Keeping Up with the Joneses is a Loser’s Game

We all know the Joneses, that family with the perfect home and cars, the perfect kids and marriage. And tons of money. Admit it. You’ve been trying to keep up with them, haven’t you. You want to be like them because they have it all, without any of the stress or pressure that the rest of us have to put up with.

Green Eyes Envy

There’s a Jones family on every block, in every neighborhood, church and community. Your “Joneses” might be a neighbor, friend or relative. While some may find it easy to shrug their shoulders and say they don’t care, the truth is that many people feel compelled to not only keep up with their Joneses, but to outdo them.

What we’re dealing with here is called envy. It’s the age-old monster that motivated Cain to murder his brother Abel, and the wicked Queen to poison her step-daughter, Snow White. Envy wraps its ugly green tentacles around our hearts whenever we allow what others have to stir up a painful awareness of our own lack. The monster can show up in almost any situation, and before we know it, we’re overspending and going into debt trying to keep up and  “one up.”

If you recognize that you have a problem with envy and letting others around you determine how you’ll spend your income, you’re already on the right track. You’ve just nailed the first step, which is realizing you have a problem. Now take a few more steps and soon you’ll be off that One Up Train.

Question yourself. Envy is an emotion that can be exhausting because it has to be hidden. Ask yourself, what is trying to keep up with the Joneses doing to you on the inside? Is it producing anything positive, or is it just eating you up? Be brutally honest.

Others’ feelings. How do you think it feels for your spouse, kids, loved ones and friends if you are always unsatisfied with what you have? You can’t be that much fun to live with. And if you are so unhappy with what you have, could they be thinking that you’re unsatisfied with them, too?

Change your thoughts. You thought your way into this, you can think your way out of it. You choose your thoughts and that is how you got these feelings of envy. Stop paying attention to the Joneses. Just stop it.

Their dreams or yours. The Joneses (whoever they are) don’t care what kind of SUV you drive. They won’t care if you get your kids into the prestigious school. They’re not paying attention to brand on the handbag you carry or the clothes you wear. They honestly don’t care. If you’re living your life to measure up to what others have, you’re playing a loser’s game. You’re living their dreams and not your own.

Be grateful. Instead of being envious of what you perceive that others have and striving to match it, every day for one full week, write down ten things you are grateful for–blessings in your life. Do not repeat one blessing.

Unfriend the Joneses. This is not a competition. It’s your life, your future. It will be a lot easier if you can convince yourself that they’re buried in debt trying to impress you.

Truth be told, they probably are.

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6 replies
  1. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    While this is an EXCELLENT post, sadly people can’t just “STOP” their thinking habits. We teach academics in school, but not inner life skills, which are just as, if not more, important. We’re living in a society that typically wants more and wants it fast…worse yet, we’re brainwashed into many of these “wants”. I highly recommend “Easy Life Skills You Never Learned in School”; helped me, but helped my 21 year old tremendously. Debt is just one part of the equation; if you’re head isn’t focused, bad choices could be your lot. The website is www.optimindshaping.com

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  2. Stephanie Swalwell
    Stephanie Swalwell says:

    I try not to compete financially with anyone… but I have a good friend who also ascribes to your philosophy. We sort of egg each other on in the debt pay – off, how cheapskate can I get competition. I think it’s a little healthier than the how much stuff can I accumulate, at least for my bank account – and it keeps both of us from feeling completely out of touch with the rest of the world, because we know at least one other person with similar values about what’s valuable.

    Reply
  3. Tina
    Tina says:

    I had the unfortunate luck of having a relative who was trying to keep up with the Joneses and made everyone else around them feel worthless because we didn’t meet up with the expectations. They were up to their eyeballs in debt, but proclaimed to the world they weren’t. All those possessions are useless now because cancer took them away in their 50’s. Now how valuable is everything?

    Reply
  4. DianaB
    DianaB says:

    Fortunately for me, I have never been an envious person. In fact, when someone else says something envious about another person or family or whatever, I always mention that they have different blessings than I/we do and always thank God for the blessings we have, those we need but not necessarily those we might want. It goes in the reverse as well when another person mentions something judgmental about someone’s living circumstances or what they drive or how they dress, I try to add that we have no idea what their circumstances might be and it is not for us to judge what they may be going through either on the upside or the downside. You know, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes…cast not the first stone…etc.

    Reply
  5. J
    J says:

    Thank you so much for this post today! It’s truly fitting for how I’ve been feeling lately. I keep seeing all my friends and family with new clothes or shoes (even one who’s been unemployed for months) and it was bringing me down because I haven’t had the extra money to buy anything new. It was a good reminder for me that sticking to my goal of paying down my debt and eventually being debt free is more important than keeping up with everyone else. I will continue to remind myself of all the blessings I have in my life…my house, my kids and friends. Thank you!

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