You know that expression keeping up with the Joneses? It refers to a trap too many people fall into: always comparing their lives to others’.
You know what I’m talking about it. When your neighbour remodels their kitchen, and you start thinking to yourself “maybe we should upgrade our cabinets”.
When your colleague, who you know makes around the same salary as you, gets a new SUV, and you’re still driving a ten-year-old beater. You start feeling inadequate. You make the same amount of money; if she can afford it, why can’t you? (Never mind that people buy things they can’t afford all.the.time.)
Thirty years ago, this was basically how people experienced pressure to keep up with the Joneses. They compared themselves to the people in their lives, and strove to be (or appear to be) as successful, affluent, etc.
Today, it’s even worse. Why? Because now we’re not just comparing ourselves to our neighbours, colleagues, and friends. Because of social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, now we compare ourselves to people we barely know – or even complete strangers.
You’ve probably heard that there’s been substantial research to suggest that high levels of social media usage is linked to unhappiness. In a nutshell, it’s because people tend to post the “highlights” of their life on social media.
So a new car, a new home, a promotion, a vacation, a marriage, the birth of a child. Big moments. What most people don’tpost are the less wonderful things in their lives – debt, marital disputes, job dissatisfaction, etc.
So here we are, scrolling Facebook, seeing the best of our “friends’” lives, wondering why our own lives seem so lack lustre in comparison. Can you see how it isn’t an apples-to apples comparison?
Once you realize the illusion of perfection social media casts on other people’s lives, it becomes easy to avoid falling victim to it.
Actually, that’s a lie. It’s still really easy to get sucked in. You basically have to constantly remind yourself that it isn’t fair to compare your day-to-day to someone else’s very best day.
I also think it’s healthy to limit mindless Facebook scrolling – what do you really get from that, anyway?
Here’s an idea though: even an apples to apples comparison isn’t healthy.
Yup, I said it. Comparing your life to someone else’s has no value. It doesn’t matter if so-and-so has a nicer car than you. Because your success, your satisfaction with your own life shouldn’t have anything to do with your position relative to others.
Wanna know the truth about the Joneses?
Their lives may not be as great as you think.
Sure, they have a bigger house and a newer car. But that doesn’t mean they are more financially successful than you are.
Right about now you might be confused. Let me explain: financial success does not have to be tied to the monetary value of your possessions.
A new car is nice and all, but unless it was purchased outright with cash, there’s a hefty car loan attached to it. So maybe Jane Jones’ shiny new SUV looks a lot nicer than your ten-year-old beater car, but her car payment isn’t looking so hot. Would you really want to trade places? I wouldn’t.
The truth is that we live in a culture that has normalized buying things we cannot afford. There’s an acceptance of debt that is truly terrifying. People are willing to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars (and pay thousands more in interest) to finance possessions that they don’t even need.
We all need somewhere to live. But does a family of four need a new 3500 square foot home? No, they don’t. If they can comfortably afford it and are meeting their other financial goals, then good for them. But a lot of family’s in these kind of houses are borrowing the maximum amount they can and putting themselves in the position of being “house poor”. Basically, all their money is tied up in their mortgage.
While Jim at work might have a big, beautiful home, he also may have a big, not-so-beautiful mortgage. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that isn’t me. And you know what? If Jim knew your mortgage payment was $700 a month, he’d be jealous of you!
I don’t give an F about the Joneses, and neither should you.
Why? Because we have more important things to focus on – like making our lives the best they can be.