I accidentally landed in the otherworldly realm of network television the other night and caught a commercial. I found it curious, amusing, and disturbing, all at the same time: the spokesperson for a product promised that if I purchased it, it would certainly give me more “confidence”.
I must first confess to being fully human. I have insecurities, doubts, and regrets just like everyone else. My hairline is going north and, if it weren’t for daily exercise, I’m sure my waistline would be going south will equal deliberate speed. Of course, I instantly thought to myself, I could use more “confidence”, and I’m sure many people could. I would, however, never consider getting it from the purchase of a material possession.
I would discourage everyone from diving into the shallow end on that score. I would encourage us, instead, to examine our aspirations carefully. They will define us and determine the quality of our life to a large extend. (As will the absence of any aspirations.)
Second, I would encourage everyone to honestly determine from what sources you derive your sense of self-worth. Do you pick a lot of cotton in your prestigious occupation? Do you get a sense of superiority from the car you drive or the zip code you live in? Does that wrist watch make you Master of the Universe? Do you need a new pair of Jimmy Choo’s to stand tall?
No one can answer these questions for you. No one even knows which questions to ask. Only you know that. There’s a fine line between enjoying convenient and comfortable material possessions and needing them to feel good about yourself. That may be the reason that many Old Money folks live like Spartans: it helps keep focus on doing things, not owning things.
Your estimation of your own self worth should reside solidly and comfortably in the awareness of the person you have become through your experiences, not what you have acquired through your purchases. If you need to brag about it to others or show it off with conspicuous consumption, you don’t really have it, whatever it is.
Furthermore, this process of becoming is never finished. It’s a continuous personal evolution in which you set goals, work to achieve them, learn through mistakes, assess you performance, and savor what you’ve realized, both in terms of accomplishments and personal gain.
This commitment to constant improvement is the real treasure you seek. Material possessions are merely an illusory reflection of the sense of purpose, personal growth, and achievement that really give life meaning. You think you want the thing, but what you really want is the sense of accomplishment the thing represents.
As a friend of mine said the other day, “If I don’t look back every six months and think, ‘Geez, I was such an idiot to do that or think that,’ then I’m not learning or growing like I should be.” He’s got a point, even though I’m not in favor of beating yourself up about past mistakes or misconceptions. We should be able to look back and see improvement, to see that we’re more highly evolved now than we were. And that takes constant work.
As a favorite aunt of mine used to say, “Real silver requires polishing.”
Let’s stay busy and keep a shine on it.
10 thoughts on “Where Do You Get Yours?”
Byron, great post as usual. I used to be the type of person who felt confident because of a watch, car, or any number of status symbols.
Due to a divorce that pretty much cost me everything (I clearly wish your new book was available 15 years ago), that has all stopped.
Oddly, though I hate the word, its been a blessing as I am now building real wealth and real confidence with much better personal values.
Much appreciated, Stephen. Sometimes “blessing” is a tough word to assign to adversity and the lessons we learn from it. Maybe we’ll call it the “personal journey” everyone goes through in life. Yours sounds like its been rewarding so far, and only has great things in store for you in the future. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing. – BGT
Hi Byron. Nice post. Agree…there is a fine line between enjoying your success reflected in material possessions and deriving your self-worth from that. The “everyone hates a winner” motto is pervasive these days, having experienced that myself and dwelling in the hurt that ensues. I think that’s why I enjoy your message so much about living privately, quietly. Stuff is stuff. The work to achieve it is a far greater reward and builds your confidence like no flat-screen can.
Thank you, Bev. I hope that the support of kindred spirits you find here far outweighs whatever slings and arrows of outrageous envy have been hurled your way. – BGT
This one hit close to home for me. My husband and I (both OMGs) have been called spartan and minimalist, although we don’t think of ourselves that way. We think of ourselves as having everything we need and nothing we don’t. I’m sure a lot of people think we just can’t afford very much, which is absolutely fine with me, although I’ve also heard people say that “the only people who live this way are rich people who know they can always buy whatever they want.”
Some possessions can make life more comfortable or convenient and that’s great, but seeking validation or confidence through material possessions doesn’t work and consumerism is ultimately a hollow experience. Who you are is determined largely by your experiences, especially your upbringing and education, your travels and reading habits. What matters is the contribution you make to your little corner of the world and how you treat people.
Well said, Amy, and thank you. I love the statement, “The only people who live this way are rich people who know they can always buy whatever they want.” I think it should be framed and hung in OMG living rooms everywhere. – BGT
Great post Byron. Thankfully my personality is not one who derives its worth through material possessions. I can’t say that for many of my relatives though – lol. My mom used to say that on the rare occasion that I asked for something as a child she always tried to give it to me because I “never asked for anything”. This really worked in my favor as when I REALLY wanted something, I usually got it where as my sibling was always “gimme gimme gimme” all of the time. Not an attractive quality to parents or anyone else in the vicinity. 🙂
Thank you, SM. And good for you. To know early that material possessions are not the “be all, end all” is a real gift. Congratulations. – BGT
This is a wonderful post that is line with the value of viewing money as a means to an end, education for personal enrichment and not just a means to a hefty paycheck, and buying quality goods because they last longer and not for ostentatiousness and vanity. All that leaves more time to serve others and do more in life.
Thanks for the reminder, Byron.
Thank you, Mary. Excellent points about doing more and doing more for others. – BGT