“Keeping up with the Joneses” — an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority. (Wikipedia)
My friends are amazing. In one particular group, I have one doctor, one almost doctor, one intern working at one of the biggest banks in Australia while she’s waiting for her grad job at a management consulting firm to start, and one who scored a grad job at one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world and is now learning Spanish in order to prepare for an awesome self discovery trip in South America.
Needless to say, whenever we catch up, there is never a dull moment and I am always in awe of what my beautiful, talented, and determined friends are accomplishing.
It wasn’t always like this though; for a while I wasn’t able to just accept and be happy with what my friends were doing without comparing myself to them, wondering, “What have I done lately?” and, “Oh, if they are doing X,Y,Z I should be doing X,Y,Z as well.”
Have you ever looked at photos someone has put up on Facebook or Instagram as they excitedly pave a new journey for themselves, whether a solo overseas trip or a new job away from home, and found yourself instantly longing for that experience, even though just moments ago you were completely happy with where you are in life? I have and I hope I’m not alone!
It came to a point where I would be adding all these things to my bucket list — working overseas, studying overseas and I wasn’t even really sure if I was doing them for me or if I was just doing them so I could say to my peers, “I too have done [insert awesome, inspiring thing here].”
The rise of social media and the careful creation of our ideal selves on our social media platforms plays a huge role in how we perceive ourselves in comparison to others.
We should remember though, that often we only present ourselves in the best light on these platforms (and to be honest, people are quite unforgiving if you put up some depressed status update so you really can’t win on these things!) and so perhaps this isn’t the best metric of comparing accomplishments.
I think it took me around three or four months from when I started feeling that pang of envy to being wholeheartedly happy and pleased for my friend’s accomplishments with no lingering voice comparing myself to them.
During that period, there were days when I had to literally pull myself up on the irrationality of my behavior. (For example, after hearing one friend got free flights to Korea to go to some student conference and becoming super jealous I had to remind myself I have never wanted to go in to medicine, apart from when I was little and I thought I could just treat Teddy Bears all day.)
The one thing that also helped me, was reminding myself, how lucky I am to be surrounded by friends who are better than me. It sounds like a strange concept but as Warren Buffett and many others have said, “Surround yourself with people who are better than you.”
One of my favorite quotes comes from David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising”:
If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.
Sometimes it sucks, but most of the time I am happy I have a fantastic network of friends and family who push me, keep me on my toes, and never let me get complacent. This doesn’t mean I need to try and achieve their goals, this just means I need to keep focused on achieving mine. After all, why would you want to surround yourself with people who tell you how great you are, but never really push to test your true potential?
For every one choice that you make, there are hundreds of other choices that you choose to forgo. This omission doesn’t have to be a final decision, it’s just not a “right now” decision. We have so many opportunities in this day and age, that it will never be too late to start pursuing something.
The most important thing you remember is what your own goals are and why you want to achieve them. Any personal goal you accomplish should be recognized as being more much more valuable than something you accomplish but never really wanted.
If you go through life living just to please and impress other people, you will never feel fulfilled within yourself. At the end of the day, you only have to answer to one person: you.
Have you ever felt the need to keep up with your friends just for the sake of appearances? What happened? Tell us in the comments!