On your journey to financial freedom, there are many pitfalls and traps. One of the most dangerous is comparing yourself to others. I don’t know why we do this, but it can be absolutely destructive. You might not even realize that you’re doing it, which is all the more reason to watch out for it and it’s detrimental effects. Here are some things to look for and reasons why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others.
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It makes you feel bad about yourself.
Within your circle, there are people who work in many different careers. Some earn more than others. What I find is that within my circle I’m more likely to compare myself to those that appear to be doing “better” than me. All this accomplishes is making you feel bad about what you’ve done up to this point. There are two reactions to this.
- It may cause you to become depressed and stagnant in your situation.
- On the other hand, it may cause you to get hyper competitive with a close friend or family member which can ruin the relationship.
Neither of these reactions is good for you in the long run.
You might be comparing yourself to the Joneses.
If you’re old enough you’ve heard of this fictional family before. They have the biggest house on the block and the brand new shiny car. They have the latest electronics. Their kids go to private school, and they wear the nicest brands of clothes. This life looks good on the outside, but it’s tumultuous on the inside. Often times the Joneses have huge marital problems, spoiled kids, and so much debt that they can’t sleep at night. This might not be the case for all Joneses, but you get the point.
In this age of social media, this is even more prevalent. You don’t see people posting about how they’re on the brink of divorce or how their finances are a hot mess. Instead, you see all the glitz and glamour even though that person’s life may be a complete train wreck.
The truth is there aren’t enough material things in the world to satisfy you. What will satisfy you is progress – progress towards being a better version of yourself than you are today.
You don’t know their journey.
Often times when comparing yourself to others you are completely ignorant of the path they took to get there. I was reading Retire Inspired a few weeks ago. There was a part that was explaining that kids try to obtain their parents’ standard of living throughout their 30s. So while it took their parents 30 or 40 years to get to where they are, the kids try to get to that point in 5 to 10 years. This is not a good idea. By the age of 30, you probably don’t know all the mistakes or sacrifices that your parents made to get to that point. You also might not know the income that they made during that time span. Sometimes the assumption you make is that your parents are the golden standard of which you should follow when maybe you shouldn’t follow them. Not knowing someone’s journey isn’t only in regards to your parents, but it could be other family members or your friends as well.
It causes you to lose focus on the real goal – financial independence.
Deep down I don’t think most people want to be rich for the sake of being rich. What they really want is financial independence. For some reason, we equate the big house, the new car, and the fancy toys to financial independence. The reality is that most people go into huge amounts of debt for these things. Debt is the opposite of financial independence. Studies like the Millionaire Next Door show that most people who are financially independent live modestly. They have a 3 or 4-year-old used car and an average home that they own outright. They avoid debt like the plague. Don’t give up your true opportunity at financial independence to put forward an image of it.
So, while it’s somewhat natural to compare yourself to others, definitely take caution in doing so. Learn to be comfortable in your own financial shoes and focus more on what you’re trying to accomplish when you think about comparing yourself to others.