BY DEREK REIMHERR
If you’re anywhere near our age...Welcome to you mid-20s! What an exciting time of your life!
You graduated college/completed trade school/finished an apprenticeship.
You got your first job and maybe your first promotion.
You’ve probably moved out of your family’s house and are living with roommates or on your own for the first time.
You have at least some disposable income to afford some of the things you’ve been wanting like traveling to an exotic place, a new TV, or a wardrobe refresh.
With all of this happening, why wouldn’t we be incredibly stoked with our lives? Sure, we have career aspirations and would like to make more money so we can pay off that crippling student debt. But all good things take time, right?
Unfortunately (fortunately?), we live in the age of social media and constant connectedness. (never heard that one before). So while we’re moseying along doing our own thing, so are our friends. And here’s what they’re doing, according to Instagram:
- Meeting the love of their life and getting married
- Starting a family
- Traveling to Europe for 3 weeks and taking amazing pictures in Santorini
- Buying a house
- Getting their dream promotion making $85,000
- Becoming debt-free
- Investing in the stock market and saving beaucoup bucks for retirement
And that's just what I came up with off the top of my head. When you look at that list, it’s easy to think, "What the heck am I doing sitting here eating Doritos and watching HGTV?" Side note, #guilty.
It’s natural for us to look to our left and look to our right, comparing ourselves to what is going on in other people’s lives. It really is. But as famous pastor Andy Stanley calls it, this is a comparison trap.
At the end of the day, you don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Sure, it’s always possible that your peer has rich/wealthy parents who are feeding them money. If that’s the case, lucky them.
What’s more likely is one of the following scenarios:
- They chose a more challenging college major and gained relevant work experience throughout college, starting them off at a higher salary and more prestigious job.
- They were more involved in extracurricular activities/social groups which enabled them to meet new people, like their current significant other.
- They worked extra hard after business hours to learn a valuable skill or gain an advanced degree so they could switch industries or advance their career.
- They’re able to travel so extensively because they live with 3 roommates and save a ton of money.
- They're able to buy a house because they lived in a cheap apartment with their significant other for 4 years.
- They made smart investments in the stock market 10 years ago and are able to cash out now.
- They’re starting a family, but they’ve struggled with medical problems and have spent thousands of dollars in doctor’s visits and treatments.
- They’re buying a brand new luxury vehicle, but going into $35,000 or more of debt.
There are so many scenarios that can explain why your friends are doing things you just WISH you could be doing.
You never know what’s at play behind the scenes. Sometimes they’ve made incredibly smart decisions. Sometimes they’ve overcome extraordinary odds to get where they are. Sometimes they’re being unwise with time, money, or relationships in an effort look successful.
Here’s a personal example. I decided to make a career change and switch from the automotive industry to marketing services aka agency life. I’m very happy now and I have incredible job opportunities and growth ahead.
But there was an opportunity cost. I lost the chance to continue advancing at my previous company where the pay for a non-technical job for a 20-something was (in my opinion) quite lucrative. People who started at the company at the same time as me are making upwards of $75,000 if you include perks. It’s easy for me to look at those Facebook promotion announcements and feel a pang of envy.
What’s the point? I made a decision I’m content with, so what does it matter? I’m happy for my former co-workers. Thing is, their decisions come with costs, though. Most of them are traveling Monday-Friday every week. When you’re single, that can work. But as a newlywed, it made less sense.
It's so easy to get caught up in what someone else is doing, forgetting to think about all the context of your life and theirs. Everyone has their own path. Everyone deals with their own struggles or blessings. When you compare your highlight reel to someone else’s, you're doing yourself and that person a disservice.
If you’re unhappy, be unhappy because you’re not meeting your own goals, not because you’re not following in the footsteps of a friend or peer. You’ll be better off being self-motivated than motivated by someone else’s accomplishments.
Practice contentment. Practice thoughtfulness. You’ve made the decisions you’ve made for a reason. If that means you need to uninstall Instagram from your phone, do it. I promise you're not going to miss it.