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Comparison of the thief of joy.– Theodore Roosevelt
The term ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ has been around since 1913, starting from a comic strip depicting a family’s struggle to keep up with their neighbours.
It’s kind of mind-blowing that over 100 years later, this competitive aspect between one another is still a huge part of our culture.
Now, though, instead of looking at our neighbours and trying to keep up with their choice of lifestyle, we’re looking at the entire world.
Although we know that social media is a rose-tinted highlight reel of people’s lives, it’s hard to remind yourself of that when you’re feeling lazy, broke, and ugly scrolling through your phone at 11 pm.
The bombardment is constant. If you’re not looking at luxurious, sun-soaked travel pics, you’re watching porcelain-skinned girls go to fancy restaurants every night dressed in Gucci and Chanel. And even if you’ve done away with all of those accounts, you’re still presented with hundreds of new food options and experiences, workouts you should be trying, ways to decorate your apartment, or entrepreneurs with 16 jobs and gazillion-figure incomes telling you to work harder, longer, and better.
While technology allows us to connect with the world within seconds, it’s no wonder that the constant and overwhelming onslaught of unrealistic lifestyles leaves many people feeling isolated and worthless.
Looking at thousands of different lifestyles, choices, and opinions can blind us from what’s already there: the tools that you need to be happy, healthy, and living a life that fulfils you.
You have everything you need already
Let’s put it this way.
You’re living your life. Just going about your day, living in the present. Then, a picture pops up on your phone of some thin, tanned, 20-something you don’t even know posing on a pristine beach. The scenery looks like something from a movie, her figure straight off a Victoria’s Secret runway, and her life like the definition of ‘perfect’. You go into a scrolling black hole and look at countless photos of this total stranger flit from location to location, living her best life but being pretty ambiguous about how or who she is or what she actually does, other than that it’s all #love.
When you finally come up for air and turn off your phone, you feel like shit.
You berate yourself for not being able to jet off on countless holidays whenever you feel like it, or for indulging in dessert a few too many times a week. You feel like you should be working harder, trying harder, being better, all because a caption tells you that someone else is happy.
The thing is, before that picture popped up, did you even want to go on holiday right now? Had the idea to go on an extreme diet even entered your head? Were you being lazy and apathetic?
No. You were just doing you.
Comparison is the thief of intentional living
Until you compare your life to that of others, you can know whether you’re happy with your current circumstances by simply looking inwards. It’s this instant ability to look outwards, all the time, that encourages this ‘but you could be happier|richer|thinner|fitter|smarter’ mentality.
When you live intentionally, you’re putting the things that make you happy first. You’re recognising that sure, a luxury holiday in the Maldives looks great, but actually, a simple villa 5 minutes from the beach with lots to do and see is more your style.
You’re acknowledging that hey, that new restaurant that’s just opened up looks awesome – but your homemade chilli is half the cost and always hits the right spot.
You’re not allowing yourself to be convinced that you need to do this, start that, buy this, shop there, because you’ve already brought awareness to what you want, and no stranger on the internet is going to impact that.
How to be more mindful and compare less?
For starters, get off your phone.
Apps like Social Fever, Space, and OffTime are all really effective ways to track and even limit your social media and app usage.
Even simply getting a clearer picture of how much time you actually spend staring at your screen simply consuming other people’s content can be a huge wake-up call to stop looking at other people’s lives and start living yours.
Whether that’s meditating, setting up a morning routine that gives you space for you, or journaling for 5 minutes a day, find a technique that allows you to reflect about your goals, your priorities, your mental health, your body, your life, and your mindset on a daily basis.
Start questioning your thinking
Ask yourself: what one thing would make me happier right now? And then ask yourself: am I working towards making that a reality? If you are, is there anything you can do to get there faster or more efficiently, and if you’re not, what changes can you make to start?
We have every tool we need to make our dream lifestyle a reality, but we need to stop looking at everyone else’s, get our heads down, and start making it happen.