In our early 20’s, status was something that was a completely abstract concept. Worrying about who had what car or what house was not even an option for most of us who were just finishing college or starting out a career. We were all driving beaters, spending money on clothes or taxis, drinking too much, eating too much and generally not even thinking about comparing ourselves to the success of others. None of us were successes yet. We were all in the same boat, and loving it. In fact, the person who had a nice car, would probably have been chastised endlessly for being ostentatious and a little douchey. Those were the good times, at least in this respect. I mean, I could forever do without the hungover Sunday mornings and the mind-boggling confusion. This all changed a few years ago. Slowly, as friends and acquaintances got married, promoted, or pregnant, I could feel the shift coming. I could sense the boastfulness or jealousy in others and was shocked to suddenly feel both of these things in myself. I was never blessed to be one of those people who could care less about what others thought. I had a few friends who were like that and I have always been particularly jealous of that capability. But for me, starting in about Middle School, I always had a little voice in the back of my head wondering what people thought about the things I said, did or wore. Finally, during college sometime, that little voice took a hike and I really thought that those extraneous thoughts had been abolished. I found the confidence that I had always lacked and was truly proud of the person I had become. Then, suddenly, I felt the insecurity creeping back in. I think maybe it all started with the weddings. Oh the weddings… Yes, the Jones’ definitely appeared sometime during wedding season. One summer we had 13 weddings to attend. How can you not help but to compare them when there are 13 of them? And then you compare them to yours, and we are off to the races. After the weddings come the houses, the cars, the business ventures, the kids, the race to somewhere; somewhere that I suddenly realized I didn’t want to go. I mean, really, where are we going? Someplace where we get a special prize for having the most square footage or biggest diamond? Each family has to decide what success looks like to them. Success will and should look vastly different to vastly different people, and as friends we should be nothing but supportive of others’ accomplishments and setbacks. Our family’s destination is going to be someplace wonderful for us and although our friends might have a different place in mind, we will gladly have them over for dinner and drinks!
So how do you learn to not give a shit about the Jones’? A few things helped me get to the place that I am now. Don’t get me wrong, I still play the comparison game every now and then, but focusing on these things helps to bring me back to my own reality.
- Set goals for your family. Having a long term vision of where you want to go, as well as shorter term goals to get you there helps to stave off the comparisons, positive and negative. If you are accomplishing things together and moving forward, then there is no comparison to make. You will start to see your dreams come to fruition and it won’t matter anymore that you don’t have what so-and-so has because that isn’t your goal anyway.
- Do something for someone less fortunate. If we are even having this conversation about the Jones’, then we know that we are pretty darn fortunate. There are so many people out there who have never seen or heard of the Jones’ and don’t give a crap about them because they need to feed their kids or figure out how to get to work in the morning. Helping others is humbling and puts things in perspective in a hurry. Volunteering for an organization or just helping out a neighbor or family member allows you to give back and, selfishly, stop the insanity.
- Slow Down. So many times I have to remind myself to stop moving; to just stay still and look around at all of the wonderful things that are present in my life. Our world moves at a rapid pace and it takes a concerted effort to really take stock of how lucky we are. Taking time to just be; with yourself, your loved ones, helps you to gain perspective and reject any negative thoughts or motivations that are creeping into your happy space.
- Surround yourself with people who are really, truly happy for you. Sometimes, friendships run their course and they are just not positive influences anymore. And that is OK. It is perfectly acceptable to choose the people that you surround yourself and your family with and to not feel guilty or pained for distancing yourself from someone who is truly negative. Sometimes people come around and sometimes they don’t. Having like-minded people around you who lift you up is something that everyone should experience.
- Learn to be really, truly happy for others. This is the biggie and is sometimes tough. It is easy to feel resentment and jealousy. They are easy emotions to slip into and it is so tempting to lose confidence in yourself and your journey because of someone else’s successes. But it is such a shame! There is more than enough success to go around. There is more than enough happiness and joy in this world to fulfill all of us, and if we would just put a little of that out into the universe, it might just find its way back. MEB