Finance 101: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others — Here’s Why
As a society, we generally tend to be negative, especially about ourselves. I’m the queen of comparing myself to others. As much as I try not to do it, and this habit has robbed me of my own happiness and the ability to enjoy my own success.
The biggest comparison pit I’ve wallowed in for the last seven years is financial. This is especially true after being laid off and struggling as a freelancer.
About Your Finances
1. Lying About Money Can Ruin a Relationship
One of the most common reasons for breakups is dishonesty about money. It’s super important to communicate with each other and to be upfront about finances. Being honest can improve your relationship and remove possible underlying tension about money.
2. Your Friends Might Save Money, Too
If you’re not honest with your friends about your financial situation, then they’ll continue to plan outings and activities that stretch beyond your budget.
Confide in them and let them know you’re struggling or saving. If they’re really your friends, they’ll understand the situation and rework the plans to suit everyone’s budget.
Chances are, someone in your friend group is in the same situation and is reluctant to speak up, so you’ll be doing that person a favor, too.
3. Lying Might Make Your Finances Worse
By lying to yourself and others about your finances, you might make the situation worse. Turning a blind eye and worrying about FOMO might mean you find yourself overstretching your wallet and doing major damage before you realize.
4. You’ll Strengthen Your Family Bonds
Are your parents relying on you for money? What about your kids, or your future kids? Having the money talk with your family encourages them to be more open and honest about their situation, too.
5. You’ll Change Your Financial Habits
By being totally transparent with yourself about how much money you have and what you can afford to spend, you’ll become more aware of your spending habits and realize there are some really easy ways you can improve them.
The Effects of Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses
At first, I tried to keep up with the Joneses (aka all of my friends — many of whom are aerospace engineers). We were going out to eat on a whim, taking beach volleyball classes, attending concerts, and going on trips.
I kept up the facade that everything was awesome as a freelancer, even though it wasn’t.
I was quickly blowing through everything I had saved before my layoff. But I didn’t want to be “that friend.” You know, the one who never had money and had to say “no.” The one who never got to travel or buy nice clothes or go to a concert.
I “deserved to fit in” because I was comparing myself with my friends and defining success on their terms. It was all very superficial.
What Happens When You Don’t Compare Yourself to Others?
After a couple of years living like this, my immediate savings were gone and I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was getting close to needing to dip into retirement savings to pay my rent and bills.
So I became that friend who said “no,” spending evenings in yoga pants and watching Netflix.
There were many times when I felt sorry for myself — when I felt that I had taken too many steps back in life. I especially felt bad seeing my friends’ travel pictures on Facebook.
I began my own personal finance website in 2012 without much thought. It was private at first, but I eventually started telling people I knew. Over the next three years, I watched it grow. I kept at it, even though I still sometimes struggled financially when freelance work was slow.
It wasn’t until the last two years as a freelancer that it really hit me what success means. It’s not defined by the number in your bank account, nor the clothes on your back.
I had to define my happiness and success in my own unique way. To me, that was having the perseverance and grit to keep my business going, finding new ways to make money, thinking outside the box, and being creative and innovative.
I built my company and brand from the ground up with no one to help me. For that I am proud. (Though if you need an extra hand, companies like LegalZoom and MyCorporation can help you get your business off the ground.)
So if you’re struggling to find success in your own life because, perhaps, times are tough and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I urge you to re-evaluate your idea of success and happiness. You get to define it. To compare yourself with someone else is a waste of time.
Additional reporting by Emma Finnerty.