Comparison is the Enemy of Contentment (Video)

Today’s video is something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I haven’t written anything about it. It’s called “Comparison is the Enemy of Contentment.” Sounds like a catchy little phrase, but I’ve been thinking about the application to your love life. What it means to compare yourself to others and to look at other people’s lives with envy and how corrosive it can be to the result of your love life. I came up with three examples of this that I want to share with you. They don’t necessarily tie together but I think they’re thought-provoking.

The first one is a study that I remember reading in Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational.” The study went something like this. Basically, people would rather make $50,000 if their neighbors made $25,000 than make $100,000 if their neighbor’s made $200,000. You got that? In other words, people would rather make less money but do better than to make more money and do worse than the people around them. We could say, “Not me, I’d rather make more money.” Again, this is a study, I didn’t make this stuff up.

The truth is this is how we operate. We look at other people with envy. You’re better off buying the nicest house in a middle-class area than the cheapest house in a really nice area, because every day you’re going to come home and feel bad about yourself by looking around. This is an interesting way of looking at the concept of envy. We want to be happy. We want to radiate joy. It’s hard to radiate joy if you’re always looking at yourself as less than.

Nowhere is this more common than Facebook. Now, I love Facebook. I’m a really nostalgic person. I like to stay in touch with everybody I’ve ever met. I’m active on my Facebook fan page and love having conversations with people on there. Yet studies show, once again, that people who use Facebook are actually less happy when they’re using Facebook. Now, why is that? It’s the same concept. We compare ourselves to others. We look at someone else in our News Feed who just took a trip to Tahiti, and we say, “Well why haven’t I taken a trip to Tahiti?” We look at someone who just got engaged and we say, “How come I’m not engaged?” We look at someone who’s got beautiful kids, and we say, “How come I don’t have beautiful kids?” Something like that.

It becomes problematic because all we’re seeing on Facebook is a cleaned-up version of someone’s life. It’s what they choose to put out to you. It’s not reality, it’s their public image, but we think it’s the sum total of their reality. We look at people’s relationships as if they’re better than ours and it’s not necessarily true. That guy who looks so handsome with your best friend might be a jerk at home, but you can’t see that on Facebook. She’s not going to post that on Facebook. I’m not saying that you should quit Facebook, I’m saying you should be aware that when you look at other people’s lives, you don’t know the totality of it. You don’t necessarily want to walk a mile in their shoes. It’s tempting. You need to be happy with what you have.

That brings me to my third idea on comparison and envying other people’s lives. This is really out of left field. This is a movie that I remember seeing 10, 15 years ago called Serendipity. John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale. I really love this movie. Cusack is this lovelorn guy who’s searching around the world for this woman that he had this moment with. The subplot of the movie is Jeremy Piven, John Cusack’s best friend. Cusack envies him. He’s got the wife, he’s got the kids, he’s got the house. It looks wonderful. Then about two-thirds through the movie, out of nowhere, Piven announces that he is getting divorced. Cusack doesn’t see it coming, audience doesn’t see it coming, and here I am, 10, 15 years later, talking about it with you, because I didn’t see it coming. That was what was so interesting to me is that you look at this person’s life and you think it’s perfect, and yet you have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.

When you consider this and you bring this back to your real life, I want you to consider. Are you content with what you have? I married the person who is the most content. My wife could live in a cardboard box and she’d be happy, and that’s one of the things I love about her. If you’re not content, it’s hard to be happy. If you’re not happy, it’s hard to attract people to you. No one wants to step into a life where you don’t even enjoy your life, where you’re constantly dissatisfied with what you have. There’s this butterfly effect where if you’re content with what you have, you attract more people. You have more options, your confidence grows, and you can step into that role of being the CEO of your own love life. Because, the more men, the higher-quality men, you have gravitating towards you, the more it feels like you’re in control of your own destiny, instead of, “woe is me.” There’s a lot of “woe is me” when it comes to dating.

I want you guys to consider this. I want you to stop looking at other people’s lives with envy, appreciate what you have, and I want you to stay tuned till next week when I’m going to make you another video specifically about confidence. Confidence is a pretty tricky subject. I’m going to show you how to have confidence carried into your day-to-day love life and get results with your new confident self.

Thank you for listening, share your thoughts below, and stay tuned next week.

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  1. 1

    Awesome as always!

  2. 2

    This is an insightful video. It is true that comparing another person’s outsides with your insides is fruitless. However, if other people’s successes motivate you to achieve those goals by using them as role models, a little envy is not a bad thing. 

  3. 3

    Thanks Evan…a nice reminder about an obvious situation that often gets forgotten about.  I too love FB and find myself envying people’s trips to over seas or their wonderful relationship (when mine is nothing) so yeah…Im going to focus on being happy with MY LIFE and being ME from today onwards. :) 

  4. 4

    Thanks Evan. I’m burned out from dating at the moment and have often gotten Facebook envy from other people’s relationships. This is a good reminder of how fruitless it is. Oddly enough I generally haven’t envied people in other areas of my life except the romantic one. For instance, I honestly never envy people at work who are ranked higher than me and make more money, because that comes with certain responsibilities and pressures I know I’m not ready for yet. I don’t envy people’s posts about their fabulous vacations or new houses. Yet I often envy people when they get engaged or talk about their spouses. I’m trying to develop that same equanimity in dating and stop the comparisons.

  5. 5

    Evan, your content is fabulous — very insightful and helpful! Since you will be making more videos, I do have a couple of thoughts about the presentation (this compared to professional presenters). One, your words will be clearer if you slow down your speech a little bit, especially in the beginning. It felt like you were rushing through the intro to get to the meat of the content. It feels more friendly, warm, and welcoming if you take your time with the intro as well. Two, you might want to set up points to pause, both to give the viewer a chance to absorb what you’re saying and to give yourself time to relax a bit and blink. There seemed to be whole minutes-long intervals where you did not blink, and to some people that can feel “off.” [Also, there was some issue with the audio toward the end, but you probably already know that.]
    Anyway, great job, and I’m looking forward to the next installment!

  6. 6

    Great advice!…So very true!

  7. 7

    Great video! Looking forward to the next one! 

  8. 8
    Peter 51

    There is cultural anecdote that suggests envy is somewhat female as a normal emotion.  If my sister has a new man, then I must have one too.

  9. 9
    Nadja geipert

    Hi Evan,
    i really like this video and couldn’t agree more. I have a saying that i frequently use on clients who suffer from a serious case of “compareritis:” to compare is to despair!
    PS Your wife sounds like a delight!

  10. 10
    Diana Beaton

    Great video! I think I’m going to replay this one once every couple of weeks to remind myself.  So easy to slip into that comparison frame of mind…Thank you for the reminder!

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