychological – again it requiures that you focus on running and only running. All else must take a second fiddle – including family, friends, job, etc.

    And then there is spiritual. Honestly Paul, we are gregarious creatures that look around at others to see how we fit in and to find out how to be the best. It is how we are built and it drives excellence and competition and collaboration and makes up a big part of who we are. In fact you used those very characteristics in your meetings (I’ve actually been to some but shhh) to help yourself. As much as many will say to turn down that connectedness, personally I think it needs to be reinforced, As you did in meetings.

    The key, for me then, has always been simple – instead of looking to others to define yourself, look up to a higher power. Look to the One who created all this for your meaning and know that He is always loving and always forgiving – so no need to fear failure. Failures can be used as learning opportunities. Also know that each and every one of us is unique and powerful in a way that no other is. This allows you to enjoy the company of others, to note how their actions can be adopted for your use, to leverage the unity of the others and yet not define yourself by their actions and words. You can then rejoice in the successes of others without feeling marginalized.

    Anyway, this faith has helped me a lot over the years and I mention it for whatever value it may have for you.

    Great post as always Paul, Thank You.

    1. I may literally have to print this out, and paste it somewhere in my journal, Paul. This is where you hit a home run for me, kind and wise sir. your response is in general the theme of all the comments – and it’s that positive reinforcement that is helping me just start to wrap my head around this.

      The rinsing the cottage cheese – so yeah, you are right, there are going to be folks who will put X, Y, Z above all else. Jim above there mentioned something similar. I am not in any position to put running or much else (recovery being the only thing) above all else. I have a young family, job, chores, etc. that need caring. We all have something, but kids are a game changer. Most folks that I covet in terms of their running don’t have families. Their hobbies easily take precedence. And it shows. I can’t compete with that, so I have to take another stance. Even if it’s grudgingly.

      What you said about taking it to the One and being the best I can be for Him is something I intellectually get Paul, but don’t know how to make that leap to. I want to, so that I may relieve myself of this pain of comparison. So that I may truly rejoice in other people’s victories. That is my challenge, my path I suppose.

      Thank you so very much Paul – your words are very comforting and supportive!


      1. I was pointed here by our mutual friend Paul. I wonder how he knew this would resonate with me? Hummm… You walk around thinking you’re one in a million and it turns out you’re a dime a dozen. We all have the same frailties. Coincidentally, I have a post in the chamber that deals with this very issue. I work in NYC and am surrounded by astonishing wealth. I compare it to my own economic mediocrity (because that’s a scab I love to pick) and it weighs me down. It has gone on for so long that I fear it might be part of my DNA and is something I’ll have to learn to live with, because it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

  6. mishedup says:

    love this post Paul…we all do this about something. I relate to Anne’s comments about yoga…tha has changed my perspective. I have to be by a wall (my balance is bad!), I have to use blocks when others aren’t, i am working hard on getting headstand at the wall as i am amazed at others doing it in the middle of the room…and yet i have no feeling of less than. I think the key is that i love it so much, i’m not even in competition with myself…i just do it because i love it and a i get better and stronger i am filled with a sense of gratitude.
    Now…that’s not the same in every aspect of my life, for sure…there’s a lot of “relieve me from the bondage of self” going on up in this house!
    but that old saying, the thief of joy, is so true.
    let’s opt for joy!

    1. Yoga. Yes, here we are at it again – it’s amazing how much I hear about it. Perhaps because it’s so very popular and my wife is a huge Bikram fan and she is always begging me to go (at same time telling me how hot and sometimes how hard it is!) As I mentioned to Anne about this – I have done yoga before and was just as bad if not worse. i too used bolsters, ropes, belts, blocks, etc. I looked like a Yoko Ono performance art prop by the end. Lol. I turned to see the 65 yr old woman beside me contorting and thought “the hell with this!”. I remember even being in a beginners workshop and I used to bitch and moan and eventually the instructor would try to hammer into us that it wasn’t a competition. Ugh. I never returned.

      Anyway, I am not quite sure how to make that leap yet. I am very uncaring about others’ performances in other parts of my life. for some reason I can not compare in other affairs, and it feels freeing. I just wish I could carry it into the rest of my life.

      One day!

      Thanks for this!

      1. mishedup says:

        I wasn’t pushing yoga on you…LOL..i think my comment, and anne’s had more to do with just loving what is, being here now…you know? Run because you love it an the time and everything will follow as it is supposed to.
        and btw…i am not a fan of hot yoga at all…yuck, sweaty blergh! getting that heated up does allow for more movement tho, but not worth it to me.
        we all have our blind spots about comparing….i certainly have places in my life that i do it too…no matter where it shows up it tends to suck, right?

        1. Oh sorry M! I didn’t mean for it to sound like you were pushing it on me! I know you weren’t. I was saying that in general…from runners I know, etc. and even then it’s more like suggestions.

          I like that thought of blind spots 🙂

          Thanks again – hope I didn’t offend!


  7. Hardwired in all of us my friend, even the mighty Ms Loren there. X

    1. Ha ha…I love that pic. Says it all, eh?

      Thanks for being here! 🙂

  8. furtheron says:

    I massively identify with this post.
    I was a swimmer – I gracefully retired two years ago when my daughter got into the top 100 in the UK for 5k and she dried, dressed, medal and certificate collected cheered me on the last painful 10 lengths and then helped me out of the pool. Defeated! But I used to have a graph of my times, my weight, my dick size… no kidding but mental to compare to myself at 30 vs 50 even!!!! Nuts.
    Music too – big one for me… and recovery – I mean Paul, you have such a better more honest recovery than me. I’m not worthy… etc. etc. etc. – it is surprisingly common actually. I try to use that by thinking, thinking this is just like everyone else. Hence I’m the same no better or worse.

    But I know saying all this vs doing and more importantly feeling it is so much harder

    1. Thanks for this, Graham. you made me laugh with your charts…lol. And as you spoke of your daughter waiting for you after all that I wondered how you handled it. I mean, your child might be exempt from that comparison, no? Or maybe not. Not there yet. i would hope that I am okay with my son outdoing me.

      I am going to read that imposter syndrome link. I think you have mentioned it before. (on quick read just now, I can see that part of dismissing it as luck, etc. is something i certainly do – playing small as I call it). Hmmmm…gonna have to chew on that one.

      Thanks for this, Graham. I appreciate your sharing this. Illuminates much.


      1. furtheron says:

        In the end I handled my daughter beating me well – I knew she would. She’s been properly coached since before being 10, swum briefly in the National League etc. It was however the scale of the defeat that hurt… also I did pull a muscle in my groin about at about 4.5k. The last few lengths were agony frankly! You reach a point as a parent when they are better than you – plain and simple. My son is a published scientific researcher now – I’ll never be that. You get though some satisfaction out of their success. I may not be father of the century but sober I did turn some things around and I have helped them on their road to success.

        I never dismiss on luck… I always think I’ve cheated – I think “God fooled them” which isn’t helpful thinking frankly at all.

  9. Per usual an interesting, beautifully written read with great photos. Thank you. As much as it may seem like one of those met-a-man-with-no-feet deals, I HAVE to ask, does it help at all to remember you are healthy and ambulatory?

    As the photo of Sofia Loren proves, someone ALWAYS has a bigger boat, rack, trophy room …

    1. Hi Marilyn,

      Yes, of course gratitude can help ground me. I can always reach back and say I have a home, I have my health, I have X, Y, and Z. I understand the power of gratitude. I understand that I could not be ambulatory and sitting in a scooter and getting more health issues. I guess that when I *can* do things like run (or paint, or write, or build Lego, etc) I am not thinking at that level all the time. I am into my thing and it will fall along lines where I start to lift my head up and see what the other kid beside me is doing.

      Not a noble thing, but it’s a thing…and some thing I will eventually reduce or even eliminate. until then… 🙂

      Thanks for the comments, my friend!


  10. This might be my very favorite post of yours, Paul, and that’s saying something, there’s some great competition there!

    I can so relate, and you really hit me with the line, “I get to stay frozen and play small.” I have been considering a new venture, I’m not even in the game yet and that voice is talking to me, “Why even bother, you know how this will end…” type stuff. So I’m not even in the competition phase and I’m bowing out! Which I now won’t, thanks to your beautiful prose.

    As for when I’m in the thick of it, yep, I so know how that gets. I’ve written about it as it concerns blogging, so that feeling that’s as “real as the chair,” I get that too.

    Truly, I am with you on every single word. I wish I had an answer, but I know any of my advice will be like the platitudes you listed above. As completely true as they are, they are meaningless until we give personal meaning to them.

    But the good news is this: we have hope that we will turn that corner, because we have sat in the darkness before, and had that small shift in perspective that yielded such powerful change in our lives. If we can get sober, then surely we can change our thinking on this!

    1. “As completely true as they are, they are meaningless until we give personal meaning to them. ” I love this. Personal meaning, eh? What resonates with one may fall flat to another. And hey, if I can turn that corner, that thing may then resonate big time with me. Does that make sense?

      Thanks for being on board, Josie. I hope you do stay with this new venture. I would love to hear about it down the line when you break through with it!

      I too did this with the blogs for a bit, but for some reason I let it go. Not sure when that happened, but I think I too was getting into a lot of “pain” over numbers, hits, likes, etc. and then one day I decided (like a 3rd step) that it wasn’t for me to handle. I can’t play God in this, so I truly did let it go. Decided I didn’t want to get into the awards thing, or check my stats any more, or unfollow others because they had better optics than I did, etc. I just wrote. And it really hasn’t bothered me since. Hopefully I can do this with other parts of my life.

      Thanks for being here Josie and thanks for the kind words. Best post? yikes…it’s all downhill from here…lol.


  11. I want to hit the “like” button a few more dozen times on this post.

    Oh boy, do I ever get how comparing myself to other runners hits buttons. It’s such an easy way to beat myself up. It especially gets to me with people who have been running as long as I have been but are faster (I consol myself with being older usually, then get depressed that I’m getting older – fun!). I get ,ad at myself and berate myself for being lazy, for being afraid, for being a wimp… you name it.

    But the one thing that helps is being aware that I’m doing it. A few times I’ve dropped reading blogs that seem to really upset me or, if I choose to keep reading, find myself gearing myself up for being negative towards myself. Sometimes I am able to be intellectual about it and learn from what the other runner has done differently that I might be able to use. Others times I’m less successful and think, “eh, if they keep that up, I bet they get injured,” then stew if they don’t. Not healthy or helpful.

    What it all comes down to for me is trying to remember that the act of running does make me happy. I don’t run to “beat” other people. It’s nice when I on the rare occasion place in my age group, but I don’t ever strategize my races by picking off other runners because that isn’t me. I’m not really competitive in that way. I’m just a master competitor in finding ways to be cruel to myself.

    I have to add, I’d be damned impressed with a pregnant yak running. Just saying.

    1. Thanks for this, Judith. I like having another runner’s opinion on this. Fantastic. You see, I read your blog and while that is all I can gleam from you, it seems that things are pretty great for you. You seem comfortable with yourself, so I would never had thought that you too would compare. I am sure we all do it at some level. I am not naive enough to think that most runners are just happy in their own bubble. We all read running mags and see who’s “hot” and who’s burning up the track. We glance sideways so to speak and see who’s around us on the track or pavement. I am certainly more in tune with the semi-obese guy who beat me by 45 second in the 10K than the svelte dude who flew in at 35 min.

      But my problem I suppose is that I equate those who are faster runners and being BETTER PEOPLE and that is the lie, the sick part of me that I want to excise. That’s the ugly part of me that I seek freedom from because I get it up here (points to head) but I don’t get it elsewhere. And that will be my challenge.

      I do have to remember that running does make me happy in many ways, and I have to find a way to put that into perspective and not have it warped by my character defects.

      Thank you so much for this…phew…so glad to have read your comments!


  12. byebyebeer says:

    So I wrote about finding a new running group recently. Very welcoming, sweet bunch of folks. I’ve run with them three times, I think. Then ice came, snow. I thought “no way am I going out in that and risking breaking my neck.” A lot of them still went. They’re training for a 10-mile run in spring. They’re raising a lot of money for cancer research. Some of them are slower than me, but most of them faster. I can’t compare. I actually don’t even want to. I signed up for a gym membership for the treadmills. I beat myself up over my pace, which is somehow slower than when I get out on hilly streets. (How is that possible?) I listen to music and sweat and watch muted infomercials on miracle camis that eliminate muffin top and think maybe I’m doing one better than that, or at least would if I quit eating all those muffins. I feel fucking fantastic after a run. I guess that’s why I do it. Maybe I’ll get back to group runs. I’m not giving up, though feeling I might make a better solo runner. Now if only I could beat my road time on a treadmill. My point in this rambling comment is I feel you. I really do.

    1. Thanks for sharing all this, Kristen. I hear from pretty much all of you here (and out there) about how good it makes you feel, how it’s something for YOU, and to a good extent, I feel that too. I feel better about myself and I don’t get squirrely and I even lose some weight. I sound hesitant in saying that because it’s wrapped in barb wire with the comparing. Silly I know (and the point of the post – how silly it really is). I don’t do that with very many other parts of my life. I don’t compare numbers in social media or blogging. I don’t compare what grades my kids get or how clean my house is or even how much money other folks make. i don’t really care. But when I care, I CARE…too much…lol.

      Anyway, I will climb that hill (or treadmill!) when I get there. Could be tomorrow (highly unlikely) or in ten years. As long as I make some progress in this, I will be happy.

      Thanks !

  13. When I first joined my running team, I was one of the slowest. And I always found myself crossing the finish line in practice as first, second or third LAST. Always. You know what happened? The three of us, whose role seemed to be bringing up the rear, formed an incredible friendship and called ourselves “Team Try” (TT for short) ’cause you know what? We were trying just as hard as the others so we mattered just as much!! Without them, I might have quit the team, it sure sucks always coming in last, but thank goodness I didn’t! Sure, my times have improved, but I have made some of the greatest friendships through the experience of running with others.

    Not that it always works for me, but I try and compare myself to others and think, given my talents and abilities, how can I push a little harder like they are. Not so I’m just like them, but so that I can feel I accomplished something. My fight is not with them, but with myself. I am in competition only with myself. That really is the only thing I have control over. I try and think of Oscar Wilde’s quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken”.

    If you take up knitting however, I’d like a scarf, please! 🙂

    1. Thanks Jane for your sharing on this. I love hearing from runners on this topic. I don’t often mention it on the social media, but I certainly do covet other people’s times and paces. not the super stars – I know that I can never get those times. I am more apt to peer over the shoulder of the semi-obese dude who beat me by 1 minute or two at the 5K or to slow burn at someone who ran their first full ever and BQ’d. Someone who is maybe even older than me. The women at the running club who started with me, but now have their own mini group and I run alone. That’s the hard stuff. I won’t lie. But then I do try my best to see what others do that I can use. Twitter has been good that way for me. Many of you guys have directed me and encouraged me to check out new things or techniques or strategies.

      i envy those who like you can declare quite easily that they only compete with themselves and are clear and happy about it. I am not there yet. I hope to be there sooner than later. I have to realize that everyone got to where they got by hard work. Not flukes. So maybe I oughta shut up and just keep running…lol.

      Thanks for all that you do here and elsewhere.


  14. Running From the Booze says:

    Im a fat runner. I hike, too, but I have the heart and soul of a runner. I ran 4.05 miles yesterday, time was 56:24, avg pace 13:55.
    I know many runners will scoff at those numbers and say its not running but with my body and foot ailments (PF) its pretty damn good. Youre right, you will battle with comparing and I have no doubt youll find a ways to cope with it so it doesnt rob you feeling good about something as fabulous as being out on a run. Next time you see a fat slow runner give them a smile and a high five as you pass them.

    1. You know, 9 out of 10 times I wave / nod / smile at another runner, they don’t respond? Annoying (I haven’t had it come to full blow resentment…YET ha ha). But I always do my best to say hi to the other runners, regardless of pace or size or what not. To me a runner is a runner. Now, having said that, clearly what I am saying in the post goes against that. That is I don’t extend that to me. Ego, right? it’s okay for YOU guys to feel that way, but I have to be special. Oh jeez…where have we heard that before? lol.

      I understand where you are coming from, and I think that the great writer/runner George Sheehan would love what you said. He talked about effort levels, not paces or distances. He ran in time and effort only. Sure he timed some things, but rarely. or just in races. So if that distance and pace was a good effort for you, then it’s victorious. i don’t scoff at other people’s times because i am too busy scoffing at my own…ha ha.

      Anyway, thank you so much for sharing. You brought a healthy light to this. And I am blessed that you did.


  15. sherryd32148 says:

    I was just thinking about this the other day…you know…the old “Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides” thing. So much easier said then done.

    For me it’s work. Having had a huge setback in my career with my layoff, I now compare myself with not only my old peers who were not laid off and are now in (what I perceive to be) excellent career positions, but also with those in my new company who I know I can run circles around in the board room but can’t because of my current role.

    But here’s the thing. I love my job. I love the people I work with every day. I love the company. So why do I choose to beat myself up over a lack of a few initials after my name? The hell if I know.

    When I start thinking that way I make myself stop, take a breath and ask myself, “Why am I here?” Why do I stay if I’m not fulfilled? Why don’t I go out and get another job that I feel is worthy of my incredible skills? Why don’t I give another company or department a chance to partake of the amazing gift of Sherry?

    Because at the end of the day I’m happy. Working with good people at a company of which I can be proud and doing work that fulfills me is worth way more than an upgrade in title. It allows me a great work/life balance and peace of mind. It’s my ego that needs to move on and quit all that jabbering in my head. I just need to remind myself of that from time to time.

    So to you my friend I would ask…why do you run? No seriously, why do you run because I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would do that to themselves on purpose. Ask yourself that question and then make peace with the answer.

    And if it works long term let me know because I can’t seem to remember it for very long.

    Light and love and endless belief,

    1. “Because at the end of the day I’m happy” Well, that’s pretty much how it should be, no? And you are bang on about ego wanting that title. I know my ego pushes me to things I know deep down in my heart I shouldn’t go for, and many times it’s been jobs too. I was just talking about perhaps poking my toe in the water re: new job and I riffed off a few places and my wife recoiled at one or two. I think we both knew I mentioned those places out of ego. I am pretty good right now in the job front about ego. I know I am not useful if I doing 70-80 hr weeks. I just can’t do it – physically or mentally. So being happy where I am at, like you, is exactly where I am with work.

      With other stuff…I gotta work on that! But I hope to continue progressing.

      Thank you for this, my friend 🙂


  16. NotAPunkRocker says:

    I saw that you wrote this yesterday, but I am only reading it today. I knew by the title that I NEEDED to read this but I just couldn’t. Everything you write about here in terms of you vs. others is what had me nearly in tears yesterday. It’s so damn difficult, some days more than others. That’s when i cut off all notifications and shut off Facebook and Twitter and decide I don’t want to hear anything from anyone even the slightest bit “good” or “better” than a parallel situation in my life.

    It isn’t running but it is everything else for me right now.Jobs, love, opportunities, weight, sobriety, etc. Not dwelling and worrying about me is easier said than done but what else can I do? Those are the moments that negate everything else i have done for myself, hyperfocusing on the things that matter least or are the most beyond my control at any given time.

    Alright, now I am rambling. Thanks for your words, as always, and making me really think and apply them to my situation…especially this time.

    1. Hi J – thank you so much for being here. I am glad that it resonated with you at a deep level. What you said about hyperfocusing on the little things – I am guilty of that. I tend to dwell on those rather the big things that are important and I have control over – my family and their happiness, etc. I do admit that when I am with them and laughing and all that, I forget everything else. It seems the answer is in my own backyard.

      You aren’t rambling either – I get all what you say. Sometimes I want to shut off my Twitter, or shut off this or that and remove myself. But I know I have to face these things and learn to navigate through them. I have great stretches where I am okay, then I have a few days where I am doing that hyperfocusing.

      In the end, we have only us to look into and find that validation. I am learning this still. Hope you continue to do so too – you have so very much to offer. 🙂


  17. clearlee says:

    Yep. That ultra critical/comparison-y voice just loves to ruin our day. I can relate- not about running, but the part where you say that part of you would be comparing about something else if it weren’t about running. I do that too. I’ve noticed that that critical side just moves and shifts to a different focus, once I achieve something in one area it attacks another. Lately, just knowing that helps me to keep it at bay a little. Meditation and buddhist philisophy help me too. But it is so annoying!
    Paul, for what it is worth, you are awesome and don’t let that voice tell you any different!

    1. Thanks Lee for the kind words. And yeah, things certainly do like to shift and change eh? It’s sometimes like a slippery eel – once you think you have him there, he slips out of your hands and goes there. I think you are right about meditation and mindfulness being good antidotes for it. Self-critical thought is one of ego’s weapons. The more I can uncover, discover and discard, the better.

      Have a great evening!


  18. Dustin John says:

    After reading all these great comments I dont think there is much left to add. You clearly know what the issue is. Your me-co-system is battling against itself like it is two seperate individuals.
    The true self- “I can do this”
    and the false self- “why are you even bothering to push your physical boundaries? Your a dum-poo head.”
    I believe that having an honest and open conversation with the false self can really uncover alot. Not in a schizo-kind of way but in a role play. Playing the part of your negative false self with another trustworthy person can help you understand why you have this “splitting” of the self. Asking the false self why it believes lies about you; instead of working as a team to succeed and so on. It sounds odd im sure but I have seen it first hand and the level of connection and truth that surfaced was nothing short of miraculous.
    Just a thought. We tend to push away our negative “personalities” and emotions instead of trying to negotiate and reason with them. I believe that all our thoughts and emotions are a sort of eco-system or me-co-system that can all work in a type of harmony if we are open to communicating with all parts of ourselves. Hope that makes sense without sounding too “i see dead people nonsense”
    This was a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Love what you say Dustin. And by the way, have you read this recently: because what you say in your comments is somewhat revealed in this article (of which I read maybe a day before you commented – crazy!). But the idea of not rejecting the negative and working with it is exactly what this article speaks about.

      Anyway, I totally get what you say and I don’t think it’s strange or what not. Check out the article – it says a lot of what you do and gets into it a touch deeper.

      Thanks again for this – great seeing you here!


      1. Dustin John says:

        Thanks for the link Paul. I have not read it before but I did read it. I think it is very interesting and well written. I personally agree with that approach to human emotion. I believe when we deny and alienate our more negative emotions we harm more than we fix.
        That is quite strange that you read that just before I mentioned the same sort of topic. 👀 thanks again for such a great topic for us to dig around in. I personally love this stuff. Have a good one buddy.

  19. Art Mowle says:

    I don’t run, therefore you are faster than me 🙂 I so understand the “comparing myself to others issue”. I do it ALL the time. Why can’t I have what he has. If only I hadn’t been a drunk all my life. What would I have now? Etc. What I have is the love of a great community and family. Most importantly the love of my God and an understanding that I have flaws like everyone else. All I can do is the BEST I can do. You still run faster than me. There I go again 🙂 🙂


    1. Hi Art – thanks for the validation in terms of “we are not alone”! I like how you lay it out simply for a guy who likes to complicate things – I have it here with community and family. A God that loves me and cares for me, no matter what I do. It’s so simple, isn’t it? And yet we (and I mean “I”) muck it up by blending ego into it.

      Thank you for this…God bless you.


  20. JJ says:

    Holy cow,I’m like that about everything. Mainly though instead of running it’s art, making art. I freeze up constantly because of imagined comparison. It sucks all the joy out of creating. I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was a teenager and I stopped because of that but came back in the last 15 years and it’s still a struggle.

    1. Hi JJ – I understand. I get like that sometimes with writing. Not often, but I will sometimes wonder how so-and-so did that and boy does it seem effortless and why should I bother. I think what has helped me in that realm is by taking many writing seminars and courses and workshops and seeing how everyone struggles with it…so that really took the shine off the comparing for me. The word that pops out for me in your comments is “imagined”. And that’s the deal. We imagine this stuff. Unless we are in a death caged match, we imagine this comparison.

      Thank you for that – helps me clarify this more 🙂

      Glad you’re creating…your voice is unique.


  21. soberwulf says:

    I used to run and for awhile there I was “good” (for me at least). My first marathon was a GREAT experience. My second marathon (Chicago) and my non-runner girlfriend beat me by 32 seconds. That seriously drove me nuts and I couldn’t stand the sight of her after that. 😛
    I really know what you mean about comparing yourself to other runners. I used to tell myself to stop it, but I’d do it anyway and make myself miserable! I got REALLY down over it. I keep saying I’m going to get back to running, but honestly, I am *not* built for speed, my [SUPER]ego can’t handle it and I found other things I’m enjoying without the comparison to others. But yes, it is not about running; it is about the story we tell ourselves about ourself – self-worth and why aren’t we good enough? Maybe it’s the human condition…maybe it’s more so with us alcoholics…but all I know is that last picture is hilarious! 🙂

    1. Okay, I just have to ask – how exactly does a “non-runner” run a marathon?? lol. That’s insane.

      I am impressed! Two marathons, one being the Chicago? Very cool! Too bad that you stopped because of the madness that our minds create. I too have sometimes thought of quitting, but then thought “hell, I spent a lot of money on all my running gear and accessories – I am not gonna let them rot!” Silly reason, but it’s true. But at least I am in the game still.

      If it makes any difference, I am NOT built for speed either. I am very much coming to that conclusion. My squatty legs (thanks dad) will ensure that I don’t get long strides in and in general I am not a svelte gazelle. I am more like a bridge troll with Saucony’s on his feet. But bridge trolls are allowed to run too. lol.

      It is the human condition methinks…so let’s retell our stories, shall we? I think we are worth that 🙂

      Thanks for being here 🙂

  22. stacilys says:

    Paul, you’re so funny. I know this post is of a serious matter, but I love how you put the humor in there. You had me laughing out loud with the knitting paragraph 🙂 And you always find the best photos. Good thing you’re not a flat-chested woman eh. Hahahahaha.
    I think we all suffer to a certain extent with self-comparison. Some more than others. I can tell you one thing, even though I’m pretty much a fitness buff, you would definitely run circles around me, my friend. I run, but only short stints. I’m not a running fan. It could have something to do with genetics.
    Anyhow, another great post Paul.
    Hugs and blessings.

    1. Hey Staci! Thanks for the good vibes you always put in your comments. The funny thing is that several folks have mentioned that I could run circles around them, and I just say “so what?” A ha! If I can say that to you folks, why can’t I apply this to me. Believe me, I don’t really think others give a you-know-what who is behind them. THey are looking forward. As someone said (and I will repeat in a follow up post), no one complains about how slow I am except me! How is that for a revelation?!

      Anyway, thank you so much for being here – I know you are a busy woman!


      1. stacilys says:

        Hahaha. That’s so true. We are so bad to ourselves, aren’t we? like that saying about being our worst critic. I know how you feel.
        Bless you.

  23. rivieradinah says:

    I so get where you’re coming from on this one…as I’m sure so many of us do! As you said, fighting these ugly thoughts will probably be a long-term battle for me. But at least being sober helps me (a LOT) to become more aware of what I’m thinking and how that is affecting EVERYTHING. Changing patterns, being open to the truth that change is actually possible, allowing change to happen…beautiful. You make me want to start running! Big hug.

    1. ” Changing patterns, being open to the truth that change is actually possible, allowing change to happen…beautiful.” —> love this. Sounds like step work…ha ha. There are a few steps inbedded in what you say there so succinctly and eloquently. Knowing that I am not the Great I Am and allowing for change to happen from within is something I need constant reminder of. Thank you for this. Long term, but worth it all 🙂


  24. sillymelove says:

    I will continue to play this game of “let’s twist this deeper”. OMG I do this too!!! Not about running, though I run my 2 miles every day for the “get my cardio in” … I feel your pain, and I wish it was easier to beat! All we can do it keep trying to take a better look at how good we really are!

    1. You run 2 miles daily? That’s fantastic! Talk about consistency! Why don’t you and I make a deal and take the knife out and use it cut fine quality cheddar cheese or something useful? (mmmm…cheese!) I am a few days removed from this post and I am feeling better. Thank you for your insight and kind words 🙂


  25. k2running says:

    Love the pictures in this post!
    Paul, i think by the response to your post, the followers you have, and the honest way you tell your story negates the whole am i ok???:)
    I in fact am envious of you! Oops there i go comparing;)
    In all seriousness, you are more than ok, you are amazing! Whats the saying in AA, we are egomaniacs w a self esteem problem?? This self awareness stuff aint easy!!
    For the running, you are a runner!!!! Its not about the finish, its that you had the courage to start….hmmm kinda like recovery…
    Keep at it my friend:)!
    Ps…i chuckle bc we are similar in how we talk to ourselves…

    1. Ha ha…thank you for your spirited words, Katie – brought a smile to my face. Sometimes I look around at things and just say quietly – all is okay. And I know they are. My mind just likes to tell me otherwise. And yeah, the self-awareness thing can sometimes feel burdensome, but I am finding more lightness in it – I get more freedom in the uncovering, discovering and discarding. I just need continued faith to keep at it 🙂

      Thanks for this – means a lot what you said 🙂


  26. mike says:

    I have found that people who lack humility and have expectation problems are rarely satisfied and that for some strange reason, when given the simple tools to offset the mental masturbation that fuels the drama between their ears, they opt not to use the tools. Some folks would rather live in a make-believe world that reinforces their obsession of self.

    1. What are these simple tools?

    2. I understand and don’t enjoy the make believe world believe it or not. Too much attachment and suffering.

  27. Paul Mc says:

    You is magnificent, accept that.

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