Things I know for sure at 28: Outstanding people, the comparison trap and standards

running on the beach at salt spring island

In past years I’ve written several ‘lessons learned’-type posts during my birth month. The learnings are never earth-shattering, but I’ve come to find that when you experience them first hand, that’s when you truly start to believe in their validity. Ever felt the same?

Now that the dust has settled after last weekend’s fun and celebrations, I’ve had some time to do my usual “what have I learned during the past year of my existence?” type of reflection. I’m sure that with enough thought I could have come up with 28 things for 28 years, but that would make for an enormous amount of reading for you. Five key things in particular stood out, and even those have turned out to require a lot of words. So, today I’m sharing part 1 and next Monday you’ll see part 2. There may even be a part 3… we’ll see. ?

always be a work in progress - eat spin run repeat

Lesson 1: The people in your life truly can lift you higher (or drag you down)

The Jim Rohn quote “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” has proven true in so many situations. When I look back at how my own beliefs, goals and decisions have changed over the last couple of years, I can see how they were strongly influenced by people around me. Back when the majority of non-work time was spent interacting with bloggers (some in-person, some online – all of whom are great people!), I developed a bit of blog tunnel vision and ignored things outside of that. During times when I’ve been around people who tend to see limitations in situations before the possibilities, I’ve taken on that same restricted thinking.

This year I’ve done a bit of field research on the kinds of people who leave me feeling energized, positive and generally awesome. You know how sometimes you can finish a conversation with somebody and walk away with a gross feeling in your stomach, but you can’t really pinpoint what it is? I’ve paid attention to that too. Not surprisingly, it’s the gossipy, complaint-filled, downward-spiralling conversations that lead to the gross feeling. Not surprisingly, they often happen with the same individuals. Misery loves company, and it’s easy to get sucked in.

Source: Pinterest
Source: Pinterest

On the flipside, it’s the time with friends who find the positive and possibility in situations that leave me – you guessed it – full of positivity and possibility! The ones who aren’t too afraid to fail, to try new things, to put themselves in others’ shoes, and to learn more about themselves. They’re builders, deep thinkers, curious about life and remarkable individuals in their own ways. They’re the people I’ve chosen to be around more because they make me want to be an even better version of myself, and my hope is that I can be that source of inspiration for them too.

Source: Pinterest
Source: Pinterest

Lesson 2: Live by your own standards

With all of the above said about being around people who lift you higher, I think that little nugget ‘o wisdom should come with a warning. We all know how real the self-imposed pressure of comparison is, whether you’re comparing material possessions, experiences, race PRs, body types, jobs or anything else.

Just like many of you who are reading this, I’ve always maintained some pretty solid standards for myself. I set goals, work really hard to reach them, celebrate and take pride in the achievement and then set my sights on something new. I’m sure it can be a little overwhelming to be around, and there are certainly times when I’ve had to take a step back and admit to biting off a little more than I can chew.

Source: Pinterest
Source: Pinterest

When I switched jobs earlier this year, I knew I’d be in for just as much of a career development experience as a self development one. What I didn’t anticipate was how far I’d fall into the comparison trap. Here I was, type-A goal-driven girl who wants so badly to be great in her job, walking into a building with hundreds and hundreds of new co-workers who are just as driven if not more so than I am. Talk about overwhelming!

Looking outside of work, the comparison was there too. The people I work out with are Ironman triathletes, ultra runners, former Olympic athletes and successful solo entrepreneurs. And this will sound silly, but from a vanity standpoint, Vancouverites have got to be some of the most good looking, physically fit, genetically gifted people on earth. Being in the presence of that much greatness can leave one feeling… well, a little average.

It was upon realizing this sudden onset of insecurity that I decided I needed 1) a big ego check and 2) a heart to heart with myself about what truly mattered to me.

Kris Carr quote - eat spin run repeat

In a work culture where the focus on BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) is so strong, the mental urge to set a goal that would push me to a new physical limit was hard to resist. But right at the same time, I’d just decided to scrap the half Ironman on my calendar because unlike the first one, I didn’t feel like I was doing it for me. This was done in favour of pursuing more balance between athletics, social connections and self care, and I knew I didn’t want to go back in the same direction that I had just made the decision to stop moving in.

Lucky for me, those same outstanding high-achieving co-workers are also some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. Even after just a month or so of knowing each other, they’d already seen me at my most vulnerable and could 100% identify with the need I felt to measure up. I started having more conversations both at and outside of work, and the more we talked the more I realized that….. wait for it….. they had insecurities too! You’re probably sitting there reading this and thinking “umm… of course!” but when you’re in the thick of it, these things just don’t feel as obvious.

Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all surround yourself with those who see greatness within you even when you don't see it yourself.

So after all that, I decided to lighten the grip on myself a little. Don’t get me wrong – I still have all sorts of ambitious goals brewing in my brain. But very few of them have to do with race times, and I know that just because everyone else is running an ultra or riding a Gran Fondo on the weekend doesn’t mean I have to.

And you know what? It feels SO good.

I won’t lie – I’m by no means immune to comparison or feeling insecure. None of us are. But being able to fully celebrate the amazing victories of others, without feeling secretly jealous that you haven’t achieved the same, is a beautiful and extremely liberating thing. When you can call those people your friends and have quality conversations with them that end in laughing so hard you nearly pee your pants, that’s a pretty great life.

Part 2 will be here waiting for you next Monday, but in the meantime I’d love to know…

  • If you’re willing to share, what’s an insecurity you used to face and have overcome, or are working to overcome?
  • Tell me about one person in your life who lifts you higher. What is it about them that makes you want to be a better version of you?

10 thoughts on “Things I know for sure at 28: Outstanding people, the comparison trap and standards

  1. Awesome post, Ange. I have been working through the same kind of things – I think everyone does! I am so inspired in how you have worked hard to focus on what you need to do for YOU and in the process, have become pretty darn admirable! 🙂

  2. I truly love these posts from you. More than any race-training-super-organized-update or mile-by-mile recount of a race.

    You have achieved what so many people chasing a time on a clock or a number on a scale or praise for being ‘so fast’ may never achieve: The Point. Which is that none of those things matter. And that you are moving beyond the Ego.

    Sending Love.

    1. Thank you SO much!! The whole ego thing is something I never truly understood – even in my university psych classes, and I remember when I read Gabby Bernstein’s book May Cause Miracles for the first time, the whole concept of ego and fear really didn’t resonate very mcuh. But I feel like I get them much more now, and I guess that can be attributed to a whole lot of thinking and talking to people who are very much on the same page. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, and there’s more coming up on Monday.. just you wait! 🙂

  3. That’s beautiful Angela. I might be wrong, but I have the impression that you are learning to let go, to enjoy more and stress less. I admire it! I’m also trying to reach this point too, where you feel secure and safe enough with yourself and you are able to shut your self-created insecurities down, in order to be a better person!
    To answer your questions: I’m trying to get my driving license at the beautiful age of 29 (I know it sounds weird from Canada, but in many European cities you don’t need a car to move around). I’ll do the exam for the second time next week. I’ve tried so many times just to feel comfortable driving, and I have the impression that now I’m finally getting through it. So much money and efforts will pay, but only if I believe that I can!
    Athletics are such a great way to prove yourself that you can get over something. I’m so glad I ran already 2 marathons and 8 halfs. Soon I’ll run my halfs in less than 2 hours!
    About the people who lift you higher: my nephews! They are the sun of my life and even though I don’t see them often (3 are in NYC, 2 in Paris), their smile and tenderness just push me through. My life changed when I became an aunt, I really felt something lighted up inside me. As long as they are safe and I can feel their love, nothing else matters. Well, no, my boyfriend’s love matters too! Since I met him (more than 7 years ago), I’ve been willing to give him the best I could, and everyday I am mesmerized by his sparkling eyes, and the trust and support he gives me. I hope you have someone who makes you feel special, and if you have not met him yet, that you’ll meet him soon 🙂


    Marine (from sunny Brussels, everything is possible!!!)

    1. Marine, I love ALL of this!! Thank you so much for such a lovely, honest and heartfelt comment. I’m sending you lots of good luck vibes for your driver’s license, and totally understand that you’re getting it later than most people here in North America. My sister lives in London and I’m not sure she’ll ever get one because she truly has no need for it right now due to the tubes being so efficient at getting her around the city. If it makes you feel any better, I had to do my test 3 times before I passed!
      Regarding your athletic accomplishments, you are SO right. It’s so amazing how these things can teach us so much more about life, and how the benefits are far greater than just physical fitness. You’ve got lots of experience under your belt now and I can just feel that sub-2 hour half marathon in your future. It sounds like you have some amazingly supportive people in your life which is also wonderful. I’m sure they all make great race cheerleaders for you too! <3

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