Comparing yourself to others is the best way to be unhappy! A journey of FIRE (financial independence retire early) and journey of life…
|Watkins Glen State Park, NY
Unknown: “A cemetery is the only place where people don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.”
Recently, my wife shared with me a video of a psychiatrist who was discussing the topic of happiness. In the video, she was discussing all the ways one can try to be happy and all the ways one can try to be unhappy. Out of all the good things she discussed, one of the statements that stuck with me was when she stated that comparing yourself to others is the worst enemy of happiness.
That really got me thinking.
When I was a young teenager, like everyone in that age bracket, I lived to be like someone else. I wanted to be like Michal Jordan, Bruce Lee, or any number of famous celebrities that were rich and famous. This got me into learning Taekwondo to try to emulate Bruce Lee, and this got me copying basketballs moves ala Michael Jordan.
Although I didn’t become any one of my idols, I at least got to experience what it’s like to learn Taekwondo or play a game of basketball. It’s perfectly normal for young and impressionable teenagers to want to emulate their heroes or idols.
This idea of social comparison is what makes us human. We constantly analyze ourselves in relation to others to gauge our place in society.
As we grow out of our teenage years, most of us will forge our own personalities through interactions with others, learning new ideas/skills, and experiencing the world through our own unique ways. By the time we’re in our early twenties to mid twenties, we’re mostly aware of our place in society with our unique shortcomings/strengths, but learning to adapt as best we can to the world.
Even as we grow older, one of the hardest things to let go is our innate ability to constantly compare ourselves to others. It is this fact that I believe many of us are having a hard time living a happy and a fulfilling existence.
How many times have we all seen people doing all of these following things below to one up each other?
- Buying a bigger home than your family/friends/colleagues
- Buying a fancier car than people you know
- Going on exotic vacations
- Buying name brand clothes/jewelry/accessories
- Going shopping constantly for everything (food, clothing, toys, tools, etc.)
- Renovating your home often or updating your home’s decor often
- Eating out constantly at sit down restaurants, looking to post photos/videos online
Comparing ourselves to others becomes a poison, however, when you’ve reached a certain point in your life or in your career where you can start to enjoy your life, to start to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Instead of feeling grateful for what you’ve already accomplished, many of us just can’t stop comparing to others in a never ending battle to be the best among our family, friends and colleagues.
Growing up, I hated family gatherings. Instead of cousins getting together and having mindless fun, adults would always bring up topics like grades, what schools we were going to, what career paths we were thinking, or where we were going on vacation. None of these applied to me, as I didn’t get good grades, I had no idea what I wanted to be at that age, nor where we were going on vacation, as we couldn’t afford a vacation.
Family was the worst when it comes to constant comparing. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances come pretty close. When I was growing up, some of my friends would brag about a new Walkman they bought, or the latest fancy sneakers they bought. Even after we become adults, this never ends. Colleagues and acquaintances will constantly remind you where they went on their vacations, what new toys they’ve purchased, or what schools their kids got accepted into.
As I started to embrace the whole idea of FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement and minimalism, these constant chatter to one up each other lost their appeal. I no longer felt the need to brag about my latest purchases, my career promotion, or my latest vacation. I was content with my being, feeling good about what I had, and about what I was going to accomplish.
My goal was to retire early, to stop the madness of the rat race, and to be liberated from trying to compare myself to others. In took roughly 38 years of my life to get there, but when I finally did, it was so liberating!
I no longer cared what others did, I no longer cared where others went on their vacations, and I no longer cared what fancy car they bought. It was a good place to be in for the first time in my life…I lived my own way, not caring what others did, feeling content with myself and most importantly, feeling happy.
Here are some of my thoughts and recommendations on how to stop comparing yourself to others so you can live a happier life:
- How much is enough?
- Find a good loving partner
- Find happiness within
- Be selfish
- Embrace minimalism
- Do your own thing, not caring what others think
- Be grateful for what you have