No Peeking!

swim peek

If you’ve ever been to a swim meet where young children were competing, you’ve seen The Peek. During the race, usually breaststroke, a swimmer will turn his/her head to check out the competition. Some little ones do this occasionally, some almost constantly, some are obvious, and some get very good at being subtle about it. And some never lose the habit.

It is an almost irresistible desire when you’re racing:  wanting to know where your competition is. Am I ahead? Am I behind? How am I doing?  Unfortunately, giving in to that temptation alters the outcome of your race. As soon as you change your head position to check out someone else, you change your body position, and ultimately change how you end up doing. You have no effect on the other person, but comparing yourself to them has changed YOUR race.

That’s pretty powerful.

Beyond the physical detriment to head and body position that a swimmer experiences by peeking, there is a mental/emotional effect as well. By expanding  your focus to include how someone else is doing, you let go of following your own plan and you allow their experience to become part of how you define yours. In a swim race, that can end up as either, “I did well because I beat Johnny” or “I did my best, but I lost to Johnny so it wasn’t that good”. Instead of comparing ourselves against our own plan or our own progress over time, it becomes about the comparison against someone else.

Comparing ourselves to others is the ultimate sucker’s game. There is no winning this one. There will ALWAYS be, for EVERYONE, someone who has more, is better at something, etc. We all have people who make us feel inferior. Social media hasn’t helped, since now we can peek into other people’s lives with impunity, forgetting that Facebook is the ultimate ongoing “Christmas Letter”, full of everyone’s surface wonderfulness. Reading Facebook, one would think that no one is unhappy, failing school, a bad cook, fighting with their kids, in danger of being laid off, unable to afford vacation, or worrying that their spouse is cheating on them. We are all looking around, peeking constantly at our “competition”, and becoming more and more convinced that we are “losing”.

Comparing ourselves to others alters the outcome of our journeys, plain and simple. We cannot be our best selves if we are focused on someone else. We cannot be truly happy and at peace if we define success in terms of someone else’s journey. When we make comparisons, we only hurt ourselves in the end.

So, at least for today, No Peeking!

4 thoughts on “No Peeking!

  1. I just read your Yoga post, then I popped over here and read this one. And this one connected to the yoga one – for me. I am finding that when I attend a yoga class, afterwards I hear people saying to others, “You’re so flexible. You can do XXX. You can do that.” And I think to myself . . . “I never noticed.” Just the other day, I was in a pose and we were looking up, as we brought our gaze down to look in front of us, I was surprised to see another person there. Ok, I know that sounds silly, but for just a fraction of a second, I was surprised . . . one because that type of class configuration is odd to me, and another reason, because I was in the zone.

    When I am in a yoga class, it is just me and the teacher. I don’t think about the other students and what they are doing. I have to do that when I am teaching . . . I have to pay attention to the entire class and disregard my breath. So when I get the luxury of being taught, I don’t pay attention to who is doing what. When I pay attention to what others are doing, it takes away from what I am doing. Just like what you are saying (somewhat, right?) about racing.

    • Exactly! And it translates to life…we enjoy our own so much less if we are constantly peeking and comparing ourselves to our friends, neighbors, etc. We end up missing so many wonderful moments. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Pingback: Bringing Focus Back « Terre Pruitt's Blog

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