Your coworkers, former college roomies and even your friends, they have things you don’t have. Lots of things, shiny new things. They make what you make every month, right? You sit there and do the math- you’re hustlin’ to pay off your student loans or save up for a wedding, and they have all these….toys. How? Fancier car, newer clothes, more vacations, bigger weddings. How is that possible? You know it’s probably borrowed on credit, but man, it still feels rotten when you admit you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.
You’re happy with what you have- well at least you thought you were, but how is it that they have what they have? Well, there are a few answers- but due to the fact that so many Americans are drowning in debt, you’re getting worked up over the mirages set up by other people. You’re seeing the fancy purses, weekly manicures and the selfies in the Carribean.
Chasing instead of catching. Researchers have found that the thrill of pursuit in terms of consumerism, is usually more valuable in creating joy than the actual attainment of what you’re chasing. While the moment you finish a marathon can as fulfilling as training for it, the irony of consumerism is that the luster fades unusually fast. When you buy, sort of like driving a car off the lot- it loses its value almost instantly.
Giving rocks. How do I say that any other way? Find something stupid and do it with a lot of love. Knitting scarves for kittens, doing kitchen audits for friends to find what they can donate and clear out for charity, or taking your dog to an elder care facility to brighten up their day. When I started the Virtual Pug Run last year, it was a dumb idea- I mean honestly, glittery pug medals mailed to people all over the world for running for pugs…but it made me giddy. I spent my own money on Facebook ads, upgrading the medals and covering shipping when needed- plus hours upon hours of time for shipping..and it made me happier than a bird with a french fry. I’m sorry, but shopping doesn’t even come close. Chasing sucks…unless you’re running for charity.
The average American sees over 30,000 ads a day. We know that marketing impacts our judgement, even so far as to know what we don’t know- the ads and messages that go unnoticed, we still know that we’re being influenced in ways we cannot even recognize. But, what of social media?
How often do you compare your behind the scenes footage to someone else’s highlight reel? Yes, I’m talking Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. It’s all so perfect- the vacations, the birthday parties and the planned lives that sometimes resemble a magazine photoshoot more than real life. Guard your heart, and take social media updates from friends and even bloggers with a grain of salt.
Speaking from personal experience, I soured so much of my joy reading some of the more notable and high-end fashion bloggers. Their designer lipsticks were always so perfect and scattered on marble table tops with fresh peonies and a delighfully foamed latte. Is this where they did their work? How did they afford so many lattes and $20 lipsticks? I had to stop reading, it made me hate my life and want to buy things that made me feel like I was forever chasing, but never catching the bliss. I had to stop.
Isn’t it weird, the more we have, the less grateful we feel? If you’ve ever moved into a new place, or started over somewhere new- you know the joy of unpacking. You don’t realize how much stuff you need to make a home comfortable, and how exciting it is to simply have a couch to sit on, sheets on the bed and that joy you feel when you finally find the box with the silverware so you can eat a real meal again at home. Little things, are big things.
It’s funny how the basic joys of new beginnings are so impactful- that first Christmas tree you get as adult with just a few ornaments, the excitement of a care pack from home when you’re studying far away, or how awesome it is when you buy your first new car after driving a broken down beater for years. What changes though, over time, is that we try to replicate that joy again and again- thinking that we can do so with more stuff. Surely, if that first Christmas tree was so memorable with just 5 ornaments, we should start buying them at every place we visit, filling it up entirely by the next year- yet the joy doesn’t scale.
Even further still, is the feeling of suffocation when we have too much stuff. Suddenly, we have all the abundance we craved, and the high of pursuit suddenly feels stifling. We feel boxed in, and surely, we’ve crossed the threshold of when abundance feels like shackles. To feel more grateful, purge. Start over.