The Danger Of Comparison
We all have to live our own lives. It seems patently obvious to say this, but I find that I often measure my own successes/failures in relation to other people. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless I let it escalate to comparing in a way that makes me feel inadequate. Avoiding this comparison trap isn’t merely about feeling internally content with my decisions, it’s also about the environments in which I surround myself.
Us vs. Them
I think that, to a certain degree, we all operate from a basis of comparison. If we live in the biggest house on our street, we’ll probably perceive that we’re the wealthiest, most successful people on the block.
Conversely, if we live in a house at the other end of the spectrum, it’s possible we’ll feel our abode is subpar, no matter its actual size or beauty–the key is that in juxtaposition to our neighbors, it’s the littlest. Often, we don’t think we’re lacking in something until we compare our circumstances to someone else.
This is where acknowledgment of our environment comes into play. When we’re in the thick of pitting our lives against our peers, it’s tough to maintain perspective. Is our house actually subpar or does it in fact meet our needs but just happen to be less glamorous than our neighbor’s?
I try to remind myself that, objectively, the true measure of my life is whether or not I’m content and at peace with the choices I make. Am I being helpful, friendly, and kind? Or am I allowing comparison to make me bitter and ungrateful?
One insight that helped me transform my outlook is the realization that outward appearances and material possessions in no way connote a person’s actual wealth, success–and most importantly of all–whether or not they’re a good person. There is no “goodness” metric associated with the car you drive or “nice person” calculation based on how new your clothes are (good thing too since I haven’t purchased any clothes in two years… ). It’s all completely irrelevant to the actual happiness that one experiences, and shares, on a daily basis.
The Material Possessions Comparison Trap
I’m fully aware that my 20-year-old, severely beat-up minivan likely gives people the impression that I’ve fallen on hard times or that I’m terrible with my money or that I have no pride (even I will admit that Frugalwoods-mobile has seen better days and is sporting a rather record amount of body damage… ).
But since I know all of that to be untrue about myself, who am I to ever judge another person? And in that same vein, what’s the point of contrasting my material possessions against another person’s? What do my things really say about me as a person? Not much.
There will always be someone with a newer, better, cooler gadget. Marketers and companies absolutely depend on our desire to have the latest and greatest–after all, no one actually needs to replace their phone every year or their car every five years.
Getting caught in this cycle of one-upmanship is a dangerous slope–where does it stop? There’s always more to buy and if we believe the mentality that buying yields fulfillment, we’ll buy ourselves into debt and financial oblivion (there’s just that much stuff to buy!). It’s a much happier person who acknowledges that they have enough–in whatever manifestation that may be.
The “Success As A Human Being” Comparison Trap
While I’ve moved past the temptation of comparing stuff, the challenge for me to overcome now is the folly of comparing my skills, abilities, and output as a human to other people. Whether it’s feeling like an inadequate parent (because I have no clue what I’m doing… I’m trying to soothe Babywoods’ hiccups while typing this… ) or a fear that I’m not taking enough positive risks or just plain not “achieving” enough as a person put on this earth to do things.
I have to surmount this mentality and instead embrace the idea that what I do is enough and that my self-worth shouldn’t be based around what I can accomplish in a day.
The upside of comparison is that it sometimes has the power to motivate me to do more and do better. We don’t live in a vacuum and thus comparison is inevitable, and even healthy at times, but the crucial key is to maintain perspective and balance.
I want to derive excitement and inspiration from hearing about the achievements of other people–their successes don’t limit me, rather, they should lift me up.
I find myself citing comparisons to both the external world–advertisements and the media–as well as my immediate world–my friends, colleagues, and of course… the dreaded Facebook.
A Tangent About Facebook
I have to spend a moment on Facebook here because I have a profoundly love/hate relationship with it. On one hand, I love keeping in touch with my friends and family who are scattered across the globe.
On the other hand, nothing makes me feel more inadequate than seeing other people’s shiny, happy photos of them doing shiny, happy things (especially if their kid is clean, smiling, and not trying to eat their bib… uh, looking at you, Babywoods).
There’s no doubt that Facebook is a compilation of everyone’s best moments–after all, I’m certainly not posting a photo of how I look right now (I’m wearing Mr. FW’s old bathrobe, which is badly stained, I haven’t showered yet today, and Babywoods is sprawled across my lap in what is probably a dirty diaper and what is most definitely a filthy, mismatched outfit… but I’m loathe to move her because the hiccups have stopped and she’s asleep for the moment).
Nope, instead I post pictures like these (see faux cute pics at right and above), which are a completely false representation of our daily lives. These pics of me and Babywoods capture a fragment of time in which we were both dressed, relatively clean (don’t look too closely at my hair… ), and not crying (and I do include myself in that category). Hence, these photos are an idealized version of us.
So why do I post this type of picture? For the same reason everyone else does: I want to look freaking good for the world! Who doesn’t?! I want to convey that I have my act together and that I’m a successful, joyful mommy with a cute, bubbly baby. But it’s not the whole truth. And therein is the fallacy of comparison: we never have the full truth of someone else’s life.
We might think that their fabulous vacation photos or stellar promotion or new puppy indicate that their life is going ideally, awesomely perfect. And we might even feel resentment or jealously. But why? Why torture ourselves when we have no idea what’s happening under the surface. I shudder to think that jealousy might cloud my ability to express empathy and friendship.
In the interest of being more transparent about what my life actually looks like, here’s that picture of me right now, which is a rather accurate representation of how I simultaneously work and care for my daughter. We don’t look fabulous, we don’t smell fabulous, but we’re spending time together doing what we both love: writing and snuggling.
Goal: Compare Less, Care More
I wanted to talk about this today because it’s a goal I have for myself–to compare less and to instead have deeper compassion and to reflect more inspiration and motivation. We’re all doing the best we can and we’re all profoundly flawed, imperfect, and some of us likely have baby spit-up in our hair (speaking from experience here… ).
But we’re working it and we’re enjoying life. And that’s all any of us can hope for. Instead of allowing jealousy to creep in, I’m going to focus on how happy I am to see other people succeed and how much more productive I can be if I radiate that positivity.
How do you deal with the inevitable urge to compare?
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I find this so hard to avoid – I’m always comparing myself to my peers to see how I’m doing. I should just be happy where I am! It’s good to know that you can be well-adjusted and still fall into this trap occasionally.
So do I. Not only to my peers at the office or friends. I also comparing our lives with my own brother. It happened like all the time. More over today with our financial condition. So hard not to compare with others. Still working on it.
Humble and aspirational Frugal Woods. Well done!
I absolutely love the “real us” picture 🙂 Facebook does have a way of making us compare our real lives to everyone else’s faux life. Perspective is always key. Your first example about housing really resonates with me. Last year (before becoming frugal weirdos ;), we nearly committed financial suicide by purchasing a much larger home with a much larger mortgage. Thankfully there was significant mold in the attic and we were able to cancel the contract. After we canceled, I slept without anxious heart palpitations for the first time in weeks. It was blogs like yours that inspired me to get back to my frugal roots and made me realize that buying stuff to impress other people is ridiculous. And, the idea of retiring early is much more attractive than living in a huge house to validate myself and impress others is just plain stupid. Keep it up. You’re an inspiration to many!
Mrs. Mad Money Monster
Sounds like you dodged a bullet on that house–nicely done!
I love your descriptive photos Mrs Frugalwoods, especially the one that talks about babywoods starting to cry ten seconds after the photo 🙂 It’s crazy how often we think that others have it all together all though we are very aware of our own imperfections. Comparison is a big challenge for me even in the field of personal finance. A post that would be an inspiration to me on a good day, might tempt me to compare myself on a bad day. It is easy to think “I wish I had started earlier on the part of FI” or “If only I got paid more I could save way more” but at the end of the day my live is a collection of choices, good and bad, and all of these choices make me the person who I am today. Everybody has their good and bad (days, personality traits, relationships etc. ) but if I evaluate my life really closely, this is the only life I want to life, not somebody elses.
Thanks for writing about this important topic! One ironic urge is to compare frugality. I know you take a stand against this but it can be tempting!
I found the journey into motherhood rocked my sense of identity because my life was no longer about achievement and accomplishment. Keeping babies alive is an accomplishment, but not in the sense I’d experienced ever before.
Finally, my tip to resist the trap is to focus on my role and purpose as a person, rather than simply accomplish goals, and this happens to be the topic of my post today: “Do Less, Be More” http://amzn.to/1Uj31WL
“Real people” do not look perfect! If I went to your home and you were a new mother and everything was perfect I would be worried for you and your baby. The fact that you both are dressed, relatively clean, relaxed and not crying would be good enough for me. A perfect home would make me think is she trying too hard, not spending quality time with the baby or on the way to burning herself out by trying to do everything!
I do not compare myself anymore, in fact I feel sorry for those who have to have the latest/newest/trendiest. My home is one that many aspire to, 16th century farmhouse with acreage. Inside the majority of furnishings are second hand, upcycled, home made etc and as a result I have a home that is individual and not a clone of the favourite department stores here in the UK. I love your blog so much makes me smile as we have the same values, ELaine xx
I agree–real people definitely don’t look perfect :)! I love that your home is unique–life is so much more interesting that way!
Thank you. I love this. I finally realized I was comparing my insides with other people’s outsides and – surprise! – I came up short on a lot of fronts. Nothing points out the differences between our true everyday selves and the people we want to present to the world like social media.
Oops, that is very much the wrong link! Sorry! Here is the real one: http://wp.me/p5hPEv-hX
As I grow older I find it a little easier to follow my own path and not compare myself to others. But instances do show me that I am not immune to comparing myself to others. Great article.
What a wonderful post!! I really enjoyed reading this and appreciate your words. I couldn’t agree more and over the last two years have been working to rearrange my life so that it’s more focused on work, things, and experiences that are meaningful to me rather than what might sound impressive to others. It’s so important to have gratitude for what you do have, and not envious for what you feel you don’t. Thanks for posting this!!
Great point about having gratitude–that is seriously the way to be
Baby hiccups can be fixed by tickling them so they laugh a lot. Since a hiccup is an irritation or spasm inthe diaphragm (the sheet of muscle that’s stretched under your ribcage and separates your digestive-ness from your breathing-ness) if you get the child to laugh it will cause them to breathe erratically as they inhale and exhale to giggle. This should (theoretically) interrupt the hiccup signal.
Good to know! Babywoods isn’t laughing yet, but I can get her to smile, so I’ll try that next time she hics 🙂
Oh, Facebook. I really haven’t posted much of anything on my personal Facebook in a year. In fact, we’ve gone on two big vacations that haven’t shown up on personal social media at all. The other day, someone implied that maybe we didn’t actually go. It’s so fascinating to me that not only do we use social media to compare ourselves to others, but we also use it to validate and justify our decisions and memories.
Since I teach tweens and teens, this article fascinates me to no end. It’s all about what’s really going on in and being cropped out of Instagram photos. My students were gobsmacked: http://elitedaily.com/envision/photos-reveal-truth-perfect-instagrams/1216560/
Thank you for writing this article! I struggle with comparing myself to others, especially at work. I have always been a high achiever and fought feelings of inadequacy when I switched work teams and my new team members had master’s degrees. I grew up in a family that highly valued education and desperately wanted a master’s but couldn’t afford one. I started immediately throwing myself into getting an expensive and time consuming certification that would benefit my career but would require several thousand dollars out of pocket without reimbursement. I eventually stopped and reminded myself to feel satisfied with what I achieved (my promotion and a great team) and to take time to learn the new role before immediately launching into something new. I totally agree with you about Facebook! I finally decided to unfollow everyone but my closest friends and it helped me a lot. I really look forward to reading your articles every week! Congratulations, and you look FANTASTIC in all of the photos you posted!! I can’t believe you just had a baby!
You are very wise to get to that place where you feel satisfied with your achievements. I can get so caught up in what’s next that I forget to celebrate the present. Rock on with that attitude! And thanks for the compliment–I appreciate it 🙂
Wonderful post, and it’s completely true. The tendency that most of us have to keep up with the Jonses is a very real phenomenon that keeps people spending way more money than they otherwise need, and worse, wraps people up in a cloak of competition between them and virtually everyone else in the world.
I admit that I’ve been guilty of this – and still am very guilty throughout the day. I look at the expenses pieces of machinery that other people are driving and immediately judge their inability to control their financial lives due to those choices. At the gym the other week, I saw a mother load up her kids into her brand-new-looking Infinity Q56 SUV, a vehicle that can easily set people back more than $70k. Her husband probably isn’t retired. Why are they driving around in such a stupid expensive vehicle? I’m riding around in a $3,000 motorcycle that gets THREE TIMES the mileage for heaven sakes!
And so it happens – comparison, both good and bad. It happens all the time and probably always will. The key is to, through it all, keep yourself level and even, focused on your own goals and aspirations and forgetting what other people are doing. Because if you try to match your neighbor, you’ll probably set yourself up for a lifetime of full time work.
I learned a long time ago about “perception” and what it can do to your psyche. As a child, the wealthiest man in town, drove a old car, wore old ( but tidy) clothes, lived in a modest house. I was in a nightmare abusive marriage, yet everyone who observed us – thought we were the perfect couple. Just keep doing what feels right for you and your little family, never mind anyone else. Also, remember that your hormones are still wonky, give your body and emotions time to get back to normal. So grateful for your thought provoking posts, keep up the great work. I too have a love/hate relationship with facebook, my family and friends are scattered all across the land and it does help feel connected. Oh…. I work from home, so I am still in my jammies and robe, have not washed my face or brushed my hair, but I am a happy camper !!!
I’m so sorry to hear that you were in an abusive marriage–and glad you’re out now! It’s so true that we never know exactly what’s going on with anyone else’s life and it’s always best to err on the side of compassion. P.S. glad I’m not the only one hanging out in my robe and happy about it 🙂
I was just thinking about this myself. As a 25 year old, it seems like all of my friends are getting engaged/married/pregnant. I know that’s not the case, but they’re usually the ones posting the nice professional photos, whereas the rest of us don’t because who wants to see a picture of me sprawled out on the couch in my college hoodie reading Harry Potter?
I agree it’s all about a matter of perspective. To them, I’m the young, single, footloose and fancy free woman who can impulsively decide to fly across the country because I want to. Or take trips overseas. The grass is always greener on the other side!
This is so me too! I’m 28, renovated my own home and finished school, but that’s not something I can post pics of on fb when everyone else is posting pictures of cute kids in the snow!
This is a tough one! I feel similarly. My boyfriend just went back to school full time so at the age of 25 , so we are on a tight budget and not doing those things …yet. I really try to limit my time on Facebook . It helps a lot!
I just had this conversation with one of my friends last night. I am almost 28, not anywhere close to getting married or having kids, and am dealing with some life issues that are preventing me from pursuing things that I want out of life. However, when I compare myself to the people who I am envious of, I remind myself of the positive things in life: I got out of a dead-end relationship with someone who didn’t want to be with me, bought my own house this year, and I have some pretty amazing friends and family members. It’s all about perspective.
Fist bump! Keep up the great work!
Great post and a great reminder to stop comparing myself to others! It’s an interesting balance in between being inspired by others determination and path in life, and feeling a compulsive need to be as happy/ well traveled/ educated/ balanced as they are. Luckily I don’t compare myself with spendy pants kinda folks ( dodged a bullet on that one). As me and my husband are entering real adulthood by buying a house, I tend to follow the path of frugal weirdos and fret over things like Internet cost and home repair skills. I am extremely envious of Mr. 1500 days construction skills and even the Frugalwoods internet bill ( yes, as we are choosing internet providers I spent a few minutes making sure I shall not be paying more than the Frugalwoods !!! We live in the same area almost with comparable prices). I find that even though I was brought up in a very competitive system and my home country’s national sport is making you are doing better than you’re neighbour, through the frugal blogs that I’ve been reading I managed to reeducate myself and see folks from the frugal community as mentors and a source of inspiration, rather then competitors. Thank you Mrs. Frugalwoods for another well written post!
*making sure you are doing better than your neighbour *** totally butchered that sentence
I’m envious of Mr. 1500’s construction skills too ;)–the man is seriously talented! But, you’re very right that it’s best to see each other as inspiration, not competition. It’s definitely what I’m hoping to do!
Very important message. I worked in a high-glamour, low-paying job throughout my 20s and 30s. Many of my colleagues had family wealth or high-earning partners, which contributed to my “woe is me” mentality. Getting out of that environment and into a more normal working environment combined with getting older made me realize how lucky I was on so many fronts. I also got rid of my television and stopped reading fashion magazines 🙂 I still have flashes of eny, but they pass quickly.
Thank you for your writings.
I’ve limited my facebook use because I’m not that interested in what’s going on with people day to day. And I agree that people want to share the good things that are happening to them, which is great because that’s so positive, but sometimes it becomes a newsfeed full of people’s new cars, vacation trips or latest toys. I guess I could join frugal groups on fb, but I’ve found your blog & other financial blogs chock full of interesting info, that as time goes by I just use facebook less & less and it suits my life better to limit social media. Probably because I’m a big introvert. lol
That’s a tough one. I, too, have the same love/hate relationship with facebook as I love keeping up with family and friends who live far away but I hate the comparison problem (and also some of the silly/political things that said loved ones post). I write a travel blog and post lots of travel articles which makes people think that I lead a jet-set, glamorous traveling life – when in reality I work my vacation days just like everyone else. I just don’t blog in real time. If you come up with an easy (or difficult even) way to get rid of the comparisons let me know! I’m working on it too!
I hate the comparison of people’s weekends on Monday mornings. For almost an entire day I get to hear about how this person went to the bar, got trashed and spent a ton of money, and that person went on a shopping spree or took a little trip. When it gets to be my turn, I usually have nothing exciting to share. Sure, we do stuff, but it’s just usually hanging out with friends at home, or going to the grocery store. In other words, boring. I don’t necessarily get jealous of other people’s weekends, I just dislike the unspoken competition that there seems to be. I just need to remember that in the grand scheme of things l am doing something amazing every weekend- saving money for Early Retirement!
I know *exactly* what you mean come Monday mornings. I deal with this by saying, “Oh, I did *absolutely* nothing and just relaxed” when folks complain about how busy their weekend was and I say it like I was on vacation and wholeheartedly bathed in that glorious leisure. If they mention something they did that were pretty cool or fun, I’ll share something that was truly enjoyable but not necessarily exciting with them and again, saying it WITH excitement. Examples can be “Oh, I took a leisurely stroll in a park and saw…”, “Oh, I whipped up a scrumptious batch of desserts and man, was it good.”, “Oh, I luxuriated in a glorious afternoon beauty nap and my skin…”, “Oh, I spent some high quality time with a few girl friends over coffee/drinks and they…”, “Oh, I discovered this exotic/super delicious/inject your own adjective treat at the grocery store and…”, etc (you get the idea).
I find that it isn’t so much what one says but HOW one says it, that makes a commonplace or mundane activity sound appealing and captivating, especially if you’ve truly enjoyed it yourself. Good luck saying them with conviction and saving money for your early retirement!
I love this post. With FB and IG it’s so hard not to get down and compare when struggling to make ends meet. The single mom life of two under 8 and living in a large city takes a huge toll on the bank account and seeing friends Cabo pics doesn’t help. It’s a battle for sure.
Your last paragraph says it all! And you are smart enough to realize that what is shown on Facebook is not the real deal. It is a dressed up version of reality. The problem is that you are human (poor you….the rest of us are perfect, you know!) Kidding aside, we all fall into that comparison trap, and it will get worse as Babywoods grows and you wonder why your daughter isn’t doing xyz yet, when the other babies are. I know Facebook is important to so many people out there, especially a younger generation, but, for me, I’ve never been on it and have no desire to. I just don’t do social media. I email and/or have a good old-fashioned conversation on the phone. But that’s just me and my husband. We find joy in other things. I won’t say what I really think of Facebook and other forms of social media for fear of sounding too negative. But you at least have a handle on reality and realize what it can and can’t do for your life. I think your life sounds pretty near as perfect as life can get. Two level-headed people, as you both seem to be, will take you far further in life than anything else.
I always love your thoughts, bev :). Spot on as usual. Mr. FW and I try to be level-headed… sometimes we’re more successful than other times.
Comparison is the thief of joy…
This was a great article for me because I got started on saving very, very late and have a problem with spending time on comparing myself negatively to younger people who started so much earlier and to people of my own age, who have pensions, much more expensive savings, and can choose to be frugal but aren’t forced to cut expenses to the bone. I am trying to keep in mind that this sort of comparison is a kind of theft- it steals any positive feelings about what I have been able to accomplish despite my late start, it steals time that I could be using to figure out ways to make things better, and it steals the good wishes that I should have for others’ success!
I admittedly feel that initial jealousy when I see other peoples’ successes, but then I get excited about it because I realize those successes are possible and accessible to me too!
Well as I think you know, I can’t always be “perfect” and feel this amazing joy if I think I’m not living up to what everyone else out there is doing on Facebook-land, which is why I quit FB. It’s sort of the opposite mentality of, “if you can’t beat em, join em.” To reiterate, it’s not that I’m not happy for other people and their successes, it’s just a way to keep the focus on what I’m doing and my own path, and the results have been way better than expected. It’s just so much better, and I also gain some more time back which was spent aimlessly scrolling.
I don’t think I tend to compare my possessions too much with others possessions, but it happens and it make me feel like crap when it happens because apart from a beautiful home I don’t have anything “wow”. Older car (2004, still in good shape), ordinary clothes, no gadgets to impress, etc. I am fine with my choices and with the money I spend on things . But sometimes I wish a had a “wow” factor…
Note on FB : I had to ditch it. Not because I kept comparing myself to others, just because it made me feel depressed in general when I went on it. Not sure why. Family stuff, friendships turned sour. So I quit cold turkey about a year ago and I’ve been avoiding it since, and feel so much better without.
Thank you so much for honesty and insight! And thank you for still posting on your blog even with all your new responsibilities of parenting! My phrase of 2016 is “eyes on my own paper”, to remind myself not to judge other people or compare what they have to what I have (or not have). It reminds me to be content and thankful.
That’s a perfect phrase! I’m going to have to borrow that for myself I think!
This post really spoke to me. Thank you for writing it and keep doing what you’re doing. Your blog gives me constant motivation and inspiration.
Just shared this on Facebook. Love it! Thank you for putting into words what I think a lot of us have been thinking. I was proud of my friend for posting a makeup-free photo of herself on Facebook, and today… this! Yay!
Oh, the irony. ;D
Beautifully written. I am very interested in how gratefulness and contentment can create no space for comparisons. Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey’s Daughter) is writing a book about this very topic. She has mentioned some of the same topics you have (Facebook). Keep preaching it, sister! What a great goal to set!
This is awesome..
“I want to derive excitement and inspiration from hearing about the achievements of other people–their successes don’t limit me, rather, they should lift me up.”
Many thanks! I really like that idea of allowing gratitude and empathy to push out the feelings of jealousy/comparison.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Delurking just to say many congratulations on your beautiful new baby and to thank you for your honesty! I well remember feeling so tired and frustrated and unable to be that perfect mom, and wondering WHO would understand. And feeling guilty. Everyone else seemed to have it going on. Thank goodness you have this great forum and just a wonderful attitude to parse this all out. Love your blog and am certain that Babywoods is very lucky to land where she did. Oh and our infink grew up just fine (in spite of us, I always say 🙂 Many good wishes to you — cheers!
I think the “real” picture of you guys is the best! Sometimes a little healthy competition is ok – I find especially at work this motivates me to strive to do better. But when it gets to the point where you can’t be happy for your colleagues and friends for their own successes, then you have a problem, as you mentioned in your post.
Great post! I’m guilty of falling into the comparison trap as well. I don’t mind that I drive an older car or wear cheaper clothes than most of my co-workers and friends, but I do get jealous of the amazing trips that some of my friends are taking, especially since having a baby! Over Christmas/New Year’s, my Facebook feed was full of pictures from people’s ski vacations, etc., and I felt some twinges of envy while sitting in my pajamas trying to get Miniskate to nap. I’ve been checking Facebook way too much recently–an easy habit to get into while nursing. This post is a great reminder of why it’s best to limit it.
Hah–yes, it’s sooooo easy to scroll Facebook while nursing! That’s probably part of my problem…
Thank you for this great reminder. Comparison takes us down a sad, lonely path to sabotage. These days, when I catch myself start to engage in that nasty habit (usually while scrolling Facebook late at night when I should be asleep), I take out my journal and write down three things in MY life for which I’m grateful. Bringing the focus back to myself helps me to remember that my goal is to be the best version of myself, as a wife, a mother, and a person whose happiness does not depend on the success (or lack thereof) of someone whose beautiful life I’m browsing online.
Comparing yourself to others is a natural human instinct given our competitive natures. It’s also one that dooms us to failure since there’s always going to be someone better than us (intellect, looks, wealth, etc).
I always think it would be nicer to be wealthier, then I think about the poor single digit billionaires who probably think the same thing with their envious eyes pointing toward Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. There’s always someone else wealthier than you. Might as well be content with what you have and focus on acquiring those things that bring you value and bring you the life you desire, regardless of what others have.
Amazing post, Mrs FW! You’re so right, we don’t know what someone else’s ‘reality’ truly is, and funny enough, when we compare ourselves, we often forget the plus sides of our own reality as well. We compare our outtakes and bloopers to someone else’s (meticulously curated) highlight reel. I recently felt “life progress” pangs about an acquaintance who bought a house while I’m floundering my way out of debt, and only after berating myself for far too long did I have a friend pose the question, am I comparing apples to apples? We all come from a different starting point and take our own unique paths throughout life – how on earth are we looking at one of their destinations and wondering why we didn’t arrive there when we are coming from a different place and taking a different trail? This being said, thank you to you and the other PF bloggers who give us a peek into their own personalized, care-filled paths, allowing us to cheer each other on along the way to our own personal goals and not the standard Facebook milestones that we often get sucked into lining up our lives to
This article is a re read many times for me. At work, my first year teaching a class I was in survival mode, did my best and finished. The next year I realized “more” I could do from other teachers ideas and yep the comparison began for me. Unhappiness followed. Great Lesson: Do you best, do what you can, don”t compare”. Thru Facebook I saw a lady I know in a vacation in Cancun. I felt jealous. Then my husband said: You know they don;t have a mortgage because the mother in law died and left them a house. They probably have more money to spend, but someone died . I bet they’d rather have the mother in law alive……A year later my husband got 2 tickets for 3 day Cancun vacation thru work all expenses paid……. great lesson, very humbling experience.
I agree with your “do your best” philosophy–it’s truly the only way to find contentment I think. And, great anecdote about your friend–there’s often more than meets the eye in everyone’s lives.
I’ve expressed bewilderment when my wife feels jealous of another person’s life. And she’s expressed bewilderment at how I don’t feel jealousy. Basically I think I’m missing the part in my brain that even allows me to compare myself to others. I find people to be unknowable. Everyone is living their own life, and if I were to feel jealous of someone else, that must mean that I’m not living my life the way I want, which isn’t true. I guess it’s part of some people’s nature. If you’re looking for things to be jealous of, you’ll find them. For me, similarly, I must be looking for things to get upset about, otherwise why would I cruise Google News reading about politics? That’s not good behavior either. If you’re looking for things to get upset about, you’ll find them. I’m sure my lack of jealous-feeling all somehow boils down to my extremely rational, analytical way of thinking, coupled with social anxiety. I also don’t really think about how other people perceive me, almost to my detriment.
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook for different reasons. I hate it because so much of it is unimportant. Even after weeding out all of the game updates and, er, least interesting friends. But I do go there for the valuable self-esteem boost. I don’t post any pictures of myself, but I do post photos of food I make sometimes, so I am part of the problem. But my homemade ramen yesterday got seven likes and one comment, so THERE.
On the occasions that I have posted about things that aren’t going well in my life, it just doesn’t get that much attention. As much as people protest to the opposite, they really _don’t_ want to see mundane or negative things. They only want to see positive, happy things. Which is why I stopped posting about the things in my life that aren’t perfect, and only post about things that are noteworthy (and generally positive).
So I don’t think it’s necessarily that people are crafting this perfect online persona (although, I know that some people do actually do that), so much as people are only posting what gets attention.
Regarding comparisons on Facebook: I always maintain that doing so is comparing their “greatest hits” with my outtakes.
A couple years ago I started realizing the truth that most people driving nice cars and living in nice houses are overwhelmingly living close to pay check to pay check and instead of feeling envy, I started feeling sorry for them. That stopped me from comparing material items.
When it comes to comparing self worth, I take a more philosophical approach. I realize, just like material possessions, you can’t have everything. You have to pick your battles and pick them for what really makes you happy. While I look in awe at some people’s accomplishments, I also realize something else is giving in the background. It could be good sleep, too often they give up healthy relationships, parenting or something as simple as not smelling the roses enough, taking in life’s little moments and reflecting. I think, on average, our time of accomplishment is a relatively short 2 or 3 decades and it’s important to really think about what you want and what will make you happiest because it goes by fast and it’s not one size fits all.
Another excellent post about embracing reality. We all live in a pile of not ideal “Stuff” both mental and physical. Life doesn’t go the way we plan. But it isn’t going the way anyone else is planning either, so we’re all in this together. IN OTHER NEWS… I’M CURRENTLY WEARING THAT BATHROBE! Super fuzzy and warm and delightful… same color even. Hands down my favorite piece of clothing. 🙂
Haha, I LOVE that bathrobe! So cozy and I can snuggle Babywoods up in it too 🙂
Your “real us” picture is exactly what I’m doing right now! Complete with the old bathrobe and mismatched baby…
Yay! Babywoods is often mismatched due to spitting up on all of her clothes so often… 😉
Great post and good reminder about keeping things in perspective. And fwiw, I LOVE the real picture of you both because yes you look a bit pooped, but you look so happy and in love with your new kiddo that your face says it’s all worth it!
PS old sweatpants and ratty old robes are the best!
Ugh, this is so real! Lately it seems like everyone I know is getting new cars. And suddenly I find myself feeling embarrassed by my dingy 15-year-old Civic. But weirdly, all it really took was for me to acknowledge why I was feeling that way (like you’re saying here) and it got a lot better. I also reminded myself how excited I was to buy this car 9 years ago and how I don’t have a car payment (which is a huge deal). So, yeah, my car isn’t nice. But it gets me where I need to go and helps me achieve my financial goals.
It’s a huge deal to not have a car payment–very nicely done :)!!
Thank you for this post! It’s so true: hard to fight. Im often shocked at myself and how I compare on autopilot. The harsh things we think plus often rigid expectations of ourselves, we’d never say to anyone else!
Fabulous, honest post. In the end, we need to do what makes us happy–or more accurately–content and level. Symbols of wealthy can, in reality, be symbols of debt and poverty.
Facebook is just a big virtual scrap book to me–no one really does confessional Facebook 🙂 And art of the art of photography — and now social media– includes what you crop out or edit. But to your point, it is a very skewed, not-entirely-true version of folks’ reality 🙂
Babywoods is adorable <3 and you look fantastic–and happy….er…content.
Oh, comparison is a tough one. So is facebook.
I love keeping in touch with family, and many of my family members and friends “keep it real”, especially those of us with toddlers.
I try to do my part to “keep it real”. Everyone else posts photos of fabulous, gorgeous vacations. I post pictures and comments along the lines of: we’ve had THREE ROUNDS of stomach flu since November (plus 3 head/chest colds AND my husband left today on his third one-week business trip).
(We had to cancel a one week vacation due to the stomach flu, plus 6 social engagements/ dinners. We did not have any kind of “holiday meal” for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, due to illness.)
Comparison is always hard because you don’t know the details. It really comes down to second guessing your own choices.
– When I see people going on fabulous vacations, I am second guessing my decision to save AND my choice of job (which doesn’t give me quite the amount of vacation/ flexibility required for some trips)
– When I see people driving their shiny mini-vans and SUVs, I second guess myself for driving a 10 year old compact car.
– When I see people with their newer bigger homes, I second guess buying in 2004 (house still worth less than we paid). I second guess STAYING in a tiny house in a bad school district, even though I love my ‘hood.
However, comparison can be useful sometimes. Salary wise, there is no better way to know if you are getting paid “fairly”. (Of course, as a female in tech in my 40s, it is simply another source of frustration. I have been trying, mightily, to embrace my work “flexibility”, in lieu of salary.)
Great thoughts here.
I think comparison and jealousy can get harder once you have kids, my sister gave me a simple piece of advice that I found enormously helpful, if someone is talking about something and you feel envy or jealousy creep in, just say, “wow, you must be really excited or proud… about your new car, your kid winning the world series etc.. and somehow that simple line, makes it about them and not about you and your values. That little bit of distance is so helpful.
I’ve found myself taking more pictures of “regular moments” with the kids: messy hair, stained clothes, and doing something ordinary like eating dinner. Granted, most of them don’t go on Facebook, but I’ve found that these pictures can be more enjoyable to look back at, because they’re REAL.
This is so important and I am always grateful to read the Frugalwoods’ perspective on these things. You both seem so insightful and honest. One of the ways I’ve worked on comparison is by getting rid of facebook all together. I found that I was still able to share and keep in touch and it helped sort out those who truly cared. It also helped reduce my urge to appear “outwardly” successful by posting those types of perfect life photos and highlights.
I read recently (prob on FB)…”we tend to compare our worst to others best”.
From all of your pictures of Frugalhound, or Gracie, you seem to me that you and your husband seem to have life together! But when I see your real life picture, you seem more relatable! That is how I look at home too! ^^;
Anyway, I have cousins who live a lifestyle that would make other people and myself included compare myself to them. Although my cousins and I are not very close even though I send them birthday cards and texts to see how they are doing, the closeness I would like to see is still not there. : ( But anyway, since I don’t have a Facebook, I always hear about them going somewhere or doing something together that make me sometimes go, “Why?” and most of the time, “How?” I mean, they make more money than my mom and I and they go on vacation and outings with each other a lot. I’m thinking they must charge some stuff on their credit card(s). But I will never know since we are not close to one another. All I know is that one of my cousin’s families lease their vehicle and I know from frugal experience that paying your car off in full when you buy it or when have owned a car for a while, you’re suppose to pay it off as time goes on. Maybe it’s lifestyle inflation? I will never know. D:
Anyway, thank you for your blog post today and I hope your family is taking good care this winter! It’s cold out there! Dx
This is such an important topic…
It’s bad enough when we compare our lives to others’, but I recently experienced someone openly shaming me for revenue numbers I posted on my new blog. They had the audacity to say that I should be embarrassed by my accomplishment because it wasn’t as good as theirs and they were ashamed of their own paltry success.
I almost deleted that comment but decided to leave it to make a similar point as you are making here.
Comparing ourselves to others, whether self-imposed or forced on us by others, is a no-win cycle that only leads to depression and worse yet…quitting.
Thanks for the reminder. And, by the way, I think you look lovely in Mr. Frugalwoods’ bathrobe!
Facebook is all show, when I post pics of food or the kids, of course it is always positive. I don’t take pics of the stack of dirty dishes, floor that needs mopping, the pile of dirty laundry or the messy kid’s bedroom. When I see photos of someone’s new car I think, “Oh, big car payment and raise in insurance rates”. Yes there is reality and there is trying to put on a good show. And we are quite often too critical of ourselves. My vehicle is 15 years old, it is paid off and it is dirty because of all the salt and sand kicked up after the snow storm. It gets me to work and where I need to go. My sister and her husband bought themselves new cars and now have over $1000 a month combined in payments plus higher insurance. And both cars were just as dirty at my old buggy yesterday.
I absolutely love the “real” photo you shared! I’ll be completely honest and admit that while I don’t compare my car or clothing to others, I sometimes find myself comparing my frugality to you and mr Frugalwoods! Even us frugal minimalists have our own versions of success and achievement we have to watch out for! I admire your transparency and honesty in everything you write. It is a huge motivator for me personally.
I thought I made a mistake once — but I was wrong.
I think it’s human nature to somewhat compare and contrast pretty much everything, even if we don’t realize we’re doing it. It’s something I have to consciously make an effort to combat…I remind myself how blessed I am and try to show gratitude for the little things as well as the big. As I’m getting older, I realize there is so much more to life than trying to compete with others. Nobody’s circumstances are the same and we just never know the real story…nor do they know mine!
Thanks for shedding light on such a topic.
P.S. I also need to remind myself that I’ll probably never be a “Pinterest Mom”, and my kids will still be happy and thrive 😉
You both look completely alright on the “real” picture 🙂
So does your car by the way, I’ve seen (and owned) way, way worse
I’m just wondering what lead you from not posting pictures of your faces to posting them? Is it with the arrival of Babywoods? Whereas I used to post more pictures of myself online, I find myself no longer posting since having a baby. I do not post pictures of my daughter for many reasons, one being the comparison trap. Most of my friends post pictures, a few others do not. Just wondering why the change away from anonymity.
Good question! It’s actually because we were on The Today Show and so it was time to de-anonymize :). More in this post if you’re interested: http://www.frugalwoods.com/2015/12/12/the-frugalwoods-unmasked-aka-we-were-on-tv/
I’ve been trying to get better at this. I’m somewhat competitive by nature but this has slowly been going away with regard to comparison to others. I’ve started to follow a path of what makes me happy and not because others are doing it. It’s working out great so far, and I bet it gets better as I get more comfortable 🙂
I really appreciate your comments about Facebook and about presenting a shiny, happy version of oneself to the world.
I also appreciate what you write about comparing ourselves to other people. I’ve been noticing lately that spending time in the personal finance online community can cause me to spend time comparing how much money I’ve saved, or how much debt I’ve paid off, to the amounts that other bloggers have saved or paid off. To be clear, this is a wonderful, supportive, positive community, and I feel only encouragement coming from other people. But in my own head, sometimes I find myself feeling sort of inadequate because someone else is paying off way more debt per month than I can, or has increased their net worth to a point I will probably never get to. I think this is basically another version of what you’re describing — but instead of feeling competitive about cars or smartphones, I’m feeling competitive about…being financially responsible? 🙂 It’s a bit of a strange phenomenon, and one I’ve only begun to notice recently. I’m hoping I can continue to be aware of it and try not to let it take over my thinking too much. Because, like everyone, I’m doing the best I can, and that will have to be enough! 🙂
It’s a double-edged sword isn’t it ;)? I find the same thing with comparing “financial responsibility.”
I am often inspired by your strength of character and philosophy in life! I struggle with being content without buying and believe it or not your simple pictures and stories help me to be strong!
Comparing ourselves with others only makes us want to have what others have. I dont compare myself for that reason, i will be tempted to have the newest and the greatest! All i need is something that works, speaking of phone or car i just need one that runs!
First, you don’t look like you had a baby less than 2 months ago. Congrats on that!
When I have the urge to compare I remember everyone has their skeletons in their closet, the crap they are hiding that doesn’t show up on Facebook (not that I am on Facebook). I have found those who often look the “most perfect” have the most hidden. I just remember I am trying to live the life I want and I don’t want others to judge it, so I will try not to judge them!
We need more posts like this… or at least I do…
I live in a beautiful, safe, mildly affluent community… without the people who live here it would be close to paradise. The people here drive me nuts… the cars! the clothes! the fitness routines! the extracurricular activities! the hired help! the travel blogs!
I do less comparing of myself with others as much as watch other people try to keep up with each other.
I was so happy when I learned to stop trying to compare myself to other people in regard to material things. It really saves me so much money. Unfortunately, I am still working on the whole “success as a human being” aspect of it. Sometimes it’s easy to get down on yourself when you find you aren’t doing as much as other people or only see the highlight reels of life through social media. When that happens, I try to step back and remind myself that I’m not seeing the whole picture (as you pointed out) and to ask myself what those other people might be sacrificing. Maybe it’s time with their family, or hobbies or financial security. That really helps me put things into perspective.
I applaud you for sharing some of the less glamorous parenting moments. We do a major disservice to parents, especially moms (in my opinion) when we don’t talk about how hard parenting can be. By not sharing only the polished versions of our lives we can be a great support to others. Some days you have it all together and the day unfolds nicely, and sometimes you don’t. At all.
So very true!!! I agree wholeheartedly. Me and Babywoods are just a hot mess some days 😉
I used to compare myself to others so much it made me literally crazy. I don’t do it as much now, but sometimes I still get a tinge of “I wish I could be like them”. Social media is getting quite boring to me — I love to hear about the struggle! It’s real life!
The impression we get of other people’s lives (whether it’s seeing a friend’s photos on Facebook, catching up with a coworker over coffee, or hearing about some celebrity on TV) is usually a highlight reel. Meanwhile, we experience every shot of our own lives — every outtake, every blooper, every mishap. Comparing those two things is a recipe for depression and feelings of inadequacy.
I think there has been a lot of Facebook comparison hating going around, myself included, and whenever I get caught up into that world, I have to remind myself what I’m focused on and what’s important to me. Typically when I remind myself of this I care less about the comparisons because they have nothing to do with what is important to me. Remind yourself this, at the end of every day, you and Babywoods are alive and kicking and that’s an accomplishment that you should feel good about every single day. There is no harder job that parenthood and you are doing something amazing everyday whether you look or feel like you do.
Thank you for that reminder! Mr. FW and I joke that our job is to keep Babywoods and Frugal Hound alive and anything else is just a bonus 🙂
Hi Mrs. FW and congratulations for raising this issue before you REALLY have to confront it. There are zillions of situations, magazine articles, opining parents, FB posts, and other stimuli ahead to catch you off guard or make you doubt your own good and rational thinking. And sometimes you will cave. Other times you will sit with Mr FW, while Baby FW is fast asleep, and share your worries and regain your composure. And – fortified with your joint commitments to a frugal lifestyle – you will tough it out. My kids are now 24 and 28 and I remember vividly my times of doubt about what and how we were raising our kids. We have two wonderful sons, each different from the other, but terrific in their own right. Oh, sure, I wish I had done some things differently, but not much. We are a fun family now, with deep respect for the uniqueness and talents we each have. I think we stuck to our own truth as parents and it was challenging and offputting. But now we absolutely love the results! Hang in there…
Spot on! Or to put it another way, well said. ;).
You are so right about FB!! A friend of mine from high school also had a baby girl on the EXACT day I had my daughter. For the first couple of years, I couldn’t help but fixate in her every photo and post – was her daughter walking before mine, was she speaking, how neatly was she writing her name, and their granite countertops are a lot nicer than our more basic countertops!! It’s such a waste of time and energy, and I always try to remind myself of this. I also try to remember that most people are only putting out what they want people to see, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with reality.
Happy baby snuggling!
You are killing me with these sweet frugal baby pics! What a little doll. She is growing so fast. lol PS tell frugalhound she is quite attractive herself.
This post is my life exactly right now. Husband and I just do not care at all what others think of us. All of our ‘nice things’ such as clothes, video games, sweet treats, special cookingware, etc is all gained through EXTENSIVE deal searching (making the item completely free or 70% off, if not more) just because we don’t like paying full price for things or we’re given the items by friends, family, and coworkers. Naturally, if it’s a gift, we always return the favor somehow via homemade gifts or lending a hand when needed or whatever. Unfortunately, my roommate has decided that all these ‘nice things’ are a sign of how rich we are and has decided to kick us out by June… even if that means we’ll be homeless. I’ve tried to show her how we manage to get these things but the jealousy has hooked itself firmly around her and, as such, our friendship has been completely obliterated. She outright told us that since we live in her house we are strictly forbidden from being “better than me because this is MY HOUSE and MY RULES.” No one is better than another but she just doesn’t understand that. To her, materialistic objects are a definition of how well off someone is. It’s actually really sad, I think, because she’s always openly comparing herself to others, putting herself down, and blames everyone else for it.
Really good topic and post. I’m all for being “real” and simply not worrying about competing with others in terms of material things. Now, I do think it’s good to talk and learn from others, in that sometimes we can apply insights to help our own lives. But that’s the extent of it, not to compare/compete.
I was 25. Colicky twins, one in each arm were crying uncontrollably. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, bouncing up and down, trying to soothe them. It was noon and I was still in my nightgown which was colored and textured with baby cereal. My long hair was not in my pre-married braid strewn with flowers but a tangled mess that needed at least a brush. The TV was on and some soap opera was playing. I happened to look up as a woman about my age was holding her baby who was gurgling and smiling on cue (how did they get babies to do that?) . Her hair was perfect. Her make-up was perfect. The dress she wore looked more fitting for a night club than a trip to the grocery store. Her house was perfect. No toys on the floor. No dishes in the sink. No piles of laundry to be folded and on her wall clock it said 10:00 A.M.
Oh where, or where had I gone wrong? I was intelligent. I wanted to be a mom and here I was blessed with twins – two for one friends would say. And yet I was bawling as hard as my babies. It took me a minute (or maybe longer) to realize I was living and the actors were acting. I was real. My babies were real. My life was real.
It wasn’t right away, but I realized my best bet was to live my own life and not compare it to others. I also realized that what I saw at school, at PTA, at Alpha Beta, everywhere else – was a picture of people pretty much at their best. There was one woman – only one at that time- where I could be myself fully and honestly. My house could need dusting. My hair didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to pretend that my kids were God’s gift to the world. I think I learned this lesson so quickly because Carmen was so much herself all the time. ALL THE TIME. She liked me even when I wasn’t perfect. She didn’t expect perfection from me. She expected me to be her friend. For me, that was the greatest gift any woman ever gave to me – friendship. Friendship demands honesty and with her I discovered what a relief it was just to be me.
Thank you so much for sharing this–that’s a wonderful thing for me to hear 🙂
I commented previously, but after reading some of these posts, I felt the call to comment again. Don’t know if anyone will read it, but here goes….comparing is a dangerous game. But so is judging. It’s just as wrong to think that because someone is taking nice vacations, driving nice new cars, or having a nice home means that they are in debt up to their eyeballs. This isn’t always the case. Many people can and do manage their money well and still enjoy some of life’s material luxuries and feel no need to apologize for them. Myself included. None of us know what is going on behind the scenes and where and how people have earned their money, or not, and it is someone’s personal business as to how they spend it. Mrs. FW has commented on this before and has openly stated and this is a no-judgment blog on their part. I admire both of them for that. Let’s try not to compare ourselves to everyone else, but let’s also try to be happy for people who have chosen to enjoy some material possessions that their hard work has earned them. A smile and a sincere “happy for you” comment when someone shows or tells you something new they have acquired will go a long way. Thanks for reading my rant.
Good point! The best comment so far!
I’ll tell you as soon as I figure it out myself!
When you have special circumstances — like chronic health issues — it’s especially frustrating to compare yourself (especially financially) to other people. I see all of these folks who are able to save half their income. I have to remind myself that a) we have far more expenses than most people, b) those households generally have two people with full-time income and c) IT SHOULDN’T MATTER.
I think the first step is learning to be happy for other people’s successes without immediately thinking about all the ways they have it easier/cheaper — or just generally begrudging their accomplishments. I’m getting much, much better at that. The second step is to remember that we’re in very different circumstances and, all things considered (including my husband’s ADD impulsiveness), the progress we make is pretty damn good. The third is remembering that all that matter is that we’re doing the best we can because… that’s the only way I’ll truly stop guilting myself about all of the things we’re not doing/able to do.
An excellent post subject and one I think is particularly hard for new parents when lots of comparing goes on.
Pick up pennies – I like your three steps approach. I think I do pretty well at steps two and three but find step one the hardest … I often find myself thinking well they have that super well-paid job, they inherited all that money young or they bought property when the market was cheap and so they have it easier then we ever have. I think being frugal and saving and our own financial independence being almost achievable has helped to reduce these unkind thoughts whizzing through my head. I am now near my goal and don’t need to begrudge anyone their own achievements. Thanks for the analysis.
PS. I haven’t read here in awhile (sorry!) so this is the first time I’ve seen Babywoods and… ooooooh sooooo cute! And such pinchable little cheeks!
thank you! She does have some cheeks going on 🙂
I tell myself “You may look all head-to-toe but you’re shopping on your lunch hour ;)”
This is absolutely my biggest downfall, and something I detest about myself! It exhausts me finding reasons to hate myself by virtue of comparisons, but I really struggle to break the cycle. Sometimes I do find that cutting back on hanging out with others and limiting Facebook really helps – I also culled over 80 accounts on Instagram that always caused negativity and a desire to buy what they’re selling so I can be “better”. I’m lucky my boyfriend appears incapable of this kind of thinking, so he can occasionally be the voice of reason. Thank you for the fresh reminder to not compare but start caring. I’m going to implement this into my goals for February. You inspire me, as always.
I finally had to deactivate Facebook…I just didn’t enjoy knowing way too much about way too many people. It was awkward. I have dialed my social media setting back to 2006. I have email but no one knows about it and that is nice. I have a cell but I don’t really talk on it much and text just my nearest and dearest. No FB, no Instagram, etc. It is nice. Peaceful.
As for comparisons…my weakness has always been not what others are doing/having but trying to live up to the crazy high standards I set just for myself. Yuck. Working on it…
This is so much easier said than done, but I am working on it. Even though I know for a fact that most people with [insert nice thing here] are probably in debt because of it, it is still hard sometimes not to be envious.
You both look even lovlier in the Real Us photo ????
There is no smell o vision so all that side of things doesn’t exist for us readers. And, I must say, that Robe does look mighty comfortable.
It is so great to hear a point of view such as yours.
I have a close relative that does the comparison thing, on themselves and everyone around them. It is truley draining and every conversation I feel on guard and have to be actively batting away their negativity lest I pick it up again.
When I’m down or tired some things that come out of my mouth sound much more like this person and not like the caring encouraging happy for someone else’s achievementS person I usually am. It is an ugly wake up call when I hear it.
Life took a turn I never expected years ago and because of that I don’t ‘achieve much’ at all on a daily basis. So, I’ve had to change how I judge myself. Its my current work in progress and is quite the challenge. Your post here has reminded me of the perspective I prefer to have on life.
Thank you <3
Hah–it’s a good thing there’s no smell-o-vision ;).
Frankly, I don’t rightly remember when I stopped comparing. Correction, when I stopped attaching value judgements to the results of comparison.
I know it had happened by my middle-school years. We moved to a small town in Illinois and ended up in an even smaller 3/1 house just up the street from the high school and our elementary school. We became friends with the mayor and his family, who happened to live in a nearby 2/1 apartment even smaller than our place! Their household had more quality, our household had more quantity, and we all enjoyed our time together tremendously. That’s just how it was.
I believe envy develops much easier these days with social media. The “Joneses” aren’t just your neighbors and friends. It’s everyone on social media. I acknowledge their success but focus on my own goals.
“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”- Louis C.K.
Don’t forget: we easily see the result but not the WORK behind.
For example, we see the nice body but we didn’t see the daily 2 hours running at 5 o’clock; we see the car but we don’t see the projects where that guy worked maybe 12 hours per day + 7 days per week for last 1 year; we see the nice house but we didn’t see the period when she take care of the old aunty sick for 3 years in her highschool that gave the house at his death; we see the child but we didn’t see the pregnancy on bed and sick; we see the nice clothes but we didn’t see she sewed all last weekend that skirt 2 times because didn’t fit from the first etc.
I am comparing too, but I am trying to not forget to learn something from this … and to know what I really want and what is just an illusion.
Kisses from Brussels, you impressed me and my friend with this article: we completely agree with you.
That’s a great point–we never know just what went into someone else’s successes.
Great article…you look amazing by the way! Can’t believe you just had a baby!
Thank you, that’s so sweet of you to say!
This is something I struggle with a lot, especially in professional life. The legal world is insanely hierarchical, with everyone wanting to know where they stand in relation to everyone else. I wish I had a clear answer for how not to compare, but I haven’t found one. The best I’ve found is the meditation/yogi practice of non-attachment, where you try to step back from your current feelings. “I’m having these comparison feelings. Why is that? Do I need to feel that way? Why am I attached to these feelings?” Often asking these questions of myself helps me get rid of the feelings. As with most things, I’ve found, moving into the discomfort is the fastest way out of it.
I love reading your blog! You reflections are simply inspirational. You certainly have your s#i@ together!
Hah, thank you! Glad I have you all fooled into thinking I have my act together 😉
In real life I am just plain allergic to anyone frontin’ their way through life, I can sense immediately if someone is not being his or her true self. Not that I’m always bearing it all rightaway, but I find it hard to be comfortable with somebody who is clearly pretending to be something that he’s not (probably only trying to measure up to his own perfect picture).
On social media however, I’m not that good. I seem to fall for the image that someone is creating much more often than in real life. It did feel quite good to ditch the blue F for a couple of months.
Absolutely loved the picture of you and (way too adorable) Babywoods by the way, if that is a bad picture of you then you have nothing to be self conscious about 🙂
I think it’s kinda funny that you wrote this post as I sometimes compare our own savings rate to yours and then start to feel inadequate. But in reality our lives are different and I suspect that you make significantly more money than us so although I would love to save 70% of our after tax earnings I am trying to be content with our current rate of savings. I guess the good thing to note is that I may be comparing our lives to others but a least I am comparing to others in the FI world instead of the Joneses.
I loved this post. The yuck of comparison is a big part of why I am (happily) not on Facebook anymore. I kind of wish I had pulled the plug earlier – it took my second baby to push me over the edge.
Also, I’m sorry if you’ve addressed this elsewhere (I’ve looked but not found it), what are your frugal plans regarding work post-baby? Are you staying home or going back to work?
Facebook is narcissism in pano. How to stay in touch and not feel repulsed – I’m using it as a virtual telephone directory – I have unfollowed and restricted many people and sometimes it’s because I would rather see them face to face and talk about our lives than see visual representations of our lives – it doesn’t mean I like them or respect them any less. After all I didn’t even grow up with a mobile phone when we weren’t constantly in touch – and it never mattered. That’s why the 90’s were so great !!!!
I find comparing my life with others is just normal. It’s part of life and I assure that it doesn’t bring negative effects on how I live my life. What I just do is take this into something positive so that I could become more competent and do better in my life. It’s just about getting these things altogether and apply this to my life for my own benefits.
This is a great goal.
I’m in the process of decorating a new work desk – my main priority is creating affirmations and just quotes I like.
I like the idea of adding a note about not comparing myself to others. Thanks for the inspiration!
This is SO why I read this blog religiously. You are so cool and I want to be friends! lol As someone who works from her bathrobe daily and chases after her near-1 year old while at home and working, I commend you for the robe-photo. That is me every day, but you wouldn’t know it from my Facebook photos. I think the greatest takeaway from your post, for me, was when you reminded me that what everyone else is sharing is just a glimpse of their life. That really helps me to try to curb my comparing. I also wanted to share something that I recently read the Mr. Roger’s (yes – that Mr. Rodgers, of the TV show) often said that is in a very similar spirt — there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love if you knew their story. I feel like comparison pits us against one another too ofter and I find myself feeling bitter towards or jealous of people I love, and even worse, hating people I don’t particularly like. So it helps me to remind myself of that humanity. Great post. 🙂
How do I deal with this problem? Pretty easy. I don’t compare my life to everyone around me here in spring 2016 in middle America. I compare my life to most of the rest of humanity, past and present. Instead of boo-hooing my little ’60s ranch with no dishwasher, I marvel at the portable we picked up at a garage sale for $75 three years ago and imagine every pioneer housewife of the 19th century who would have found such a wonder beyond comprehension. I look at my ten year old daughter and only child, and imagine that she might not have made it this far, or very far at all, if not for a late term ultrasound that showed poor movement and led to being induced ten days early, which may have saved her from the cord that was wrapped around her neck, a save that would never have been available to the thousands of generations of mothers who came before me, or even now, to most of the mothers scattered across our beautiful world.
I think like this all the time about hundreds of luxurious details of my life, perhaps not as luxurious as the modern ultra-rich, but pretty darn great nonetheless.
wow this is inspiring! yes! especially for Asian with the “Kiasu (afraid to lose)” culture, we were brought up to compare almost everything.
And yes, compare less, care more! that should be my goal too! Thanks for sharing again!
Sometimes I come back and read this post when I need a frugality pep talk. 🙂 Thanks for writing it!
I know this post is more than two years old, but I completely loved it and somehow missed it before, so I just had to tell you how much I loved it.
Love the comments about facebook. After deleting facebook and now being free of it since July, I now have no desire to keep up with the Joneses and I only want to spend my days doing things I love with the people that I love. Thanks for your honesty!