By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself with others and you’re supposed to consider how you’ve improved. All of our ribbons are on display at the barn with our names written on them. I have a few low-level ribbons whereas the others at my level have tri-colors and other top-level ribbons. Though I can see my improvement, it still makes me incredibly sad, frustrated and dejected when I walk by them. How can I stop comparing myself with this constant reminder?
Thousands of years ago there was a famed playwright, Aeschylus, who said of human nature: “It is in the character of very few to honor, without envy, a friend who has prospered.”
I know it’s difficult; these are your peers, your friends, your confidants. You sit down with each other, break bread, take lessons and discuss your horses. They seem so carefree, while you’re having a hard time keeping hidden the ugly green monster known as jealousy along with its friends envy, insecurity and self-doubt.
Yes, you call these people your friends, just like they consider you a friend. However, your hidden monsters are constantly nagging at you, making you question whether you are improving or accomplishing anything… especially when your friends seem to be doing so much better with their bright-colored ribbons.
This feeling of jealousy can ultimately lead to poisoning relationships with those we perceive to be so much better than we are. It’s often a lonesome feeling and we sometimes direct that poisonous arrow at ourselves. In turn, that leads to feelings that further impact our self-esteem and self-worth.
Instead of letting their success and your feelings of inadequacy poison you, try focusing on the process of growth and improvement. It’s not likely that they won a tri-colored ribbon every time along the way in their riding careers. They all started somewhere and probably either fell off their horses, had refusals or made other mistakes just as many times as you. Everyone has their own issues to overcome before they shine. Remember, learning is a process.
Perhaps they’ve been able to put in more saddle time or their horses are more experienced. In reality, it doesn’t matter. You’re competing with yourself, and every time you brave the judge’s clipboard in the ring, you’re learning something. You won’t always come home with a ribbon, but if you notice you’re slowly inching up, with a better score each time, that shows improvement. If the same people keep placing in the same order in your class, then all you can do is work harder to close the gap. As they advance, you will, as well.
Rather than feeling jealous or dejected, remember, you are involved in a special, demanding sport that requires hard work and dedication. Not everyone can ride and compete, and what you’re doing is a huge accomplishment.
Don’t let friends’ prosperity make you feel as though you lack accomplishment. Instead of letting these feeling isolate you, join in on the laughter and friendship at the barn. Don’t let their success make you feel lacking.
All of you share an interest. All of you are around the same age. All of you are going through similar life experiences. Use your negative feelings as a catalyst to improve yourself.
What we need to remember is that every one of the ribbons on that wall represents time, commitment, hard work, perseverance, frustration, self-doubt and happiness. These are the bricks that pave the path to success.
From purple to blue, those ribbons represent the gradual growth in riding ability. You must keep the vision of self-growth prominent in your mind.
Not all flowers in the garden bloom at the same time. Some bloom earlier and last quite a while. Others bloom later, stay vibrant for a shorter period of time and then just seem to vanish from the garden. All flowers blossom in their own time.
Keep this vision prominent. Water, fertilize and give the flowers plenty of sunlight. The envy will disappear as the ability grows.
Appreciate the beauty of the mixed bouquet from your garden. Learn from the process and value the growth.