Comparison is one hell of a thing.
Since my father passed in 2011, I’ve spent the last nine years measuring myself against him; this seemingly endless path to fill his shoes, a sentiment I expressed to him weeks before he left this world.
I think it can be helpful to have role models, to have people who you look up to, and people who inspire you to be better, to do better, and to live better.
I think it can also be a damning curse to live in those shadows too.
It’s these shadows that I feel can cripple us as individuals.
You are meant to be the best version of you that you can possibly be. Not a perfect you, the best you; an ever evolving and changing you.
That best version will go through peaks and valleys of being admirable and awful, beautiful and tragic, confident and scared. Sometimes, you may embody a lot of that all at once.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: on my best day, I’m a fraction of the man my father was. It’s those misgivings and shortcomings that keep me doubting myself, sometimes consciously sabotaging myself. As in, if I can’t be him, maybe I’ll be the antithesis of him.
He would have never wanted that for me.
Each year, around the anniversary of his passing, Father’s Day, his birthday, Christmas, etc. I have to remind myself of the things he taught me, or rather, the things he hoped I would learn.
When I reach those standards, it’s a sense of accomplishment. It’s something my mother and I will nudge each other to say: Dad would have been proud.
And when I fail?
Y’all when I fail, I fail big.
This is where I find that comparing myself to him, especially all these years after he’s passed feels like I’m letting him down even more.
He never taught me to be more like him. He just taught me how to get better.
He never said “Do it like I do it. It’s the best/only way.” He always said “Give it your best. That’s all I’ll ever ask of you.”
When I think about how I interact with my clients and how I interact with my boys, maybe I did learn something from him:
-Do your best.
-Don’t give up.
He never beat me over the head about it. He didn’t stand on a soapbox. He just did the best he could to lift me up and say “Look. There’s a path. There’s a way. Follow it.”
Coming off the heels of Father’s Day and still dealing with the ramifications of quarantine that I saw my clients experience, it was easy to see things go drastically off anyone’s desired path.
When you’re trying to improve your health, via diet and exercise, it can be easy to find inspiration in others. If you see someone lose 30 pounds, you tell yourself “If they can do it, I can do it.”
When you struggle, you doubt yourself and the words become “What have they got, that I don’t? More willpower, more dedication, or better genetics? Maybe I’m just unlucky…”
With my clients, I have conversations with some who compare their bodies to others: I want shoulders like hers, I want a midsection like his, I want to be as strong as they are.
I believe some of that inspiration can be a guide. In other words: this is what you must do with your training and your diet and your recovery and your priorities to achieve something close to that.
I especially feel for my clients who, despite making good progress before quarantine, seemed to lose ground during it. That insidious feeling of failure crept in and paralyzed some of my clients.
I know that feeling well.
Every time I recognize that I haven’t fulfilled the characteristics my father tried to raise me with, it’s easy to just say: Fuck it, why bother?
And nothing good comes from that question. Nothing good happens when you give up on yourself. You don’t wake up one day and are miraculously gifted a different, easier life.
The life you want, the health you want, and the body you want come from work. Sometimes tedious, tiring, and relentless work.
That’s, as they say, where magic happens.
I come out of Father’s Day each year in something of a lull; thankful for my beautiful boys and sad my Dad’s not here to enjoy them.
I know how hard my father worked to give my mother and I a good life. I do the same for my family. I’m still trying to get this parenting thing down because, quite honestly, my Dad had a gift. I’m still trying to learn how to have some of that.
To my clients: Work hard, do the tedious things, and reap the benefits. Don’t worry about the way you compare yourself to others or even your younger self. Those comparisons rarely matter. The progress you make with what you have available to you now does.
To my sons: Your Opa is looking down on you and smiling every day. Your Dad will be doing the best he can to show you what kind of love he was raised with and pass it down.
I guess that’s a good way to live anyway.
(Below is the last three years of Father’s Day celebrations with my boys. They keep getting bigger so Dad has to keep getting stronger.)
“We Make Great People Greater”
2 thoughts on “You’ll Never Measure Up”
Thank you for expressing all of this. I read all of your posts. When I compare myself to other artists; i come up way short and then I stop painting. When I don’t compare myself, I feel peaceful painting, and often make lovely paintings that please me. Etana
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Thank you for reading and for all your support, Etana. It’s interesting that you use the parallel of artistry. In the original draft of this, I made a connection between comparison/inspiration when I was still an active musician. For some reason, it felt like too much of a detour and I wasn’t sure it was keeping all of the thoughts cohesive. I definitely remember what it was like comparing myself to other musicians and it never felt like it filled me up in a positive way. I hope you and yours are healthy and well. Keep up the painting 🙂