Best of Both Worlds podcast: Compare and despair

After Sarah sparked a big discussion with her trade-offs post, we decided to devote a full episode to comparisons, jealousy, and what we can learn from our particular triggers.

In the social media era, we don’t just compare ourselves to our neighbors (though in certain neighborhoods, that can be an ordeal on its own!) We can compare ourselves to anyone. It’s human nature to compare up, rather than down, even though down might make more sense (for anyone reading this post, the proportion of the world’s population with fewer resources is…huge).

It’s also human nature to fixate on certain things that bother us more than others. In this episode, Sarah and I talk about the particular posts that inspire the “compare and despair” impulse (as I wrote last week, the put-together matching-outfit families featuring mom with make-up and blown-out hair can do it for me, as do the fun and relaxing vacations people seem to take). We can know much of this is fake (hello sponsored post!) and still get irritated.

There are lots of tactics to combat this. One is to prune the social media feed. Or spend less time there. It’s also helpful to examine the jealousy and see what can constructively be changed. While I’m probably not going to hire a stylist and photographer to follow me around, I can book some toddler-focused childcare so I can relax for a few hours on weekends.

In the Q&A we give a listener ideas for how to manage unexpected extra hours at work. Please give the episode a listen and we appreciate a rating/review!

9 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Compare and despair

  1. It’s so interesting to hear how diverse our triggers are. And how some of our triggers are based on only a slice of reality – like the pregnant mom of 5 saying her resort experience filled her heart. Sorry, but I can not see how that is possible and seems laughable to me! I actually like the imperfect family photos people share! They are more true to life. I just shared a pretty terrible photo of my family of 4. The toddler had his shirt pulled up and looks mad and the baby isn’t looking at the camera. Our other family photo is from baptism day when the baby was crying because he was over-tired/over-stimulated. But I’ll look back at those photos and remember that was what life was like and hopefully be glad it’s not like that anymore? We will be getting professional photos in October and hopefully we get some good shots from that, but they will very much be candid type of photos because my husband hates getting his picture taken so is as likely to smile on command as our 3yo. 😉

  2. Really looking forward to listening to this on the exercise bike in the morning tomorrow – last day of term here in the UK for my 17 year old.

  3. This was a great and timely episode for me. In the past year, I’ve taken a new job, decided to grow our family (currently pregnant), bought and sold a car and a house. Each choice forced a lot of conversations and reflection with my husband – do I want to build the life that’s best for us, or that projects the right signals to people I don’t actually care about? You would think being more isolated (from people we didn’t really care about anyway!) during a pandemic would help our internal motivations, but there was also more time for social media scrolling. I’m happy with the frugal choices made but a more comfortable retirement is decades away and harder to get excited about right now.

  4. Re the question about unexpected work time: absolutely key for this is understanding how long it will take you to do work tasks. In the early days of my career I was way too optimistic about how long things will take and frequently over promised and under delivered. Now I have a much better idea of how long things will take and I am very careful to underpromise and overdeliver. When something comes up that is last minute and urgent I will usually have a meeting with my boss and explain how that will affect my other priorities and either delegate or delay lower priority tasks.

  5. Like you, I’m triggered by seeing families with (apparently) perfectly-behaved children and zero disorder or parental frustration, plus white furniture and matching (clean) outfits. I try to remind myself that I didn’t have children in order to make my existence more insta-friendly, but to experience these amazing, adorable people-in-progress who constantly astound me with their wit, affection, and chaos.

  6. This must have been one of my favourite episodes, thank you. I am not very active on social media, so I am not too affected by it. One trigger, however, for me is when people say that life becomes easier when your children leave the toddler years (also heard on Best of both worlds :). Yes, I can see this with my 7-year old. I also have a 5-year old son with special needs and life has not become easier now that he is older (no, my son does not sleep through the night and he is much more (head) strong and quicker than when he was 2). This is not a criticism, but just another example to show that everyone’s life circumstances are different. To end on a positive note, I was already thinking about this before and listening to this episode has confirmed it: I am planning to get some special needs childcare for weekends/holidays.

    1. @Evi – thanks for pointing this out. Yep, life circumstances are different and seeing other people make assumptions can be hard. I definitely think that weekend/holiday special needs care could be a real help and make a huge difference.

  7. Triggers: Nice houses – gets me every time. I LOVE design aesthetics; I’m super drawn to reading blogs about DIY and looking at design magazines but it always leaves me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Solo vacations (or vacations with just a spouse, no kids).
    Access to family: cousins, grandparents, siblings. No one lives close to me and I definitely wish I had grandparents that could babysit regularly, or just come over every Sunday for dinner.

    Not triggers: Nice vehicles – couldn’t care less. Pictures of baking/beach trips/family photos. Nice food/nice restaurants. I like the food I eat and don’t feel any envy/comparison issues here.

  8. Loved how open you both were in this episode and a big fan of the podcast in general! Wanted to share that I’m reading Luke Burgis’ book, Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life, and finding it fascinating and very relevant to this topic. You might enjoy if you haven’t already read it!

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