IT’S THE SEASON FINALE! And we’re ending it with a bang. Obviously by “bang” I mean a meditative quest to free oneself from the bitterness of resentment as we navigate this unjust and inequitable world. Because come on, it’s us!
The tl;dr of today’s episode is: comparison is the thief of joy.
If you’re constantly comparing yourself to your seemingly more successful, productive, and flush with cash peers, it can be majorly discouraging. We’ve talked before about why you shouldn’t hold yourself to the standard of the uber-successful, or why you shouldn’t long to splurge before you’re ready.
But one of the many, many horrible features of this global pandemic is that it’s becoming harder to avoid comparison. The internet—where we’ve all been forced to work and play while social distancing—is chock full of productivity porn and highly edited content specifically designed to make you feel like you’re not doing enough. Like you’ll never be enough.
So today on the podcast, we’re addressing how frustrating and hard it can be to stay motivated and encouraged when your peers seem to be crushing it… and you feel left behind in the dirt.
This week’s question
Today’s question comes to us from an anonymous Tumblr follower. They ask:
How do you guys keep from getting discouraged?
One of my coworkers has a daughter my age, and he’s always talking about how she’s going to Germany again, or on a cruise, or she’s got some big trip planned. It just really gets me down. I’m trying to save for school but if I save up for school then I won’t have money to travel, and if I travel then I’ll have to work minimum wage until I die.
I just hate feeling like I don’t have a choice. But it’s not like money just grows on trees…– Anonymous Tumblr follower
For more on the topic of goals, the dangers of comparing yourself to others, and staying motivated:
- Stop Measuring Your Time in Beyoncé Hours
- Ask the Bitches: Is It Too Late to Get My Financial Shit Together?
- Actually, Fuck Big Goals
- Help! I’m Procrastinating and I Can’t Get Up!
- Ask the Bitches: I Know How to Struggle and Fight, but I Don’t Know How to Succeed
- You Won’t Regret Your Frugal 20s
- Status Symbols Are Pointless and Dumb
Our Patreon donors have our eternal love and gratitude for making this season possible.
If you enjoyed season two, and you’d like for us to return for a season three, head on over to our Patreon. In exchange for their support, we gift our patrons with all kinds of exclusive Bitch content—24/7 Q&A support, exclusive merchandise, the occasional video of us doing dumb shit, and polls on future article topics every month.
Episode transcript (click to reveal)
Thanks, of course, to our Patreon donors. This time we want to thank Katie, Michelle, Ryan, Zia and Sam. And we want to send an extra special thanks to Chris and Samantha. Chris and Samantha are a pair of opalescent snowfoxes of wisdom and cunning, just hiding out in a landscape of brilliant white. And suddenly, the dark luminous eyes, staring back at you? It’s like magic.
I only speak the truth.
Listen up guys, I’m Kitty.
We are the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.
We’re two elderly, viciously heckling, impossible to please theatergoers hanging out in our box seats like we own the place.
And we’re here to pass harsh criticism on your performance.
Piggy & Kitty 1:23
(joking, evil cackling)
Our time on this planet is limited.
So let’s get started.
Today’s letter comes to us from a Tumblr follower. This anonymous reader asks, “How do you guys keep from getting discouraged?”
“One of my coworkers has a daughter my age, and he’s always talking about how she’s going to Germany again, or on a cruise, or she’s got some big trip planned. It just really gets me down. I’m trying to save for school, but if I save up for school, then I won’t have money to travel, and if I travel then I’ll have to work minimum wage until I die.”
“I just hate feeling like I don’t have a choice, but it’s not like money just grows on trees.”
Damn, I feel this.
I think this is something that you and I have experienced — the feeling of making choices that were motivated mostly by money. Rejecting some really fun opportunities and fun experiences because we didn’t feel like we could responsibly afford it.
Do you remember in college when several of our friends, studying abroad sophomore year? And you and I could not do that?
Yeah, I do, I do. I want to acknowledge that like FOMO is a real feeling.
FOMO is real.
I think FOMO is something that needs to be acknowledged like a source of real pain. It’s sad to see people doing really cool, fun things without you, but it’s also something that is incumbent on you to learn to control.
You don’t want to make your friends feel bad because of your FOMO. You know, there’s nothing worse than being like, “Oh well, you know, I just had this great time, but I don’t want to post pictures on Insta or whatever because so and so is going to be so disappointed and feel inadequate because they couldn’t go.”
Yeah, you don’t want to be that person.
You’re right, fear of missing out is real, but you need to learn how to manage that.
I think one of the things that’s going on in this question is that this person is hearing about someone else’s life from a very particular perspective. That daughter sounds like she’s having an awesome life, but who is reporting the details of that awesome life? Her dad. Dads, along with social media feeds…
Notoriously unreliable narrators.
Yeah, this is one lens through which you can view someone’s life, and it likely does not give you a full picture.
According to my dad, I edited the punctuation in Harry Potter, so like dads really don’t know what’s going on.
Yeah, dads have no idea what’s going on in anyone’s lives. I say that knowing that my dad listens to the podcast.
(excited) Hi, Kitty’s dad.
(joking embarrassment) Hi, Dad.
They’re going on all these trips. They’re going on cruises. They’re going abroad. If that’s all I know about that person’s life, I think it’s really tempting to assume that their life is really fun. And they’re doing those things because they love them, and they’re meaningful, and they’re learning a lot about life and other people and other cultures and themselves and whatever and having a great time.
But that set of facts really doesn’t describe any of those things. I can equally as well, if I focus on it, imagine the kind of person who has the means to travel and to have fun and to go cool places, but who still feels empty inside. Who still feels directionless and unmotivated and like they’re not fulfilling any true calling or purpose. And that all of this is an expression of aimless consumption.
There’s potential for you, as the letter writer, if you are doing those things, you would find great meaning in them. But does that mean that everyone finds great meaning in them? I think that’s a leap too far.
People’s lives on social media, or as others describe them, are not reality. This person could be going to Germany on cruises and be absolutely miserable, like you said, but even if they’re not … does the letter writer truly want to go to Germany and on a cruise, or are they just reacting to somebody else having that experience and hoping it would be fulfilling for them?
You know I feel like there’s something different between looking at what other people are doing and wanting what they have, or deciding on your own terms what you want for your future. And maybe it’s not going to Germany, maybe it’s going to Thailand, maybe it is — I don’t know pulling a Dorothy, and what’s that quote? Like, the next time I go looking for my own happiness, I won’t look any further than my own backyard?
There’s a risk in basing your desire to travel and your desire for these experiences on other people’s explanation of those experiences, I think.
Yeah. And in general, you know, comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t waste time looking at what other people have and comparing it to what you have and finding yourself wanting because that’s just … that way lies madness.
Yeah, the core of the ideas behind financial independence is that you understand what makes you happy. And those things require you to understand yourself and what motivates you and what makes you happy.
It’s not just the act of having and possessing money that makes you self aware enough to do that. There are many, many wealthy people who are sad and lonely and directionless in life who have no idea what they want. I think maybe what’s very frustrating is that there are quite a lot of poor and working class people who do have some idea of what would make them happy, and money is the only thing that’s standing in their way.
That is really fucking frustrating.
Absolutely. Well, to that point, let’s return to the question. So the very first thing they say is, how do you keep from getting discouraged?
And it’s clear that they are one of those people for whom money is standing in the way of what they want. You know, school versus travel. And they talk about working minimum wage until they die. And I think one of the most powerful actions you can take is to set an actionable goal and break it down into steps.
They don’t have enough money to both go to school and travel. They can’t do both. So, the question there is: “All right, what can I do to increase my income now? What can I do to increase my savings now? What can I do to spend less now to get me on that road to getting the things that I want?”
And setting that goal and breaking it up into manageable chunks makes it seem less overwhelming and less discouraging and more like something that will actually be a reality someday.
Yeah, I agree. I like that a lot.
You should agree, by the way, because I was basically quoting an article you wrote.
Oh, good. You’re so wise.
That article is “Fuck Big Goals”, by the way. Sorry, go ahead.
I know, I forgot about that one. Yeah, sorry, I forgot everything about my life.
So one of the things that helps me not be discouraged is really paying attention to how I use the language about what I want and what my goals are and what I’m capable of doing. And something that I noticed in reading this letter — they’re doing something I recognized that I’ve done in the past, which is catastrophizing, saying the sort of Eeyore-ish things that you worry might be true, as if they are true.
So this person says, “If I travel, I’ll have to work minimum wage until I die”. Like, do you really think that that is the most likely outcome for your life? I think the answer is no because if the answer were no, why would you be going to school?
When I’m really low, I tend to say things out loud that I know aren’t true, but I want to hear someone tell me that they’re not true. So if that’s the place that you find yourself in, letter writer, your only options in life are not to either go to school and live an adventureless life or to have a couple of fun adventures, but work minimum wage until you die.
Those are not the only directions in your life, and neither one of them is an option you are ardently pursuing. It just feels that way right now because it’s gonna take you a while to be able to reap the rewards of the things that you have chosen to invest in.
That’s really well stated. You’re right that they are creating this false dichotomy for themselves that is just not true. You just described in your own personal life that sometimes you just need outer validation that things are not going to be the worst case scenario.
Maybe the answer is to read the stories of people who started out like them, being like, “Well, I chose to invest in my education so that I could have a higher paying job and have a career that was going to afford me the freedom, eventually, to go have all those adventures that I put aside in my younger years when other people were having them, and I was investing in my education instead.”
And the personal finance blog and podcast-o-sphere is full of these stories of people who talk about how they went through the grind. And they were the ant, not the grasshopper, and they worried about FOMO and compared themselves. And in the end, you know, they have more time to travel now than ever.
Yeah. Yeah, you know, what I also feel about that, in the same way that there’s a narrative in this letter writer’s mind that there’s two kinds of people: one who is poor and responsible and doesn’t get to have any fun, and that there’s this other kind of person who gets to be carefree and do whatever they want and go all over the world at the drop of the hat.
In the same way that that narrative is false, I also want to say there is a narrative that’s false that I think is evident in the personal finance sphere.
I know where you’re going with this. I walked right into it.
Where the best kind of happiness you can have is the happiness you get from retirement. And the second that you don’t have to pay anybody any more bills for the rest of your life and that you don’t have to work anymore, you will just be handed an infinite number of happiness coupons that you can spend however you want.
And you won’t have any health issues. You won’t have any mental health problems. You won’t be depressed. You won’t be sad. You won’t be lonely. You won’t have conflicts with your family. You won’t get divorced.
Are you trying to tell me this is not true!?
Piggy and I tend to be the sort of people who like to collect crumbs slowly over time until we can work together into making a cake.
We’re frugal people; we’re savers. There’s that kind of person who eats all the cereal and leaves all the marshmallows until the end when they’re eating Lucky Charms. And I think you and I are those people.
And there are other kinds of people, this coworker’s daughter who’s like going out and just eating all of life’s marshmallows in one go, no cereal for her, no thank you.
And I’m not sure that either one of those is really a completely healthy way to approach life because I think you have to take the marshmallows and the cereal together in one bite. And the further you go in either polarity, where you’re either avoiding all of life’s responsibilities and complexities, or you are delaying all happiness until a psychological later that you’ve decided. “It’ll be fine for me to be happy later” Neither one of those are really happy and healthy.
I think what you said about setting small goals between is really right, that you have to have experiences and indulgences and rewards that motivate you, as you are responsible and you save and you make the quote unquote right choices for your life.
You can’t just be all responsibility all the time, and you also can’t be all indulgence, all the time.
I’m going to throw out a 10 point word at you: sustainability.
It’s not just for eco terrorists anymore. We are members of Avalanche.
Yes, go on.
Yes, we are. Earth first. I feel like sustainability is often missing from these discussions of encouragement and discouragement, and either blowing all your money or saving it all for later.
And I don’t think it’s sustainable to grind so hard, 24/7, that you exhaust yourself to the point that you just crash. I also don’t think it’s sustainable to live a total party lifestyle all the time. You know, so do as I say.
You live a party lifestyle.
My party lifestyle recently has been inviting people over with their small children so that we can have socially distanced beers in the backyard while their kids chase my chickens around. It is dope.
Life in the fast lane, ladies and gentleman.
Highway to the danger zone.
There’s one other thing that I kind of want to say, and it’s going to be, I would say, tough love, for this letter writer. I honestly do mean it very lovingly, but I think a lot of the things that we talked about on the blog and on the podcast are systemic problems. And I see some of those systemic problems here.
It’s fucked up that some people can afford to have amazing experience after amazing experience. And other people have to, kind of, collect their pennies in order to afford an education. That’s a fucked up systemic inequality that should never be brushed away.
That’s not your problem to fix. That is our problem as a society to recognize and try to change. That said, I do see an individual problem here that means fixing.
Letter writer, you are never going to be a very happy person if reports of other people’s happiness make you unhappy. If you tend to see other people’s successes as evidence that your life is less happy, less meaningful, as you say, that it really gets you down. That is a personal problem that you need to work on right now because there will always, always be people who have it better than you in every single category of your life.
You are not the person in the world who’s going to travel the most. You are not the person who is going to have the hottest significant other.
That’s me, by the way.
You’re never going to be that person who has absolutely everything. So, as long as that is true, you got to work on that. That’s not a societal problem. That’s your personal problem, and that’s something that I think might benefit from therapy, I don’t know, meditation. Really getting to the sources of that idea that because other people are happy, I cannot be happy.
Happiness is not finite. It doesn’t need to be parceled out, a little bit to everyone. Like there’s enough to go around.
And I think honestly that idea that because some people have it good, I cannot be restive in what I have. I honestly think it’s one of the biggest sources of evil in our world, especially in America where there’s this idea that I might live a comfortable middle class lifestyle.
But the idea that there’s a welfare queen out there somewhere who’s taking money to buy things like steak, even though they have food stamps. My God, poor people shouldn’t be allowed to have anything that’s nice because it inhibits my ability to enjoy the things that I have sacrificed to afford my steak.
That idea just creates so much negativity and discontent and evil, real evil. So that’s something to work on.
You really kind of made me think, which, oh my God, somebody give me a fainting couch.
Occasionally, I have interesting things to say, how dare you.
Occasionally, you are brilliant, yes, I will give you that.
(jokingly gloating) Thank you.
No, you’re absolutely right. We talk a lot about comparison in this episode, and on other places and Bitches Get Riches. We are always looking around at others to determine our place within the happiness spectrum, or the wealth spectrum, or the having it all spectrum, when really, that comparison and that perspective doesn’t matter at all.
Somebody else’s happiness and wealth and experiences have no bearing on your own, and you’re absolutely right that that fosters a lot of evil and discontent, and I would even say, violence, because people vote…
Oh boy, I’m getting political. Hold me back.
Oh, my God, my God!
Hold on, let me get your purse, your earrings.
Yeah, hold my earrings.
No, people vote with their discontent and their bitterness, more than they vote with their kindness. And if you are a person who is constantly comparing yourself to others and being angry or bitter about what they have and you do not, or what you know you worked for but they did not … you’re going to be less kind when it comes to making decisions that benefit or hinder all of us.
I want to show that the Emperor indeed has no clothes because I’ve been somebody who’s done this, very recently. You know, last week we published … well, when this goes live it’ll be two or three weeks ago.
I published that article about productivity porn and how it’s okay to just do nothing and ignore the productivity porn. And like the very next day, my friend Meg (hey Meg, I know you’re listening) came over. And like she was writing, she was having the best fucking day, being so productive.
And I compared myself to her. And I was just like, “Ugh, you’re making me feel like a sloth. Here I am, I’m still in my pajamas. Like I’ve managed to get nothing done today, except feeding the chickens.”
And she was like, “Piggy, um, your whole life is productivity porn for some people, so you can just calm down and relax for a day.”
And it didn’t occur to me to look at my own life through that lens, through what others might see.
There are probably a lot of people who think that we lead like super charmed lives, that everything we do is pretty effortless and that we don’t struggle.
It’s not true.
I’ll make this a little bit more personal. You’ve had the experience of giving up on once in a lifetime travel opportunities. More than once, for the sake of reaching your financial goals. I think sometimes you felt that that was the right choice. And other times, most notably very recently, you felt really damaged.
Like it was the wrong choice.
A bad decision.
Yeah. I don’t even know what to say there because you’re right, damaged is the right way to put that, and I still feel like a spoiled brat when I think about the fact that I gave up a once in a lifetime trip with people I love for my employment only to be fired a month later.
And, I’ve processed those feelings. And when I say that, what I mean is, I’ve processed the fact that it will always be a painful mistake to me, but I learned something from the experience and that experience is that I’ll never let something happen again. The reason that I do anything with my life is so that I can do the things I love, and I can be with the people I love.
I don’t want to ever be in a position again where I have to sacrifice that, beyond reason, for something that is ultimately not going to benefit me at all.
Yeah, I think that the decision making there really comes from a different place, which is a deep understanding of why you’re here on this earth and what it is that makes your life one that you are glad that you led.
And in this letter writer’s case, I don’t know that going on a cruise is the difference between laying on your deathbed and saying, “Ah, mission accomplished, great life, well done” and laying on your deathbed and saying, “I have such doubts,” like Meryl Streep.
If your happiness is dependent on other people’s unhappiness, you are signing up right now to lead a very sad and bitter life in a sad and bitter world. But if you make difficult decisions that are based on what you value in this mortal coil, it’s not really about going on cruises.
There’s something else there, and I would encourage this letter writer to think deeply about what does that opportunity really represent that I find fascinating. Is it the idea of having no responsibilities, and just having like a blissful booze cruise where people just bring me an endless array of kebab after kebab after kebab?
That sounds like heaven.
Or is it appreciating another kind of life and another kind of culture and meeting new people? You have to know what it is that you want, and whatever it is that you would want out of a cruise or Germany or whatever, you can get that experience some other way. I guarantee it.
I also want to say, regardless, stop looking at what your coworker’s daughter is doing. At the risk of sounding cliche, do what Kitty just suggested and count your fucking blessings. You know, stop looking outward and look within and say, “These are the things I have. These are the things I want. And this is how I’m going to get them and maintain them.”
Yeah, and that’s it. You know, have those goals and those desires clear in your head so that the next time you hear about somebody having an amazing experience, you can have the clarity to be like, “Oh, that’s great for them. That’s not what I want, necessarily.”
Or you know, that experience gave them something that they wanted. Isn’t it wonderful that that they were able to achieve that goal? I have other desires and goals, and I’m not going to stop until I get them.
I love that.
I’m very wise.
There’s one final point that I wanted to bring up, which is around the idea of diversity. Let’s say you grew up the least wealthy kid in a wealthy suburb, and you’ve got a lot of friends who talk about the amazing vacations they go on and the great cars their parents give to them. I’ve met a lot of people who are from that background, where they were always the one who felt like they were standing on the outside looking in to a more privileged kind of lifestyle.
If that resonates with you, I highly encourage you to seek more diversity in the groups of people that you know. I want to be careful that I’m not suggesting a sort of poverty tourism, or “Hey, you should get some real poor friends who can’t afford enough rice to keep their bellies full at night so that you can feel great about your McDonald’s or whatever.”
Like that’s still comparison, just a bad way too.
Exactly. But truly, when you have a group of friends who is diverse, and I mean that not like the…
College brochure, colors of the rainbow.
College brochure diversity. But truly having people in your life who are most fulfilled by seeing their children grow, and then having other people who do not have children at all and feel a great sense of fulfillment from their hobbies. Or other people who are incredibly career driven, or who work in a charitable endeavor, and they have beautiful and beneficent goals. If you have a very diverse group of contacts in your life who can help you see that there are many, many paths to happiness and self-fulfillment, I think that might be really helpful for you.
I tend to hear this kind of jealousy and bitterness come up more when people end up stuck inside of a group that has one very finite definition of what a good life looks like. And the more you can expand and grow away from that, the easier it will be for you to find what truly makes you happy and stop looking at what makes other people happy.
Very well said. Man, thank you.
Dear Abby fucking wishes she was us.
I feel like I have learned so much about myself and my own values over the course of writing for the blog and talking on the podcast. Just hearing about other people’s lives lights such a fire under me to examine my own life and think about what makes me feel happy and content to sleep well at night. I hope that even if our advice is occasionally bad and dumb, set it aside.
I hope that people at least enjoy hearing about all the kind of different problems and perspectives that we have to offer because there’s value, even in that, even if the only shit that comes out of our mouths is like dumb nonsense.
I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I would not be the emotionally stable, financially stable person I am today if we had not started Bitches Get Riches back in 2017. So, take that as you will.
I love that.
Wow, What a nice way to end.
My God, season two, that is a wrap on season two.
The crowd goes wild. (fake gun noises)
Season two, are you good with that?
Season two, in the can. I am good with that.
Jesus fucking Christ, season two. Listeners, if there’s a question you would like for us to answer, soon as we have season three of the podcast, go to bitchesgetriches.com and click Ask the Bitches.
And there’s only one way to guarantee that we’ll answer your question, and that is to become a Patreon donor.
If you like what we do, and you want us to come back for season three, you have to become a Patreon donor and support us with whatever donation amount you feel comfortable with because I have been editing these fucking podcasts myself, and I am so tired. Y’all have no idea.
It takes a lot time.
Please pay us money so that Kitty can take a break, and go to sleep.
Yeah, we would love to hire an actual, factual person who understands why our audio sounds terrible and who can slap our wrist slightly with a ruler while saying, “No, record in this format.” That’s all I want.
Yeah, we need our wrists slapped with a ruler.
Oh my God, I knew you would take that the wrong way. Um, ahem, we also have a merch store where you can buy t-shirts and printable worksheets and more.
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Hey, is there anything else they should know?
Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.
Good to know.
Piggy & Kitty 30:47