Do you find yourself constantly comparing your life, your accomplishments, your children’s successes, and your happiness to those around you? Have you ever caught yourself enjoying a beautiful moment and thought “I need to get a picture of this so I can post it later so everyone else can see”? Have you ever sat down at the end of the day and thought about how pleasant your day was only to log onto Facebook and see a friends post about their day and decide your day wasn’t all that pleasant by comparison. Do you look at a peer’s new car, fancy vacation photos, or picture perfect family photos and get angry? If so, you may be stuck in the “Keeping Up with the Joneses” loop. A competition that many of us struggle with and constantly strive to win.
Here are a few ways to “win” at the Keeping Up with the Jones’s loop.
1. Stop Playing the Game
One of the best ways to win the competition with those around you and finally mastering the keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle, it is simply not engage in it. This style of living robs us from seeing the true happiness in our lives because we continue to strive for more, even when we have enough.
Over the past two years I have had more clients mention or complain about the interactions they have with neighbors or friends relating to the competitive lifestyle and ensuring that others know they are living their best life. This can come off as small comments that often times my clients don’t realize they’re making such as I see that my “neighbor is able to do all of these things”. Or something direct like “I got her daughter‘s birthday invitation two months in advance and they were so intricate and beautiful they must’ve cost $10 each. And here I am trying to get my daughter’s birthday invite out three days before the RSVP date.”
If you are feeling sucked into this loop know that you are not alone and that may struggle with identifying why they are drawn into it and how it is affecting them.
2. Update your social media tendencies
There continues to be an increase in the desire to engage in the competitive nature of friendship due to the increased amount of knowledge we have on the intimate details of other peoples lives due to social media. There have been ample studies that show that truly happy couples are the ones that post the least amount on their social media about being happy. The flip side of this also means that the couples that are in the most conflict tend to post the most about being happy. This makes us attempt a competition where the lines are blurred and the goal is completely made up, put through ample filters, and posted with the exact caption an individual want you to read. This is not real life, you will not win, so don’t engage in it.
Although the keeping up with the Joneses concept is not a new one, how to stop it has evolved with time. One of the quickest and logistically easiest (may be difficult emotionally) is to unfollow the individuals you compete with on social media. It make take only a few minutes out of your day but can eliminate hours of stress. If you need more positivity in your social media life follow me on or Pinterest or Instagram.
3. Know your boundaries
Updating your social media tendencies of course means that you will have to sit and think about who these individuals are that you need to unfollow. Some of them may be old friends from high school which may be easy for you to press that unfollow button. But what if it is a family member? Then you may want to question yourself if you have the appropriate boundaries and if you are following through on said boundaries. (I have a post about boundaries coming soon if you need more information, guidance, or help)
If you do not have clear personal boundaries with yourself and the people around you, your boundaries are more often than not going to be crossed. This may look like a friend constantly being late to every appointment you have, instantly starting to look for a new job because a friend just got a promotion, or trying to buy your child that brand new bike that you really can’t afford because the neighbors kids just got new bikes. It will be very difficult to end the keeping up with the Joneses loop if you don’t have clear boundaries.
4. Power and control over your thoughts
After explaining this concept of not engaging in this competition I had a client recently say “Wait, not play? You can’t just not play this is the way life is. If I’m not competing with them they’re still going to do the same thing I’m gonna get sucked back into it every single time.”
If this is your mindset, it points to a much bigger challenge one that you may need to look into some options of monitoring and updating your thought processes. One of the most researched and supported forms of therapy is Cognitive Behavior Therapy, in which a main aspect is identifying negative or manipulative thought patterns, understanding each pattern, and changing your thoughts. This all may sound very complicated, and it can be, but for now please know that we are not just our thoughts and we are able to control them, even when they are telling us to keep competing. (I will soon have a blog post coming up about cognitive behavioral therapy which does exactly that.)
5. Be positive
The power of positive thinking will do wonders for the keeping up with the Joneses competition. If we are able to reflect back on each day that we have and identify the positive aspects throughout, we will be less likely to be pulled into the competitive loop.
Think of not only the major positive aspects of your life but the small ones as well. For example I am thankful that I was able to walk to the park with my daughter this morning and that she enjoyed the time outdoor.
If you find yourself getting stuck with the same set of positive thoughts I challenge you to be more creative, in that we can find something positive in even the most difficult situations.
All in all, when we engage in competitive style life we often never win. It robs us of happiness and blinds us to the every day joys we can be experiencing. There are easy and simple ways to take control of the way we view ourselves. One of the simplest and quickest ways to do this is to monitor your social media, whom you follow, and the messages you are receiving. If those around you struggle with consistency is establishing clear boundaries and following through on those boundaries may aid you in creating the relationships you desire. If you struggle with consistency due to your thought processes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be an excellent option for you. And above all be positive and thankful for what you already have.