How to Stop Keeping up With the Joneses
We all know ¡°that¡± family... the happy, perfect family who seems to
have it all. Everyone has a ¡°Jones¡± family on their block and while
some shrug their shoulders and don't care that the ¡°Jones¡± just brought
home a new Mercedes, others feel as if they need to not only keep up but
to outdo this neighbor or even friend. If you feel compelled to keep up
with the Joneses but want to stop pursuing a potentially limitless
competitiveness, there are few steps you can take to get off the ¡°one
1Think about what causes you to react to the Joneses' affluence or
actions. What lies at the heart of wanting to keep up with this family?
There¡¯s usually a deeper reason as to why you want to keep up with the
Joneses and it¡¯s not just because you want a new yacht. Dig down deep
inside to try to find the reason why you may feel compelled to ¡°one up¡±
someone else:<Career frustrations. If you¡¯ve been feeling like a hamster
on a wheel at work, where you work harder but don¡¯t seem to get
anywhere, you may be feeling a little stung by another¡¯s material
accolades. It can be tempting to assume that someone else is having it a
lot easier than youandgetting nice rewards to boot.
Low self worth. Feel as if you can¡¯t make friends without impressing
people or ¡°wowing¡± them with money or a display of a perfect life? If
you're light in the wallet, you may feel as if you can¡¯t make friends or
keep them without having impressive items and instead of realizing this
as an unrealistic way to make friendships, you might be cursing your lack
of funds for your lack of keeping up with others.
Personal life troubles. If an area of your personal life is under attack
and your self esteem is at risk, it can be tempting to look for the
¡°quick and easy¡± fix to feeling superior to others. The term ¡°the one
who dies with the most toys wins¡± is one that isn¡¯t lost on you¨C¨Cyou
believe that material wealth definitely will buy you the kingdom, all the
while resolving any personal issues that are upsetting you currently.
Tough childhood. Those who may have been raised to ¡°do without¡± may
yearn for big homes and fancy cars as an adult. Seeing another family who
achieves this type of status may be something you believe should be yours
so you aim to keep up. On the other hand, many children who grow up in
lower income families may be more grateful and accepting of material
items they work for and earn rather than feel as if they deserve them
because they ¡°missed out¡± during childhood.
2Consider which aspect you're trying to match or catch up with. Although
more than often it¡¯s all about the money, sometimes it's several aspects
a Jones-type family exudes that drives people insane, including
relationships and work prestige. Some examples of non-monetary spurs to
competing include:Perfect marriage. Every time you bump into them,
they're all smiles, cuddles and full of mutual support. You worry that
the grouching you and your spouse have going at the moment has something
deeper to it than sleepless nights with a new baby and too many work
deadlines, but this nagging only seems to appear whenever you come across
this perfect couple.
Perfect kids. You've heard that they've got straight As, lead the sports
teams and don't answer back. You're wondering if all that critical
thinking and "follow your heart's desire" chats you've been teaching your
kids were such a good idea after all when you see the Jones' well-behaved
pack move in synchronicity.
Tons of money. It does seem that they have a great deal more money than
you¨C¨Cthat car, those clothes, the membership of the local club you feel
you can only aspire to...
Impressive career. You're not quite sure what it is they do but the CEO
title seems most impressive. You wonder whether it's worth struggling
with biking to work every day to sit in a cubicle and mull over office
papers when you could be soaring like your neighborly CEOs.
3Take the aspects of the Jones' life that you think you're envious of and
break them down into a few reality chunks. By doing this, you will start
to see that your hankering for their lifestyle contains some major flaws.
Taking the examples above, let's check out the other possibilities and
things you can learn aboutyourself:Perfect marriage. It may seem like
they have a sublime marriage without hiccups. Of course, what you see
isn¡¯t always what you get. Even though happy husband and wife may be
kissing each other on the front porch every morning before he or she
heads off to work, this doesn¡¯t mean it¡¯s rainbows and sunshine at
home. Moreover, they may have been through rough patches and resolved
them, while you're still navigating one; that's just an issue of timing,
Perfect kids. Straight A¡¯s and the captain of the football team or head
cheerleader living next door can make you feel inadequate in the
parenting department. Yet, achievements like these don't mean that a
parent has raised the perfect child and who knows what the honors kids
are doing under the cover of being "perfect". Pushing a child to ¡°be
like¡± someone else¡¯s kid will only create internal turmoil and trouble,
plus you don¡¯t really know what is going on inside the other families.
Tons of money. In a credit-driven society, many people will give the
illusion that they are loaded, when in reality they owe the shirt off
their back and some. Even if the other family does make a ton of money,
for argument¡¯s sake, how are they doing it? If it¡¯s due to years of
education, tremendous hard work and determination, take notes on how to
get ahead in your career and not what they recently purchased. If it
involves them working all hours of the day and never spending time with
those perfect kids, well, perhaps you're the one who has made the right,
albeit poorer, choice.
Impressive career. If George Jones is a car salesman, just like you, but
seems to be doing so much better, use his success as a motivator not a
point of contention. Sometimes people are pushed to excel andthink
outside the boxwhen they witness the success of another. However, if
George is a rocket scientist, perhaps you should marvel at the fact you
have a rocket scientist as a neighbor and instead appreciate his success
instead of trying to compete with it. Have some good yarns with him
instead of trying to score yards over him.
4Ponder how your obsession with keeping up is impacting your life. How
obsessed are you with keeping up? In some cases, a little dose of envy
can be a healthy motivator that goes a long way to light a fire under
what was a dormant career or relationship in your life. However, if
you're constantly keeping tabs or score, consider the fact that you have
an unhealthy obsession that must come to an end.Stop keeping track what
they're doing. Even in the case where the Jones are your close friends,
take the object of your obsession (money, relationships etc.) out of the
equation to free yourself from this narrowed focus. For example, if
you're obsessed with how well the Jones kids do in school, commit to keep
all conversations with the family to other topics and not the kids. Or,
open yourself up to learning about what it is that is inspiring these
achievements, so that you can borrow their experience and tailor it to
your own parenting.
5Reflect on your personal goals and achievements. Sometimes when you
become overly focused on what someone else is doing, you forget about how
far you¡¯ve come in your own right or you take for granted the
achievements you¡¯ve made.Revisit original goals, hopes and
dreams¨C¨Cchances are, they have nothing to do with the Joneses. They may
simply have become an excuse or an indicator of your internal
restlessness to get yourself back on track with your own goals.
6Think of the worst case scenario and then work back from there. What
would happen if you were able to keep up? If you are still clinging on to
the notion that you need to keep up or exceed the accomplishments of
another family, take a good look at what would happen if you actually did
reach your goal.Make a list of how you would be better off if you had
that Mercedes or bought that big house. Be sure to include the cons of
the result so that your list is balanced!
Consider every aspect of your life including your financial and personal
well being. Is your life truly better or would you be strapped with an
overwhelming financial burden and an unhappy family?
What is your trajectory if you carry on as you are now? What improvements
do you want to make? Are you ready to get on with making them now?
7Pursue the things that you care about in abundance. Whether
it'svolunteeringon the weekend, writing at nights, teaching your kids the
periodic tables or painting a mural on your outside wall, indulge in the
things that really fire up your creativity and take you into the flow
state of true joy. Money and status are poor substitutes for finding your
sweet spot of creativity and the more you indulge in this, the more
fulfilled you will be.
8Share yourself around. When it comes to keeping up with another family,
keep in mind that you're the only one keeping score. If you're truly
interested in impressing the neighborhood, do it with your kindness or
generosity. Be there for people, lend a helping hand, be a listening post
and offer wanted advice when needed. Let people know they can come to you
for support. Offer your wisdom to the community and the Joneses will be
genuinely impressed instead of being bemused by someone mimicking their
Tap into your interests and creativity and invest in an activity or
endeavor that you¡¯ve always wanted to try. For example, if sculpting or
acting is dream you¡¯ve shelved in the past, dust off that dream and take
a class or try out for community theater¨C¨Cdo something that will
invigorate your true interests.
Realize that we all have different dreams and different ideas of what
fulfill us. Unfortunately, sometimes we confuse what we want with what we
think we want because it has been socially driven through the media,
peers and other pressures. It's important to remind yourself of this
regularly and ask yourself why you want something that someone else has
before assuming it's a good thing for you to want too.
Status goods can never make up for what isn't inside of you. Money,
expensive "toys" and clothing, jewels and overseas trips will not fill
the emptiness of a character that lacks or internal happiness. Spend more
time developing aspects of yourself that you feel are lacking than in
trying to paper over these parts of yourself with baubles.
Look honestly at their choices and yours. It's not uncommon for people
who keep up with the Joneses to be in a situation of mutual envy. They
have more money but you're better at managing the bills and don't wind up
running out of food at the end of the month. They have a fancy car but
you have the latest gaming computer and a truly enviable collection of
games. Because you chose to keep more pocket money for games, you chose
an economy car - and every time you mention getting the latest release,
Jones the Mercedes owner is grating his teeth in frustration. Often the
grass is greener on both sides of the fence! Break that cycle by becoming
more comfortable with your own choices.
Keeping up with the Joneses can often lead to financial destruction.
Before you go on a spending spree to keep up with someone else, take a
hard look at your finances.You do not need objects to prove your self
Every bauble, every object, every item owned needs to be dusted,
maintained and housed. It will clamor for your attention and can lure you
away from things you'd rather be doing, just because you paid so much for
it or you feel obliged to show it off. Think carefully before filling up
your life with trophies.
If you're living above your means, stop now. If you're living within your
means, keep it up. If you're successfully frugal enough to live
comfortably below your means with a steady habit of savings, you will
definitely get the last laugh. Put your credit card in the freezer if
you're weak willed!
It is quite possible that the Joneses are broke but are juggling it all
between credit cards and meals of toast. Be careful what you're envious
Watch out for One-Upmanship games. If you mention something positive,
like your kid's pulling up a D minus into a solid B in his worst subject,
Jones will congratulate you and mention his daughter got Straight A's in
it and an A plus last semester. It's easy to get hooked into his view of
it and think your kid's not as good. Truth is, your kid has a bigger
accomplishment coming up from behind. He won't try that hard again if you
rag on him about beating the girl next door who loves his worst subject
and has a talent in it.
If they seem to have more money, look closer and discuss finances with
them. They're either very good at living frugally, have a lot more money
to start with or they're living on credit keeping up appearances. That
last is more common among One-Upmanship players than it looks. They're
the one consumed with envy of you for things you take for granted. They
bought all the power tools Home Depot has to offer but you may have
better skills with a smaller tool set.
Sources and Citations
joneses/¨C research source
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses¨C history on the
source of the idiom "keeping up with the Joneses"