Many of us have undoubtedly heard the phrase, Keeping up with the Joneses but probably have no idea where it originated from.
As it turns out, Keeping up with the Joneses was actually the name of a cartoon strip, which was launched back in 1913 and ran for some 26 years in The New York World and other newspapers across the country.
It focuses on the McGinis family, who perpetually struggled (many times unsuccessfully) to “keep up” with their neighbors, the Joneses.
The premise of the cartoon was to repeatedly mock a growing need in society to impress other people with the possessions you purchased or the activities you participated in.
While Keeping up with the Joneses was first published some 106 years ago, the message is just as timely today as it was back in 1913. I guess some things really never do change.
Mary E. Pritchard, a Psychology Professor at Boise State University writes, “The media sell us products that it thinks we want because they know we’ll buy them in order to “keep up with the Joneses.” So how do we stop? Stop buying into the message that you’re not good enough. Stop buying things to “improve” who you are. Because ultimately, no product is going to make you a “better” version of you. Only you can do that. So, stand in front of the mirror and say to yourself, “I am enough!”
So often we allow the influence of other people (co-workers, neighbors, new friendships) to dictate our buying habits in order to be judged worthy and even popular in a society which assigns more value to possessions than character.
From teenagers to senior citizens, we all want to “fit in” and oftentimes that means compromising our beliefs in the values of simplicity in order to be deemed more acceptable.
Brene Brown says, “I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.”
The older I get the more I see that an ordinary life is the ONLY kind of life worth living. One in which being a decent and kind human being will be remembered in the hearts of those around us, not the amount of “stuff” we’ve amassed.
The overall theme of Keeping up with the Joneses seems to be ingrained in our society and has no plans on relinquishing its hold. But I challenge you to think about something which may in fact change your behaviors.
If you took away the big house, the fancy car, the endless technologies and all the other meaningless possessions we’ve convinced ourselves we actually need, what would you be left with? Who would you be?
If you’re struggling to find qualities such as compassionate, charitable, accepting, humble and selfless to name a few, your life is more meaningless than you think.