Why You’ll Never Be Happy Keeping Up With the Joneses

7101747453_01da2a1bef_zMany of us have gotten the message, however there are still a large number of people and families chasing after the “privileged” life of the Joneses.  Having been a troll of the Joneses for many years, my family and I have finally learned the truth about the perceived happiness of the Joneses’ lifestyle, and friends, it’s all based on a web of lies.  We’d like to share with you today what we’ve learned about the lifestyle of the Joneses, and why we believe you’ll never be happy keeping up with the Joneses’

Keeping up with the Joneses – Why it Always Disappoints

Keeping up with the Joneses is a Life Based on Selfishness

You see, the thing about selfishness is although it promises satisfaction, what it really leads to is emptiness.  Nearly every study shown on selfishness proves that humans are much happier when they are lovingly and selflessly serving others.  The Joneses live their lives always searching to satisfy “me, me and more me”, however, it leaves them only feeling more and more empty, looking for the next spend that will, they hope, bring them their next “high”.  But the high always goes away, and the void always returns.

Looking for a permanent fill to that void?  Find a charity that you can serve that grabs your heart and see how wonderful (and fulfilling) serving others really is.  Stop chasing the empty promise that “stuff” will give you what you need.

Keeping up with the Joneses is a Life Based on a Desire to Seek Approval from Others

Often times when we’re looking to match the Joneses lifestyle, it’s because we desire the approval of others.  The irony in this, though, is that most people will never give us that approval for more than a brief time period.  Why?  Because they, too, are often looking to be accepted by the biggest and the best, and there will always be someone cooler/richer/”better” than you, at which point the approval you thought you had from those you thought you admired will be long gone, leaving you again searching for other ways to gain acceptance and approval from your peers or those whom you want to be associated with.  Don’t let yourself fall prey to the lie that if you have enough stuff, that others will accept you or approve of you.  Instead, learn to love yourself and accept yourself just as you are, even as you work on your “faults”, and others will do the same.  And if they don’t, who cares?

No “thing” you can buy will ever make you feel truly happy, and no person or group of people will ever make you feel truly accepted.  Any time you’re looking outside of yourself for approval or happiness, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.  True peace and contentment comes only from within your spirit and from following your heart, not from the outside, short-term gratification of other people or things.

Keeping up with the Joneses is a Life Full of Deception

Things do not have the ability to satisfy, at least not long-term, and popularity is fleeting.   But like a drug, the Joneses lifestyle works to convince you that if you simply have all of the money/possessions/freedoms/approval you want, you’ll be happy.  That happiness, however is always short-lived.   This is why you see people with nothing being happy and people with more than they know what to do with being miserable.   Pride and low self-esteem, which are at the root of our need to keep up with the Joneses, are one in the same.  They’re both based on an over-attention to self, an inward focus, based on a need to feel loved and accepted.  And the Joneses have cornered the market on convincing folks that the lifestyles of the rich and famous will usher in that love, acceptance and happiness.  The truth, however, is that once you stop looking to outward people and stuff to fill that inward void, and start dissecting the reasons why you haven’t accepted yourself as you are, you’ll then learn to reject the lies that tell you you’re not “good enough”, and start focusing on what truly brings purpose and meaning to your life.

Photo by Flick Creative Commons

78 comments

  1. Michelle says:

    I agree Laurie! No one will ever be happy keeping up with the Joneses. It’s always best just to do your own thing and do what makes you happy.

  2. SavvyJames says:

    “Stop chasing the empty promise that ‘stuff’ will give you what you need.” Couldn’t agree more.

    There is nothing wrong with trying to emulate positive characteristics and habits of people you admire in an attempt to get you and your family to a better place. However, that is entirely different than buying ‘stuff’ you can’t afford to keep up with someone or in some lame attempt to show that you are ‘better’ than someone.

    As Will Rogers noted, “Too Many People Buy Things They Don’t Need, With Money They Don’t Have, Trying To Impress People They Don’t Like.”

    • Laurie says:

      LOVE that quote, James!!! And love what you said about the lame attempt to show you are better than someone else. Reminds me of the hamster in the hamster wheel, spinning round and round, assuming he’s going somewhere.

  3. I pursued the Joneses for 13 years and I never felt good about myself or all of the stuff I had. The sad thing, though, is that I wasn’t even aware I was pursuing the Joneses. I think so many of us do it and don’t even stop to ask ourselves why. Once I stopped caring, though, it was truly liberating. It’s a gift to not worry about others and focus on your own happiness.

    • Laurie says:

      It is liberating, isn’t it?? I almost take pleasure now in going against the grain and in NOT having the latest greatest whatever. 🙂

  4. So true, Laurie. One of the greatest myths about the Joneses is that you can actually keep up with them. There is always someone else who supposedly lives better than you. One lesson I regularly work on with the girls is to help be able to admire and appreciate the things others while also appreciating what you have too. To not let their things diminish the things you have.

  5. Lance says:

    I need a black truck and a big camper trailer to keep up in my neighborhood, but I don’t care. I have my finances in order and have a family that has everything they want for now and in the future…so I don’t need that camper or truck to make me feel better. Funny how we spend so much time trying to be like other people instead of just finding happiness being ourselves.

    • Laurie says:

      Lance, AWESOME comment! Thank you, and good for you for doing what’s best for you instead of what’s coolest in the neighborhood.

  6. Well said. Trying to keep up with the Joneses will only leave you wanting more and more.

    We’ve all been there and that’s why most of us got into debt, but as soon as you see that what you have is enough then your life starts looking better and better.

  7. Iforonwy says:

    Too true,too true! But when I see that phrase “Keeping Up with the Joneses” I laugh out loud. My family name is Jones and my late father would always say “Well folk won’t need to try too hard to keep up with us!”

    I have spoken before about my parent’s small business and their philosophy of life. Everything related to the business had to be paid for first and then we could take from what was left – quite often that meant my mother with an almost empty purse and always making do and mending.

    Dad’s other philosophy was “If you don’t work you don’t eat” and I think he must have been an early proponent of the multiply income streams. He did so many things, our small business – my parents were funeral directors, his carpenty skills making and revamping furniture, small handyman jobs – great at fixing a broken window or door-locks, a retained fireman, a sign writer, designer and painter of posters for amateur dramatics. You name it he would have a go. He was also a great at entering competitions and that was where the little luxuries came from.

    Once again Laurie you have hit the nail on the head! Thank you.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, that’s so funny! I love it that your parents tried whatever and did whatever they had do to. That mindset, IMHO, is the epitome of success in the human race.

  8. anna says:

    Great post, Laurie – I agree keeping up with the Joneses can be a life of deception, especially since they’re not really one’s own personal goals to make them happy, but really a facade. If someone is only your friend because you’re able to keep up, where’s the genuineness in that.

  9. Kathy says:

    Too often the Jones are good at presenting the illusion of wealth without actually having wealth. I think Dr. Thomas Stanley summed it up best in “The Millionaire Next Door” when he talked about the Big Hat No Cattle syndrome that a wealthy Texan he interviewed spoke about. Too many people have the big hat that many wealthy Texans wear,but no cattle to produce the income required to sustain the spending.

  10. Even Steven says:

    I think of keeping up with the Jones as a roller coaster ride that keeps going up and up and up and well you get the picture, the fun isn’t about the trip up and that’s what you are doing the whole time trying to climb to the top of a roller coaster that just keeps going higher.

  11. Pauline says:

    No good can come from comparing yourself to others. But for some reasons the Joneses also have a need to feel like they belong, and will ask you why you live life as you do. If they feel uncomfortable with your lifestyle, they can attack you back. That is what I find the weirdest.

  12. Perfectly said, Laurie! This is exactly how I feel. Mr. FW and I want to live a life of purpose and intention, and we don’t need to spend a lot of money in order to do so.

  13. I love the comment someone made about how Keeping Up With the Joneses would be a great name for a TV show. The question is, would anyone watch??!?

    Well said Laurie. I think any time you are buying something because it will “help you fit in with others,” more than likely it means that you do not need to be buying it!

  14. Also, just as you think you’ve caught up with one family of Joneses, there’s always another Joneses that have even MORE that you have to catch up with! Happy people are not thankful….thankful people are happy. Be thankful for the blessings that you have!

  15. So true! My friend and I were talking about this last night, and how the unhappiest people we know are still seeking approval and attention from other people. They cannot find happiness within themselves and so they are reliant on other people, so when those people disappoint, and they always do, their happiness tanks and they try to fill a void.

  16. Excellent post Laurie and great points. I definitely see people chasing the Joneses because they want approvals from others. “The older I get the less I care what others think of me, therefore, the older I get the more I enjoy life.” Unfortunately, it seems many haven’t learned this valuable lesson…though I understand it is human nature to seek approval.

  17. Kim says:

    Nope, things do not make you happy. When we had the most stuff, we were the most miserable. Having goals for the future and people to share them with are worth much more.

  18. Hard to argue with you, Laurie. It’s also interesting how “keeping up with the joneses” is entirely relative. If you work and live around people who make, say $50k annually it’s going to be entirely differently than if you live and work with people who make $200k annually. There’s always going to be a “next-level” Joneses to keep up with, making it a futile thing to pursue.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, DC!! Great point. We saw this all the time when we lived in our affluent suburb. The people in the inner city where I grew up all had to have nice trucks: crummy houses were okay. In the suburb, it was fancy this, that and everything. 🙂

  19. I definitely used to want to keep up with the Joneses and in my family I was the Joneses. I had a good job and earned more than many of my family members did. I didn’t have any debt, but I wasn’t making great choices with my money either. 🙂 And it shames to admit it now, but I did buy things thinking about how impressed others would be. Such a dumb thing to do. I was young and now I am much, much smarter!

  20. It can be hard to stop trying to keep up. Even now that I’m more aware of my financial situation and how my emotions affect it, it’s still hard to recognize when I’m just trying to “keep up with the Joneses” or “keep up appearances”. It’s easier to recognize overall, but still hard sometimes.

    • Laurie says:

      Kayla, you will get there: I have no doubt. When we moved out to the country and were able to see the masses from the outside looking in, that really helped us a lot.

  21. Michelle says:

    There is always someone who has something better and more expensive. It would be terrible hard to live that life of always wanting. We are working on being content with what we have.

    • Laurie says:

      It’s absolutely not a bad thing, when we want things for the right reasons. Wanting things because we believe that we and our families will enjoy them and find value from them is good, wanting things because others have them or because we believe we’ll find acceptance because we have those things is bad.

  22. “…once you stop looking to outward people and stuff to fill that inward void, and start dissecting the reasons why you haven’t accepted yourself as you are…” I think that’s key. The thing is, it seems easier to “fill the void” with approval and things from the outside. We are so often very resistant to the inner work of honesty, humility, and letting go. Great post, Laurie!

  23. Catherine says:

    The thing is that people confuse the temporary happiness if the item with what true happiness is, it can be a vicious state to get into but we all fall victim to it.

  24. Christina says:

    As a former Jones by name (that’s all I’ll confess to right now…;)). You hit the nail on the head and it comes at such an appropriate time for me to read as we are switching gears and seeking a more minimalist lifestyle!! Great writing and delivery of message!!

  25. Good point Laurie! We can’t really ever keep with with the Joneses. That’s the truth. I have tried it before, but it did’t bring me anything good. Just admire and appreciate the things we have. Be satisfied with what we have and who we are. No kinds of envy and jealousy in life…

  26. Kim @ Simpugal says:

    Great post; resonates powerfully right now. Reminds me of an excellent book – Happy Money: The science of smarter spending. Borrowed from our local library; a quick, terrific, + very much related read. Thanks so much for sharing your journey + observations!

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