We used to talk about people who were obsessed with “keeping up with the Joneses”, but now it’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and comparisonitis.
The difference being that the former was about making sure we had everything our neighbours had, that we looked just as successful as them; the latter is comparing your life to someone else’s and finding yourself lacking.
Competing vs comparing.
“You remember Michael, he dropped out of high school in year 10? I went to his facebook page and there were photos of him and his family in Moscow. I’ve never been to Moscow! How can a dropout afford that when I’ve always worked, I’m in a good job! And Susan, did you see that she’s got this enormous house in Burradoo? I can’t believe that, I still live in a tiny three-bedroom in Braemar!”
But you know what? Susan and Michael are looking at your life and going through the same fears: they’re looking at how close your family is, that your daughter took you to see Adele last year but their daughter doesn’t even come home most weekends, that you have a career that you love, that lights you up, but they’re working in jobs they hate, that bring in money but drain away their energy.
Social media and TV are a barrage of how we "should" be living our lives, what "everyone else" is doing and you are not. Comparisonitis beats a drum in your head - "why not me, why not me?"
When I start feeling like I’ve failed because I haven’t made that trip to Moscow, I ask myself these questions:
Am I happy?
Am I doing what I love?
When I’m not looking at someone else’s life, do I feel there is something missing?
The answers should be “yes, yes, no.” If they’re not, then you need to look at what “you” are missing, not what you think you "should" be doing.
If I judged my life by your life, by TV shows, but what I see on Facebook, then I’ve failed. But if you judge your life based on mine, you’ve failed too. Stop comparing, stop thinking you're less than because your life is different to mine, and I will too.
Ditch the comparisonitis!
- Linda is an art therapist and social worker.