Our happiness depends on how we see ourselves relative to others.
We look at the houses our friends and neighbours live in, the clothes they wear, the vacations they take, or the cars they drive. Unfortunately, it’s becoming easier and easier to compare ourselves to strangers.
The problem with these comparisons is that the appearances people put on don’t represent their reality. You see the house and car but not the debt and delayed retirement. Or you see the Instagram photo but not how it was produced.
What’s worse, our concept of success and happiness is influenced by these illusions. We think what we see represents legitimate goals but don’t stop to think about whether achieving them would improve our lives.
One example of this is how the film and television industry has distorted our view of what a healthy athletic body looks like. It’s not just that many of these bodybuilder-style physiques are not attainable for most, without performance-enhancing drugs. My main issue is that healthy performance-focused athletic humans don’t look like bodybuilders.
Look at Zac Efron in Baywatch (he plays an ex-Olympian lifeguard) compared to actual Olympic swimmers. Do you think their training is at all similar?
Here is Henry Cavill in Man of Steel compared to an ancient statue of Hercules and a professional fighter. Why does Superman have relatively large pecs and biceps? And where are his obliques? Does he spend most of his time bench pressing and curling supervillains?
And here is Wilson Cruz playing a 23rd-century astronaut/doctor, compared to actual astronauts. Would his character really train like a bodybuilder from the 21st century?
The physiques of these actors for their roles are silly. You should laugh, not aspire to look like them.
Similarly, it’s silly for someone with an average salary to own a massive home, an expensive impractical car and to spend whatever else they have, or can borrow, on clothes, take-out and expensive vacations. You should laugh (or cry), not aspire to live like them.
Your financial decisions should contribute to you living a long, healthy and happy life. For most people, this means ensuring that they maximize the time they have to pursue activities they enjoy and be with the people they care about.
Don’t be distracted from this by distorted realities, and don’t waste your time or money pursuing them.