Whether we’re hard-wired for it, or it’s learned behavior, we all fall victim to the comparison trap from time to time. Whether it’s houses, cars, paychecks, toys (I’m not just talking about kids’ toys here, I’m talking grown up toys like boats, motorcycles, gourmet kitchens, tech gadgets, you name it)…from time to time we find ourselves comparing what we have against what others have.
And it’s not just when you have less, but we tend to compare just as much when we have more than others too. Read more…
Topic: Beware of the Comparison Trap
How does comparison typically make us feel? Does it make us jealous, like we’ve been slighted? Are we envious, like we deserve something too? Or maybe we feel proud and superior because we have more or better quality things? Often we fall into a comparison trap that leaves us feeling anything but good. Maybe what we should strive for (when it comes to “stuff,” any way) is to try and stop comparing altogether.
That’s not to say that there’s no place for comparison. When used as a tool to discern, and when used objectively, comparison can certainly be a good thing. Take for instance:
- Determining who is the right fit for a job or position at a company or on a team. Comparison is ok when strictly used to determine a person’s skills and qualifications to perform a job or fill a position.
- Judging the quality of products or services that we invest in. Things such as comparing prices, materials used in a product, where we’ll get the best value for an education or the experience level and ratings of a service provider…those are most definitely legitimate reasons to compare. These may actually be considered healthy reasons to compare.
But we begin to fall into the comparison trap when we begin to use it to determine our value and self worth, or even worse, the value and worth of others. When we compare ourselves to others it leads to nothing but discontentment and unhappiness. And here’s why:
- The comparison trap is one of the negative side effects of the hyper-consumer society. It tantalizes our subconscious with the false notion that our success is based on being rich, famous and having more, more, more.
- That “gotta have more” mentality automatically puts us in the race of “trying to keep up with the Joneses.” But where does that really lead us? Do we ever achieve enough? There will ALWAYS…I repeat ALWAYS be folks with more stuff. We typically turn to this set of questions regarding things and happiness:
If you’re not happy with the stuff you have now, would you be happier with twice as much? How about 10 times as much? Chances are, you’d be happier with half…
The problem with the comparison trap is that it always leads to envy, jealousy, and sometimes resentment. I know I’ve often been guilty of this in the past…and even sometimes today. Back in Episode 6 we spoke with our friend Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist. Joshua notes notes in his new book, Clutterfree With Kids, that “Comparisons are always unfair. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves with the best we presume of others.”
But, bringing it back to “stuff”, sometimes we aren’t much better than we were when we were kids, comparing what kind of tennis shoes we had or what kind of jeans we have. As we get older, the comparison trap just manifests itself differently if we don’t put it in check; what kind of car, boat, suit, purse, house, shoes, etc. What kind of job, what’s your title, benefits, perks…what your kids have, where they go to school… I’ve even seen adults one upping each other over what their adult kids do, drive, live…just perpetuating the cycle.
The bad news is it’ll always be there. But the AWESOME news is, for us, it ends when we say it ends. But we can’t end it for anyone else, they’ll always compare. But we can end it for ourselves.
There are two very simple ways to help you combat the comparison trap. They really don’t need any explanation, so we’ll just list them here. You’re smart, you can figure out the rest:
- Know and believe that experiences and people such as family and good friends will always make you happier than things ever can. And…
- When you feel yourself slipping into the comparison trap, try celebrating other’s successes instead of envying them.
So what does comparison do for us? Well, it can certainly be helpful for some things, but when we succumb to using a tool like comparison to gauge our worth, status, or standing based on things that we have or don’t have, it leads us down a slippery slope and into the comparison trap. But, much like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers…each of us has the power to escape the choke hold that comparison can put on us. Where comparison can be our kryptonite, simplicity can be our superpower.
So, do you find yourself comparing what you have against what others have? If you do, how does it make you feel? If you’ve stopped, what made you stop and how does that feel differently? We’d love to know. Be sure to leave a comment below.
Qs & Comments Segment (New):
Claire wrote in to talk about living in a small space. She suggested that Dan’s desire to live in 500 sf may be a little too tight for a family of four. She thinks that Vanessa might be more on track with 750 or more sf.
Don asked us what our approach is to home decor. He says he’s always liked simplistic home design but how we strike a balance between minimalism and still having a “homey” place to live.
April and her husband have a 6-year-old daughter and want her to be able to play and create, but need to set up better boundaries. So, April asked Vanessa a few questions, such as: What do you do with your daughter’s toys? Does she play in her room? Also does she do crafts at home and if so, do you do that on the kitchen table and just clean up for dinner?
Vanessa: Joshua Becker’s new book: Clutterfree with Kids. I love all of Joshua’s books and I honestly a little skeptical at how this book would be any different. But of course he delivers. What I like most is that it’s a simple 200 page book that has very practical advice on how to raise your kids to live clutter free. It’s not an organizing book…it’s a book about intentional parenting. Joshua gives a compelling reasons for minimalism in all of his books, but having read his books…in this one it feels like he’s writing more with conviction. It’s definitely worth the read. You can find out more at SimpleLifeTogether.com/clutterfree.
- I’m working with our friend Joel Zaslofsky of Value of Simple on a “simplicity summit” of sorts, called SimpleRev, short for simple revolution. SimpleRev will be 200+ passionate simple-living advocates. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist will be there, and even others like Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home and Mohamed Tohami of Midway Simplicity will be supporting from afar.To learn more, just go to SimpleRev.com or SimpleLifeTogether.com/rev
- Date/Location: October 3-4, 2014
- Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Venue: University of St. Thomas Downtown Campus
- Special thanks to all of you who’ve left reviews for us on iTunes. It really does help people find the show.
So here’s a shout out to:
- Don’t forget if you have questions or just want to learn more about Project 333 or Courtney Carver’s Dress With Less microcourse. You can learn more about that at SimpleLifeTogether.com/dress.
You can download a PDF of our show prep, too.
Resources and Links:
- You can help support SimpleLifeTogether.com by using our Amazon Affiliate Link for any purchases you must make. Thanks!
- Dress With Less
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