Home page Psychology blog Psychology News Comparing Ourselves with the Wrong People: Why do we always Lack Money?

Comparing Ourselves with the Wrong People: Why do we always Lack Money?

01.08.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin
Comparison with others

We constantly look at others and compare ourselves with them, but for some reason we always gravitate to those who have more.

Keith Payne, a social psychologist and an author of “The Broken Ladder: How inequality affects the way we think, live and die,” says that for a person to get rich the aim is to triple their income.

According to Payne, each person determines how much money they need to be happy according to what other people have – yet not just other people, but richer people. This is the way we form our judgments: no one compares themselves to a poor and unhappy person. 

For example, you wish to be more successful than your colleagues or neighbours and you try hard, work diligently, and finally get promoted. At first, you are overwhelmed with joy, and it seems to you that this is it – finally, there will be enough money and life is beautiful. But with an increase in income, you start to spend more. You buy more expensive things, you change your car, and your apartment to correspond to your new status. Time passes and all these things become the norm. Then you begin to compare yourself with others again – not with those who were left behind, but looking towrads new horizons. The race goes on forever because there will always be people who are richer, smarter or more beautiful.

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This is all to do with hedonic adaptation. This is the name of a person’s defence mechanism. It is the ability to get used to new circumstances quickly – both good and bad circumstances. This prevents us from being happy or sad for too long and thus protects us from nervous breakdown. It is because of this property of the human mind that the feeling of grief or happiness can be so quickly dulled, and what used to cause great experiences just becomes the norm.

It turns out that no matter how much we earn it is never enough. Social pressure and the culture of consumption contribute to the development of this problem. The ubiquitous advertising and the beautiful life of others on social networks prevent you from relaxing even for a minute.

So how do you become happy? You can try to outsmart the hedonic adaptation mechanism. To do so, you need to live every day with a feeling of gratitude for what you already have and to find reasons for joy in the little things around you. You need to wake up every day with the thought of how lucky you are and what a fine person you are. Are you young and healthy? That’s great! Do you have a picturesque view from your windows? Enjoy it every morning! Do you have small children? This is a great reason to enjoy life. There are a million reasons to be happy!