Don’t be pressured in to keeping up appearances!
Guest post by Debbie Fletcher
We all know them; people whose lifestyles we yearn for. The big house, the nice car, the holidays to the Caribbean, the glamorous social events. Social media has created a society where we see snapshots of lives, and usually the highlights rather than lowlights – that then breeds admiration at best, but jealousy and resentment at worst. You can choose to ignore them, or admire them, or simply copy them – and this can be deadly. Here are five reasons that you shouldn’t attempt to ‘Keep up with the Joneses’.
#1 | It’s a dangerous game
Do you know the financial arrangements of ‘the Joneses’? And if not, why are you trying to mimic the things they do?
Your own circumstances should dictate what you do and how you spend your money, and save you from plunging yourself into unnecessary debt because of what someone else does. According to the TUC, household debt stood at £13,000 in the UK per household at the start of the year, excluding mortgage payments. One can assume that a hefty portion of that amount – totalling a mammoth £349 billion – is based on spending that people can’t really afford.
There’s also the flip side of the argument; the person you’re copying might possess a stack of maxed-out credit cards and lie awake at night struggling with debt, wondering how they’re going to pay their electricity bills or mortgage. They might be selling off heirlooms and memorabilia to build a façade of happiness, teetering on the edge of losing it all. Is that something you’d like to copy as well?
If you do find yourself in debt arrears, don’t panic, there are people who can help. Many organisations offer specialist debt support, and the government’s Money Advice Service have put together a free tool which can point you in the direction of a support service near you. You can take a look at the tool here.
#2 | You don’t know their sacrifices
Let’s be honest; what other people do shouldn’t be your concern. You may have no idea of the journey they’ve been on, the skills they possess, the work they’ve put into getting there and the type of sacrifices they make. That sports car on the drive might be the result of two years of working evenings and weekends, or a brilliant command of the stock market. In these circumstances, trying to mimic their lifestyle is counter-productive and potentially impossible unless you’re willing to commit to the same sacrifices. Even if you could potentially live that life, do you want to? We’ve all heard the stories of people working themselves towards illness and stress, just to pay for a few luxuries.
Lifehack describes eight sacrifices that successful people make, such as sleep, health, family and… sanity. Writer Thuy Yau says: “I have been happily married for almost seven years, but we’ve had our challenges. There are times where I have sacrificed time with my husband to finish an article on time…. there are nights in which I plan to take a break from writing and I fall asleep on the couch… these goals and aspirations for the future are meant to test us, challenge us, and help us to realise how badly we really want them.”
Do you want that lifestyle?
#3 | It can be awkward and weird
Think about it from the Jones’ point of view. If they have no awareness that you’re following their lead then it doesn’t matter – but if they’re friends, colleagues or family members and realise that two months after they buy a car/boat/holiday/kitchen you do the same, they’ll soon pick up on it.
It’s a difficult tightrope, because wanting to be like another person is a backhanded compliment; people to whom you’re close tend to like at least some of the same things you do; hobbies, fashion, music, and holidays. It can even be the way people speak. This example from the Guardian shows how frustrating it can be, and while you can of course do what you want, it’s not going to endear you to your object of affection if it takes on a sinister or strange complexion. That’s especially true if you buy literally the same objects – the same dress, the same car model, the same laptop.
Your counterpart might become embarrassed or angry, or just start avoiding you altogether. Perhaps they’ll just drop a comment here and there, to show that they’ve noticed. Do you want that feeling of awkwardness?
#4 | It can become obsessive
Remember copycats on the playground and how annoying they were? Most people leave it behind and do their own thing as they grow up, but some always want to do what others are doing before them… and it becomes a stalking mentality.
As mentioned before, social media is a snapshot of people’s lives, but one which we can all access and use to track exes, friends and family. Sometimes it can cross over into being in the same places and living our lives in a similar fashion, and crosses over into stalking. When that person experiences success, it drives you on to try to live your life in a similar way – which could be damaging to your mind and your wallet.
Another dangerous trend is trying to keep up with celebrities, bloggers, or those we can see on Instagram and Twitter to whom we aspire. Too many people, particularly the younger generations, are desperate to follow personalities such as Kim Kardashian and Dan Bilzerian by buying and behaving in a cut-down way; OK in moderation, less so if allowed to progress too far. How important are your idols – important enough to ruin your life?
#5 | You should be your own person
The last point is a more philosophical one – why should you care what other people do? Look at the stories of people who have achieved great things in the world, and they’ve nearly always had to break trends and follow their own mission. They’ve known what they wanted, and sometimes deliberately shied away from others. Take Elon Musk or Edison; or conversely the Beatles or Oasis. All of them built upon ideas, but didn’t try and copy or keep up with anyone else.
At your own level, use people as inspirations but never be afraid to shy away from the crowd. Don’t completely shy away from visiting the same restaurants or even buying similar items. Just don’t live your life in a way that you worry about what others are doing – be your own boss, not a slave to the Joneses.