Ok, listen up – I’m giving everyone reading this permission.  Permission to be completely self-centered, absorbed, and borderline narcissistic.  You are the center of the universe.  Block everyone else out.  Picture yourself, alone, on top of a mountain somewhere.  You, and nothing else.

This is the prism through which you need to assess your progress.

You are the only one who can stand in your shoes, both literally and figuratively.  The sum of your parts – your genetics, your work ethic, your commitment, your experience – is what makes you who you are.  Those variables are different for everyone, and when you’ve got that many variables in an equation you can make damn sure there’s going to be a wide variety of “answers”.

I see so many people who struggle with the comparison game – wanting to be better than the next person, etc.  And really, for those who engage in physique competitions, you’d think it’s pretty much inevitable – but it’s not.  Or shouldn’t be, at least.

Compare against yourself.  I see a lot of people say that, but I wonder how many actually stop, think about what it means, and reprogram something in their brains to help them make that shift.  And how many go back on Instagram 2 minutes later thinking things like “his arms are bigger” or “she’s got better legs” – it doesn’t matter.

Even as competitors, we are trying to bring a better version of our physical selves (note the added word there) each time we step up on that stage.  Our reasons for doing this can be very different, and that’s ok.  And it’s foundation, I think competing is a very effective way of setting time-based goals for yourself.  Ask yourself why you’re doing this.

I want to win.  Why?  What is winning going to do for you?  If you have plans of making a career out of this I genuinely wish you the best of luck, but I’d suggest you just go get a degree (or 2nd degree) instead.  It’s likely to be cheaper (ha!), less frustrating, and more successful.

I want to get up on stage and do something!  Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.  As a performer myself, I get this.  It’s fun to be under the lights, have your moment, and show off what you’ve been working on to a crowd.  It’s the act that matters, not the accolades.

I want to improve.  Bingo.  When you get up on stage, you are defining a moment.  At this exact moment, this is how I look.  At the next arbitrarily defined moment, I want to look better than this.  Many people advocate waiting/training for years before getting up on stage, and to that I say:  why?  Unless you’ve got a serious and legitimate need for the additional time (major imbalances, metabolic deficiency, etc), get up there and establish a baseline for yourself.  Train, diet, go through the process, and enjoy learning about yourself along the way.

A final note about results:  seriously, I cannot stress enough how unimportant show placings are.  I have seen so many things that can only really be classified as bullshit I don’t know where to start.  People winning natural shows who later fail drug tests.  Someone winning a class when their coach is a judge.  The top 3 finishers in a class all being sponsored by the same company, who happens to sponsor the show.  Pre-judging that last for 6 hours – do you really expect me to believe the judges are still awake or seeing straight by the end of that?  And in the end, shows aren’t even consistently judged by the standards published by the organizing body.  Different looks are rewarded differently at different shows.  If you let your worth be determined by a system that lets itself be described by the above terms, you are going to be unhappy.

So take those progress photos.  Get up on stage.  Define your starting point, and define your steps along the way.  Improve some each day, improve some more each month.  Change yourself each year.  Just keep looking straight ahead.

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