“Keeping up with the Joneses” drives the economy. Making comparisons of oneself to others is one way to “participate” in society (e.g., how we dress, think, act, eat, work, and play are all influenced by comparisons of ourselves with others), but it is also a way to possibly draw invalid conclusions and cause yourself undue misery.
For example, you and your spouse are going to a barbeque at the home of your friends, Sally and Mike. On the way there you argue in the car. When you get to the barbeque, Sally and Mike greet you, and you happily socialize. They seem happy, so you make a comparison and conclude that your marriage is not as good as theirs. But guess what, Sally and Mike also argued before the barbeque, and they look at you and your spouse only to conclude that their marriage is bad. When, in fact, the truth may be that both marriages are “typical.”
To make an assumption about the apparent “Stepford Lives” that others lead is naïve and dangerous. The first danger of making comparisons is that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in the lives, minds, and hearts of others, and you, therefore, may inaccurately “rate” yourself poorly based on this invalid comparison.
The second problem with making comparisons is that even if you are truly “worse off” than someone else, this should have no bearing on your perception of yourself. For “Maximum Strength Parents” and for “Maximum Strength Children”, self-esteem comes from the “self”, not from others.