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.