Repeat to self: Instagram is a highlight reel, Instagram is a highlight reel.
When I made the choice to start tackling my debt, I knew it would mean long-term sacrifice. I thought I was ready to give up a normal lifestyle in exchange for freedom from debt.
But living in the frame of mind that you are constantly “going without” isn’t exactly a recipe for success. It wasn’t long before I started looking at the lives of my peers with envy. I wanted to go on exciting vacations. I wanted to buy a new dress without budgeting for it months in advance. I wanted to order at a restaurant without scanning the menu for the cheapest option.
Living on a budget was difficult enough, but seeing my friends and family enjoying luxuries that simply weren’t in the cards for me made it even harder. From Facebook to Instagram, the moments that made me green were all around me.
I knew if I was going to keep on track with my debt-free goal, I couldn’t constantly view myself as a victim to my own strict budget. I needed to find contentment living within my means. That meant focusing on my own path, not everyone else’s.
“With social media and quick access to other people’s lives, the Joneses not only live next door, they also live in our handbags and back pockets on our phones,” says Rachel Cruze, personal finance expert and author of Love Your Life, Not Theirs.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love scrolling through Instagram and reading blogs, but we have to face the glaring negativity of them openly and honestly: They make it easier for us to be discontent and wish we were living someone else’s life,” she continues.
So how do we find contentment while still living within our means?
Realize You’re Looking at a Highlight Reel
When you’re swept up in the curated online worlds of your friends, remember that you aren’t looking at a whole life — you are looking at a highlight reel.
I have a friend who often travels to exotic locations, but she only does so because she scrimps and saves to make her adventurous lifestyle a priority. That’s easy to forget when you’re looking at the lush green of Machu Picchu and not the bevy of ramen noodle lunches that helped get her there.
Understand You Can’t Buy Happiness
“Content people aren’t interested in burying themselves under a pile of debt in order to buy a lot of stuff they think will make them happy,” says Cruze. “Suddenly, the things that you thought would make you happy steal your joy and your paycheck.”
A key part of finding contentment is realizing that having more is not the magical key to happiness — wanting what you have is.
Focus on Your Own Journey
Instead of scrolling through social media and growing envious of others’ lives, focus on what you want your life to look like. Bring your priorities and vision for your life (and money) to the forefront.
Remember that your version of contentment will look different than your friends’ — and that’s OK. As long as you are living in alignment with your values, the amount of stuff or money you have shouldn’t define you.
“Contentment isn’t a place you arrive [at] financially; it’s a place you get emotionally,” Cruze says. “It’s knowing that what you have, no matter how much or how little, is enough.”