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Why am I not strong enough? Kicking the comparison trap

Feb 15, 2023 | Powerlifting Basics 101, Powerlifting Competitions

Oh comparison. It’s the thief of joy as they say. 

With social media, comparison is easier than ever. 

In powerlifting, it’s especially easy to compare yourself to others in the sport. We have this fun little database, Open Powerlifting, where you can see where you stack up. 

You can literally see how you compare to all the lifters in your weight class. Whether it be within the country or world wide. And nothing can make you feel like you have the most average squat in the world than seeing where you rank against world champs. 

And if you’re feeling really spicy, you can see where you rank amongst all feds, all weight classes, of all time. 

Throw in all of the lifters you see on TikTok and Instagram and all of a sudden you might find yourself feeling like your own numbers don’t stack up. 

How many of us started out wanting to hit an innocent enough goal? For example, hitting a 100kg squat for the first time. Now you’re able to squat 120kg for sets of 5 and somehow, it’s just not good enough. 

Allow me to let you in on a secret. We are playing the comparison game. That’s the irony of it all. Even those at the top level are guilty. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others in our peer group. It’s one of the ways that we gauge if we are where we should be in life. 

It’s 100% completely normal to feel: 

  • Like you aren’t where you want to be
  • Like everyone else is doing better
  • Like no matter how hard you try, it isn’t good enough

So let’s get into some ways we can kick comparison for good. 

1: IT ALWAYS IS, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, YOU VS YOU

No one gets into this sport to be better than someone else. We start powerlifting as a way to fight our own demons. 

But the longer we are in powerlifting, the more caught up we get in numbers and rankings. We forget why we started. 

Sometimes it can be helpful to sit down, and think for a moment: why did I start? What made me want to lift heavy things in the first place?

Reflect on this often. Every training session if that’s what you have to do. 

Combine this with reflecting on your own progress. There are a lot of ways to measure progress. Here are some ways you can measure your own progress. Spoiler, not all of them have to do with being physically stronger. 

  • Being able to rep your previous max
  • Hitting a heavy single at a lower RPE
  • Hitting anything at a lower RPE, singles, volume work, etc
  • Getting a bigger total than your previous comp (regardless of where you place/rank)
  • Overcoming a mental barrier with a certain weight 
  • Improving your relationship with training
  • Improving your relationship with yourself 
  • Hitting a new all time max, in the gym or on the platform 

2: Focus on the actions, not the end result 

When we set goals for ourselves, it’s often used as an objective benchmark for how far along we are in our journey. 

I remember when I wanted nothing more in the world than to squat 100kg. Now I’m hoping for a 150kg sleeve squat. Two big goals set at completely different stages of my powerlifting journey.

The thing is, we don’t always have control over how long it can take to reach our goals. It’s common for us to reach goals quickly in the beginning but it can take longer as your training age increases. 

Although we try, we cannot fully control how our bodies will respond to changes in programming, technique, diet, etc. 

When all your goals are based around a single outcome, such as hitting a 150 squat, falling short of that goal is a fast track way to feel like a failure.

Instead, think about what you are doing every day to get closer to that goal. 

Are you completing all your training? Filling out your program in detail so your coach can make the best decisions for you? Eating well? Getting enough sleep? Not overshooting your RPEs?

These are all things that you have direct control over. If you keep doing these things, you WILL hit that goal. 

When you focus on the direct actions, you stop comparing, stop thinking about timeframes and you learn to celebrate the little wins along the way. 

This makes lifting a whole lot more enjoyable and you will be that much happier for it. 

3: Remember that there is more to life than how much you lift. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love lifting. That’s why I’ve devoted my life to powerlifting and coaching powerlifting. 

But the numbers that you lift don’t define you. Having a big total is not a personality trait. 

There are so many fulfilling things in life: family, friends, drinking a beer on a hot day, walks on the beach, eating delicious ice cream. 

At the end of the day, it’s just powerlifting. 

4: Cleanse your social media.

If watching other lifters on Instagram lift more than you is sending you in a negative spiral, unfollow or mute those people. 

Social media should be a place for inspiration. 

Trust me, you won’t be missing out by not following someone. 

5: Surround yourself with people that support you.

My favorite thing about powerlifting is the community. And having a solid network can make all the difference in your success as a lifter. 

This is the beauty of powerlifting gyms. You are surrounded by people that get it. Everyone is working toward the same goal: lifting heavier and heavier shit. 

There is no better feeling having a gym full of people screaming at you as you attempt a PB.

Finding a coach to support you can also make all the difference. Someone to celebrate your wins but more importantly someone to build you up when you aren’t your best. 

Are you guilty of comparison? Feel free to let us know!

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