I’m going to address something that’s a bit of a bad habit for me, as well as for many people I’ve come across throughout my 13 years in the fitness community. I was reminded of it just last week when one of our CrossFit members commented on my current one-rep max deadlift. The conversation went something like this:
Member: That’s awesome that you can lift that heavy! Especially for your size!
Me: Thank you. I have a biomechanical advantage when it comes to deadlifting. Squatting, however, is a different story!
Here’s another recent example that, while unspoken, still planted seeds of negativity:
I had just finished front squatting 150 pounds, a new personal best. But instead of feeling triumphant as I wrote the achievement on our gym’s P.R. (personal record) board, I let out a small laugh as I thought about all the women I know who can easily bust out 10-15 repetitions with that weight without even breaking a sweat. I gave 110 percent just to lift it once. It suddenly seemed silly to feel proud of my achievement, not to mention jot it down for public display.
Can you relate to either of those scenarios? If so, then it’s time for you, like me, to silence that little voice of misplaced modesty that desires to minimize our wins and steal our joy.
It’s time we start celebrating our successes.
As you can probably guess, discounting myself occurs in areas outside the gym as well. It’s a flaw that, if I allow it, stains every single one of my achievements with the mud of comparison, perfectionism, and self-doubt.
So and so can front squat 250 pounds, so 150 really isn’t that impressive.
I have long limbs and a short spine; that’s the only reason I can deadlift that much.
Yes, I’ve written a handful of books, but Stephen King’s written 70.
Yes, so and so said she loved the new novel, but she’s just saying that because she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings.
I’m not a good cook; I follow recipe directions well.
And on it goes, each statement stripping away my confidence and nullifying others’ genuine, kind-hearted compliments one toxic qualification at a time.
I think it’s no coincidence that as three-part beings comprised of a spirit, soul, and body, what we struggle with mentally we also wrestle spiritually. For instance, when I was in the throes of anorexia as a teen, depriving my body of food, I was also starved of spiritual nourishment, as I hid my battle from Christian friends and refused to confess it, much less surrender it, to the Lord. Similarly, when I over-exercised and was often exhausted 24/7, I felt foggy spiritually and unmotivated to pray or worship as I had when fitness wasn’t an idol in my life.
In my experience, refusing to accept others’ praise and congratulations by explaining away our successes often runs parallel to an unseen spiritual sickness. This sickness can be called many names, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s go with Comparisonitis.
Comparisonitis is the condition whereby every milestone we reach in our spiritual walk is downplayed because, when compared to what others have achieved or overcome, it’s seemingly insignificant. You asked a total stranger how you could pray for them? So what? Your Sunday School teacher does that for nursing-home residents five days a week. You didn’t deprive yourself of a meal today or binge on Oreos after dinner? Big deal. Your best friend’s never struggled with food a day in her life.
You get the idea. None of our victories seem meaningful when compared to the trophies of our peers.
When we think only of how far we have to go to be like “so and so,” we feel not triumph, but soul-crippling defeat. I’ll never be compassionate enough. I’ll never be a prayer warrior like her. I’ll never have the self-control that she has. Why can’t I be more like her? She wouldn’t have struggled with this to begin with. These inner monologues are incendiary darts of the enemy, each one meant to drown out this one resonating truth: the only person we have to please is the Lord.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (emphasis mine).
Notice that verse does not say, “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to your friends or Instagram followers.” Notice also that it does not say that our spiritual service of worship is keeping up with and comparing ourselves to our Christian brothers and sisters. Competing in this way not only wears us out and tears us down, it humanizes our divinely imparted faith, making it not about grace, but about works.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”-Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB
Whether it’s deadlifting an impressive amount of weight or breaking an Olympic record, every physical feat is achieved by the grace of God. He is our Creator, and it is He who gives us the ability, from our genetic predispositions to our God-given talent, to do incredible things and to constantly improve. Granted, it’s up to us to actively hone our gifts and excel with them, but He’s the one who originally gave them to us, long before we were born (Psalm 139:13).
Likewise, every battle we win on spiritual fronts, be it breaking free from the bonds of addiction or becoming less selfish, we win because God’s all-sufficient strength sustained us and saw us through. Discounting our wins shows that we seek glory for ourselves, hoping to reach an empty goal or to be more like another person instead of more like Christ. We will never be satisfied until our misguided dreams are realized; and when they are, they’ll swiftly be replaced by a fresh, equally unfulfilling set.
Discounting our wins also exposes ingratitude for the unique road of sanctification the Lord has carved for us. We lose sight of the fact that God is neither concerned with external appearances nor spiritual report cards. He looks on the heart alone (1 Samuel 16:7). He isn’t comparing you to your Sunday School teacher, shaking His head because you haven’t devoted 40 hours a week to volunteer work at the nursing home. He is peering into your heart, seeing not your past sins and shortcomings, but the sinless blood of Jesus. It is His righteousness, not our awesomeness, that makes us beautiful and lovely in His eyes. It is His sacrifice, not our legalistic list of good deeds, that makes us sons and daughters of the Most High God.
Let us boast in that. Let us rest in that. Let us celebrate our wins, remembering always Who won them for us.
“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” –Galatians 6:14, NASB
What’s one win you can celebrate and thank God for this week? Leave a comment below or tweet me at @dandersontyler. I would love to hear from you!
If this post blessed you, I think you would enjoy my memoir, Immeasurable, in which I talk at length about my battle with anorexia and depression.
 A one-rep max is the heaviest weight you’re able to lift for a single repetition.
 1 Thessalonians 5:23