One of the banes of society is that people seem to compare their lifestyle with those around them. How many times have we looked at the metaphorical “Joneses” and wished that we had what they have? How does it make you feel when you compare your life with those around you? We can either find that we are satisfied or unsatisfied with our lot in life.
In psychology there is a term – social comparison. This is where we compare ourselves with those around us and use that as a gauge for our life satisfaction. There are 2 types of this comparison: Upward Comparison and Downward Comparison and both of these evoke different emotions.
Upward comparison occurs when we compare our life with those who we perceive to have a better life than us. They may earn more than us, have a bigger house than us, seem to be more successful than us. The other day I was having a conversation with a person who was experiencing such a comparison. The person came across as being resentful toward the person they were comparing themselves to. That is the danger with upward comparison, it can make you feel like you have failed in your life. It fills you with feelings of dissatisfaction and maybe jealousy. It could lead you to feeling depressed as you begin to see what you think is lack in your life.
The other side of the coin is when we look at those who have less than us. People who are socially and economically inferior to us. This is what downward comparison is. When we come across people who have less than what we have, then we feel that things are not as bad as we thought. We feel that we have got a good life, we are not struggling as much as we thought we were. We have food on the table and a roof over our heads. How do you feel when you compare yourself to those who are lower down on the socio-economic ladder? You probably feel satisfied with your life, you see the abundance that you have, you feel happy and confident.
It is interesting to see the contrasts in the paradigms when we consider social comparisons: one can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, lack and sadness. The other leads to feelings of satisfaction, abundance and happiness. What has led to these differences in feelings? Simply this: Who are you focusing on and comparing yourself to?
True happiness does not come by focusing on the lives of those around us and seeing how we “stack up”. We need to focus on one thing only: ourselves and our life. That may sound selfish but it isn’t! We need to begin to compare ourselves to ourselves. Are you growing as a person? Are you the same person you were a week ago? A month ago? A year ago? What changes have you made to improve yourself (not as a means of pleasing other people, but as a way of accepting yourself and loving yourself as a unique human being.) You will also find a flow-on effect on those around you as your life becomes more positive and richer.
If you find that you are always concerned about how you life is compared to those around you, please STOP! You will never experience true happiness. Look at who you are now and compare that to who you were. Who do you want to be in the future? When you realise that you have grown as human being, then that is true happiness and satisfaction.