As I was driving to work yesterday morning, I was listening to an theology-based radio show that I listen to every day. He was holding a discussion with a group of college students regarding our consumer-obsessed society. His comments made me laugh out loud but gave me food for thought too. He noted that “someone once said…that success is defined by driving this year’s car, wearing last year’s suit and spending next year’s income.” And while that made me laugh, HOW TRUE IS THAT!!!???
Now I don’t know about you…but I have certainly spent my fair share of time “caught up” in what others have and what I think I need to keep up. What do we REALLY need in life to be happy? What is “enough”? What is “success”?
Speaking for myself, I used to think that big expensive purses and expensive clothes from places like Ann Taylor would make me happy and were a measure of “success”. It did make me happy…temporarily. In an empty, fleeting sort of way. Then when the rush is gone, what is left? The need to do it all over again. Which really leaves your pocketbook alot lighter. I doubt I’m alone there.
And celebrities…I used to be so enthralled with what celebrities are doing. Again, I doubt I’m alone there. Personally, now I think it’s such a distraction now from what is really going on in the world, but if you like it, what the heck…read about it. Dr. Leonard Sax, author of the book “Girls on the Edge” refers to a phenomena happening among our young girls today as “microcelebrity”. The need for young girls and teenagers to have Coach handbags, dress like movie stars, pose and look for every “photo op” possible as he notes. And it is causing huge psychological and self esteem issues in our young women. Is this a realistic message to send to them? That they are only worth something if they have THINGS? Or if they can emulate Kim Kardashian? I want more for my girls than that.
I am not perfect. I started out with our kids falling into that trap – thinking that their clothes had to come from name brand stores, or they HAD to have this gadget or that toy. Now we are fast approaching a critical point with my oldest daughter, who is entering the “tween years”. For her now, this stuff is really becoming important socially. Now…I don’t want her to be a social pariah, but am also trying to instill that there’s more to her soul than whether or not her jeans come from Hollister. Or if she doesn’t have an iPhone at the age of 10. It is a tough balance. I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet. But I’m thinking at least…
Maybe this seems like a strange message, but I have been doing alot of personal reflection in this area lately and reprioritizing, so that speaker’s message did not fall on deaf ears here. Just as there is obviously stress with not having money, food, clothing, shelter, etc., I think there is the stress of excess…the stress of clutter…the stress of those extra bills to “keep up with the Joneses”. I have been trying to make a conscious effort to place the “extra” in a much lower rank in my life than it had been, and to get rid of the extra “stuff” that we don’t use plaguing our house. I like to think of it as a mental and physical decluttering, and dang, it feels good. And you know what? I have a husband who loves me who is home every night (as his job allows!) with his family. I have the love of my children. Those things are priceless and forever. Expensive clothes get worn out and go to Goodwill eventually, they are not “forever”. I have my faith. I have a comfortable home. I have good healthy food. I am regaining my health and so is the rest of my family. Those things are also priceless. I define that as my own success…and “enough.”
The speaker ended his discussion with a commentary on an old definition of neuroses: “Defining success by what we don’t have.” He went on to note that perhaps this is why our culture spends so much money on psychotherapy, even during a recession. Maybe he’s on to something there.