Have you ever heard the saying “comparison is the thief of joy”? I’ve found it to be incredibly true in my own life. The idea is that if you always compare yourself or your circumstances to others, you’ll never be happy. It will always seem like someone else is more beautiful, more successful, more popular, and more wealthy than you are.
Recently, I was interviewed by The Atlantic for a piece about money satisfaction. The reporter asked me why I think some people are unhappy about their money no matter how much they earn. My first response was that most people start spending more as they earn more, so they stay in the same paycheck-to-paycheck situation. But secondly, I think a lot of people are unsatisfied because they are continuously comparing themselves to other people. These could be loved ones or strangers on the internet. The outcome is the same: they think they everyone is better off than they are, especially when it comes to money.
It will always seem like someone else is more beautiful, more successful, more popular, and more wealthy than you are.
I hear this a lot. And I’m not immune to it either! Social media makes it a thousand times easier to look at others and envy them and then put ourselves down. But doing this won’t make us feel any better about our own lives, so we need to start doing certain things to get into a better place.
Remember That Not Everything Is As It Seems
Have you ever heard that social media is just everyone’s highlight reel? I think that’s really true. And it’s often true even when we are catching up with friends in person. It means that we are only posting and reporting on the positive things that are happening in our lives. We usually don’t publicly report when we’re struggling with something, so it’s to be expected that the people we follow aren’t sharing their struggles either. It’s important to keep that in mind, especially when you’re feeling envious or frustrated while comparing yourself to others. You never really know what is going on behind the scenes.
Limit Your Social Media Time
As I said above, we tend to only share our highlight reel on social media. We’re much more likely to show pictures of our fantastic vacation than we are to post about the debt we went into for it. Social media also has the benefit of pretty filters that make everything look more glamorous than real life. This is a recipe for feeling inadequate if we’re comparing ourselves to what we see online. One way around this is to limit the time that we spend on social media. Prioritize in-person connection with the people you care about most and try to stay off of Instagram and Facebook.
Ask and Tell Your Friends The Truth
Much of the time, when we’re jealous of someone else, it turns out that their life isn’t as perfect as we think it is. In fact, there’s no such thing as a perfect life! There’s always something going on behind the scenes. But no one will know that if we don’t tell them. Part of why I think it’s so important to be transparent about money is that it will give us the opportunity to learn what’s really going on with others and have them see us too. We’ll all feel less alone while also being more realistic about what other people’s lives are really like. So you should lead by example; tell your friends about your financial struggles and which goals you’re working towards.
Practice Gratitude For What You Already Have
When we are feeling envious of what everyone else has that we don’t, it can be easy to forget what it is that we actually do have. If you’ve ever heard about having an abundance mindset, you might be familiar with the idea of appreciating what you have in order to eventually get more of what you want. If you’re stuck focusing on what you wish you had, rather than being grateful for what you already have, you can feel paralyzed and unable to move forward. Sit down and make a list of all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Write down what you’ve already overcome. You might be surprised at how much you already have that you weren’t paying attention to. This doesn’t mean that you have to settle for your current life and not work for more, but it does mean that you might be reminded that your life is already better than you thought.
Get Clear On What You Really Want
A lot of my clients feel jealous or ashamed when they see their friends buying homes or throwing big weddings. They feel like they will never reach those milestones for themselves. But sometimes, the truth is this: they don’t even want the thing that they feel like a failure for not having! Just because everyone else you know is doing something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for you. So it’s important to get clear on your own values and goals so that you aren’t feeling jealous about something that isn’t aligned with them anyway. Remind yourself of those goals whenever you’re feeling jealous or less-than.
Do you have other tips for not comparing yourself to others? Share in the comments what has worked for you!
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.