Role Models….Good Idea….Unhelpful Comparisons….Bad Idea!

Role Models….Good Idea….Unhelpful Comparisons….Bad Idea!

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Ok let’s get the bad idea out of the way first! We’ve all done it and I’m sure you know how it goes…..

You look around and see all of those “successful” people and start comparing yourself to them ending up feeling bad about yourself and as though you could never achieve what they have done. Result…..you feel jealous, negative and fed up and then perhaps even give up trying.

This way of unhelpful thinking might go all the way back to primary school where you perhaps saw the sportiest or most popular person in your class and started comparing yourself negatively to them.

You may have taken this way of thinking on board during your upbringing if you were being told things like “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister/cousin or other “perfect”child” and this can lead to a lifetime of feeling as though you are not enough simply being your own unique self.

This tendency towards negative comparison might continue into adulthood and into your riding life, your work life and within your peer group. Perhaps you see other riders enjoying various degrees of success and, instead of being able to celebrate that success you find yourself thinking “It’s not fair”, “Why can’t I be like her/him?”, “I’ll never be able to do that”, “They’re so much better than me, I’m rubbish!”.


This type of unhelpful comparison can lead to feelings of dejection, demotivation and generally feeling upset and negative towards yourself.

There are a few ways around this way of unhelpful thinking and one which I like best comes from the psychologist Albert Ellis who came up with the idea of working towards Unconditional Self Acceptance (USA) which means that you work towards accepting yourself as a unique human being with strengths and challenges and within that self acceptance you strive for self development and progress on your own terms rather than on someone else’s.

Megan Sy says (and you can read more via the link above)

“Unconditional self-acceptance (USA) is one of the goals we try to pursue in REBT. There is often a misconception, however, that USA equates to taking the “easy way out” and that unconditionally accepting oneself represents stagnation and resigning oneself to the things we dislike about ourselves. Sometimes, this myth may lead us to hold on to our irrational beliefs and consequently, our unhealthy emotions. To the contrary, I would argue that USA is the first step to pursuing self-betterment in a healthy manner. Acknowledging and accepting ourselves unconditionally, rather than rating ourselves globally based on discrete behaviors or attributes, allows us to strive for our goals without self-hated, shame, or anxiety. The aim of USA is to stop berating and condoning ourselves when we face challenges and failures, even though we may greatly dislike these negative experiences. By removing the conditions upon which we judge ourselves, choosing USA allows us to change and grow while still acknowledging that we are fallible but worthwhile human beings.

Learning to truly accept yourself can be life changing and it can also be a challenging process so if this is something that you feel you need help with then please do get in touch.

A different way around making these unhelpful comparisons is to switch it round and finding yourself a couple of positive role models. A role model is someone you admire and whose behaviour you then try to emulate.

I believe that having a role model can be a helpful and a positive benefit which can help you to imagine your goals and work towards fulfilling them.

Think of some well known equestrians whose careers you may have followed for years. What is it you admire about them? Is it their dedication, hard work and mental strength? Is it their horsemanship? Is it their ability to learn from mistakes? Do some research on them and find out more about what goes on behind the scenes which leads them to have the public success.

How can you then apply what you have learned to your own riding?

At a more local level, are there riders on your yard, in your riding club or whose name you see regularly at local shows? What is it that you admire about them? What can you learn from them?

If you meet them how about asking them about the processes they have in place which allow them to fulfil their goals. Then, instead of comparing yourself unfavourably to that rider you can work out how you can make some changes in your own processes which will help you to achieve your own goals.

Having a role model doesn’t mean you try to copy them directly (because they, and you, are unique with their own strengths and challenges) but it does mean that you can examine yourself, learn and therefore grown in confidence and in self acceptance which is always a positive thing.

Role models….good idea…..unhelpful comparisons….bad idea!


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