Comparison syndrome. We all fall victim to it. Comparing yourself to someone else can almost seem like a natural instinct. When it comes to comparing your financial journey to others however, doing this can seem like comparing apples to oranges.
Maybe you’ve seen someone else pay off their debt faster and you start wondering why you haven’t done the same. Or your friend might tell you about an awesome trip they’re going on and you start to question why your budget is too tight to afford travel at the time. You look online to see an article shared about someone who reached financial independence at the age of 32 while you’re the same age and have barely started saving for retirement.
Comparing your financial journey to other people’s path can make you feel everything from self-conscious to inadequate about your own life and financial situation. The best move would be to avoid comparing altogether but I know that’s easier said than done. If you truly want to stop comparing your journey to other people’s path, here are some tips to help.
Realize That Comparing is a Waste of Time
Seriously I mean this literally, figuratively and any other way that you want to receive it. Comparing yourself to others is about as productive as complaining. It takes up time and mental space while doing nothing to improve your situation.
A few weeks ago, I had my debt payoff story shared on a major TV network. The article and video was shared on social media and I did what I was advised not to do and looked at some of the comments. Most of them were positive, but some were super critical.
One person said something like: “How old was her child and what were her childcare costs? Doing what she did with a young child would be nearly impossible because daycare is so expensive.”
Another said: “This is not realistic for people who are in their 50s”… or something like that.
While the first commenter had a valid point, I could tell she was clearly comparing her situation to mine and it wasn’t doing her any favors. Sure, the article and video about me was brief and any normal person would have questions or want to know more details. I have no problem with that. However, comparing your situation to mine and using it to discourage you from making progress is not going to help anyone.
Sometimes when I see people’s financial success stories, I take them with a grain of salt. I realize that not everything that person did or experienced will resonate with me. That’s okay! What I’m not going to do is waste my time or energy making comparisons and complaining about it online. Instead, let’s all choose to take a piece of advice or a strategy from someone’s results and apply it to our lives. No need to try to copy every move someone makes. Start viewing someone else’s progress as inspiration rather than an excuse to make meaningless comparisons.
Understand That You Never Truly Know What Someone’s Life Is Like
Social media has opened the door to many people making assumptions about each other’s lives. Each of us can post anything we want and manipulate our feed to make our life look better than it actually is. Personally, sometimes I feel like you can’t really win on social media at times. If you share too much positive things about your life, you come off as bragging or trying to paint an unrealistic picture of your reality. If you post about too many drawbacks, you’re being negative, uninspiring, and oversharing. Maybe the point is to find a happy medium somewhere in between?
Nevertheless, social media gives us this false sense that truly understand every aspect of people’s lives and what goes on behind closed doors. Just because someone bought a house, is traveling the world, or is always dining out doesn’t mean they have a ton of money or are financially stable. In fact, it doesn’t have to mean anything.
One time when I was deep in my debt repayment journey, I saw a friend of mine constantly posting about her travels for a few weeks. She went to Ireland and a few other places that I had on my travel list. I started comparing and feeling bad about my situation.
What I didn’t know what that this person was going through a difficult breakup after being engaged for some time. The relationship ultimately fell apart and she had a sum of money saved up for the wedding and honeymoon that could now be redirected toward something else – like travel.
Don’t be quick to make judgments or comparisons because you never truly know what someone’s financial situation is.
Stick to Your Plan
What is your financial plan? In other words, what are your goals for your money and how do you plan to get there. Everyone’s financial goals are going to be different. Keep in mind that there are so many different seasons in life, but things don’t stay the same forever.
There was a time when I was being super frugal and throwing everything I had toward debt. Other years, I was focusing on splurging a little bit or growing my business. Then, I got into my homeownership season where I started setting more money aside for home and repairs. Acknowledge whatever season of life you’re in and own it.
Develop a plan that helps take you from where you are currently and where you need to be. This may involve everything from using a specific budgeting style, to how many hours you work, or how much you are able to save each month. Track your progress over time and this will help you stay focused. When you see other people doing or not doing something with their finances, you will be able to focus on your path instead of making pointless comparisons.
Show a Little Gratitude
Another way to stop comparing your financial journey to other people’s path is to prioritize gratitude in your life. Take a few minutes each day to think about what you’re truly grateful for. This can be big things or smaller aspects of your life.
You may even want to start journaling about these things for 5-10 minutes per day. Trust me, this can do wonders for your mindset and your overall perspective. It also puts the positive things in the forefront of your mind for the day.
Often when we make comparisons, it’s almost like a put down to ourselves and the work we’re doing. Instead, start focusing on what you have done instead of what you haven’t done.
Comparing your financial journey to other people’s path is a complete waste of time and a habit that you’ll likely want to give up sooner than later. Realize that it’s a process that will take time. You have to start with your thoughts and acknowledge that you’re doing it first. Then, take these steps to redirect yourself back to reality so you can focus on your own path and financial goals.
Keep in mind that everyone’s path is different because we all have different goals, circumstances, privileges, and disadvantages. At the end of the day, be grateful for where you’re at and keep moving forward with your finances.