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When Comparison to Yourself is the Thief of Joy

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There’s a thought that always runs through my head, every day, all the time: “You can do this better.”

Continuous improvement is important to me, and probably to you too. There’s a catch to the “you can do this better” thought, though. The catch is: “and you have to either do it better, or not at all.”

A few years ago, I started to take my health seriously, and lost around 45-50 lbs in 4-5 months. I even have photographic evidence, because everybody knows that if you don’t take underwear pictures, you didn’t actually lose the weight.

weight loss 2012 losing 50 lbs in 5 months sobriety recovery before and after pictures

I was the queen of meal prep and from-scratch, home-cooked meals. At least, I was the queen in my own home. I bought meat, nuts, veggies, all sorts of things in bulk, and did the work to cook and separate them all out for different recipes. I exercised just about every single day because I actually loved to exercise. Bootcamp classes, running, weights, group fitness cardio classes, you name it, and I was part of it.

I even got certified to teach Les Mills’ BodyJam classes, which is hilarious and ironic if you’ve ever seen me try to dance.

weight loss 2012 losing 50 lbs in 5 months sobriety recovery before and after pictures

Although I did drink, I was more health-conscious and it wasn’t nearly as frequent. It would be a lie to act like everything in my past was dark, boozy, and miserable.

I hold myself to a high standard based on previous accomplishments, and I tend to feel defeated before I even start.

Last week at Kroger, I found myself considering a 1-lb bag of frozen pre-cooked chicken for $6. Back in the day, Iwould usually buy a whole raw chicken for $3-$5, then cook and freeze it for meals. Why buy pre-cooked for nearly triple the price (when looking at the lbs), when you can save money with the raw version?

Well, if I had a nickel for every raw chicken that went bad these days, waiting to be used in my well-intentioned meal prep session, I’d have a lot more money to “waste” on pre-cooked chicken.

When I run these days, I feel a level of disappointment every time I get out there because I’m not where I used to be. It’s been Five. Freaking. Years since I could run 3 miles without stopping. Five years, and I’ve gained around 40 lbs since that time.

I am not the same person that I used to be.

And most likely, neither are you.

In 2012, the bottom hadn’t dropped out yet. I’d been in dark places, but the birth of my son in 2011 felt like a turning point. I lost weight, felt great, and spent more time with my children. We started making more money. Things got crazier and boozier in 2013. It got worse.

I self-destructed rather publicly in 2013-2014. My entire facade came crumbling down around me. I was hurt, and I hurt others (unintentionally, but nonetheless). I clawed my way out, and when I couldn’t claw anymore, I finally let God take it. That’s when I got sober. The past few years have been a lesson in humility, surrender, sin, and forgiveness.

Grace is necessary for growth.

Grace is the only reason I’m still alive today. Not just grace from God, but grace from myself to myself.

walking for anxietyMy body looks a lot more like the before picture these days, or maybe June’s photos. It doesn’t matter. I can’t keep trying to regain a sense of purpose through what I used to do. All that matters is today.

“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”The AA Promises

We don’t get to erase parts of our past, we can only learn from it.

What does all of this have to do with pre-cooked chicken? Good question.

I bought that bag of pre-cooked, plain chicken at Kroger last week. My family actually got a decently cooked meal, and we’ve all been less stressed. All because I let go of my pride and bought a “shortcut”. It’s amazing how regular healthy meals affect a family. Actually it’s common sense, but I tend to overlook that.

The chicken was more expensive at first glance, but when considering how much raw chicken I’ve had to throw out (ugh, shame), it’s more than paid for itself.

It’s ok to take the “easy” way at first, and do whatever you can do to get into a habit.

It’s not always easy, but start with the pieces that you can seamlessly integrate into your life. They might stretch you a tiny bit, but not enough to create stress.

If you want to exercise every day, just do a few pushups when you wake up. You don’t have to run 3 miles or do a 2 hour class, just spend 10-15 minutes stretching every day. You will get used to that little bit of activity after a week, or a few weeks, and be ready to add more. If you want to write more, or meditate, or whatever you want to do to improve your life, start with the smallest thing you can change with the biggest impact.

For me, pre-cooked meat fixed the “oh crap, I forgot to thaw the meat” problem, at least for now. As I get more comfortable with daily cooking again, I know I’ll move more into bigger lifestyle changes. I’ll take the time to cook and freeze and meal prep. I know I will. In time.

Some people can jump all in with everything at once, and I used to be that person. I am no longer that person, and that’s ok. That person drank away her emotions, or used other activities and substances to avoid dealing with her problems directly. The person I am today needs to be gentler and take smaller steps to improve.

Like cooking a real breakfast every morning, instead of making do with coffee:

baby steps breakfast healthy lifestyle

One day at a time, right? Exactly.

Related reading:
4 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism
Comparison if the Thief of Joy – SoberUpButterCup (a post I saw after this one – go figure! But how appropriate)

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Sitting on top of Pike's Peak in Colorado, a little over 2 years sober.

Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around.  Read my story...

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