myth 2 - luxury

Myth #2: Having the dream house, car and luxury items will make me happy

Apart from having more money, the other fantasy that we all have is to have a stunning, spacious house by the beachside that everybody envies and a spanking, brand new car that shines so bright it hurts just to look at it. That to most of us, represented success and success equaled to happiness. Or so I thought.

It’s easy enough to think that we need to have all things nice and new because we are constantly bombarded with messages that we must have them to prove our self-worth and standing in society. The Lexus, BMWs, Prada clothes and Manolo Blahnik shoes. Why, it would be crazy if we did not want to have branded items, wouldn’t it? If we turned up at our 20-year school reunion in an old car in tattered clothes, we would feel so embarrassed!

Well, it was not long before I realized that having these fantasies of mine was not going to give me the happiness I wanted. I could have all the diamonds in the world but it is not a guaranteed ticket for happiness.

If I had all the material things I desired but my personal relationships were non-existent, none of it carried any weight. I may initially experience a sudden surge of happiness once I have achieved these material things, but unfortunately, this happiness is short-lived and never lasts. Most of us would be familiar that this temporary fulfillment can be coined as ‘retail therapy.’ Inevitably, I will only end up searching for the next high to keep me satisfied because there is always something new around the corner.

Similar to money, what is dangerous is if you lose these things, you lose your happiness as well. Material possessions have never been and will never be the answer to your happiness. Have you ever wondered why sometimes celebrities who seem to have everything are always the most depressed? They have money, fame, adoration, critical acclaim and basically everything that a human being desires. Depression can strike anybody regardless of their social status of economic well-being.

So what does that mean exactly? It means that having all those things is not your ticket to happiness. If it was, we would never have to read another tabloid about a celebrity meltdown. Time and time again this theory has been proven to be true and yet many of us choose to disbelief it. Things are not substitutes to fill up the emptiness you feel inside.

Nevertheless, we become fixated on cultivating the perfect image of having the best things that we do whatever it takes to stay on top. Even if it means working at back-breaking hours and compromising on our health and personal values. With higher spending power, we automatically assume we need to have a higher standard of living.

However, we end up becoming slaves to the banks because we want the biggest house and the latest sports car. Women starve themselves in order to spend their entire monthly salary on a monogrammed bag. We become hoarders because we feel that the more things we possess, we will feel a greater sense of worth. Unsurprisingly, every purchase adds to the mountain of debt that we are actually accumulating.

With more debt, we are more stressed because we are trapped in a vicious cycle and become paranoid at losing our jobs. Before you know it, you are the sickly hamster running in an exercise wheel that never seems to stop. The ironic thing is that after awhile, you realize that everybody else is having the same things and your dream job, house or car isn’t that special or exclusive anymore. Nobody is really impressed because the things you have are too ‘common.’ You then start questioning yourself, who exactly was I trying to impress in the first place?

Here is a quote by Chuck Palahniuk who is the author of the award-winning novel Fight Club which starred Brad Pit,

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you are free to do anything.”

You do not need to live like a hermit or stop desiring the luxurious crocodile Hermes Birkin bag which has a never-ending waiting list. You just need to stop thinking that these things represent who you are as a person. Your things do not represent your memories, hopes and dreams.

As long as you are unable to control your thoughts and emotions, you will be easily subjected to unhappiness or even depression whenever something disastrous strikes. If we can’t handle the everyday stressors in our lives, we are bound to feel a sense of hopelessness.

When you have reached a ripe old age, believe it that you will not be wishing you had more material things so you can flaunt it unabashedly in front of friends and strangers. What matters are the quality of the relationships and experiences you’ve had. Happiness must always come from within and not from material items. If we assume that our happiness will increase with more material things, we will never win the game of life because there will always be somebody else who has more.

How to make yourself happy?

You do not need luxury goods or the latest gadgets to make you look or feel better

It is perfectly fine to enjoy the little luxuries in life but again, do understand that they are only things and not the keys to happiness. You do not need luxury goods or the latest gadgets to make you look or feel better. A person’s integrity and moral code is not judged by the things they own. According to John Kenneth Galbraith, the author of “The Affluent Society”, in spite of society’s increasing wealth, people are becoming unhappier. He states that materialism has bred discontentment.

Celestine Chua, founder of the Personal Excellence website, mentioned that material possessions are artificial symbols of happiness. We look upon them as bridges to our idealized lives and mistakenly believe that it will improve our life satisfaction, self-esteem and make us feel more attractive.

Advertisers and marketers are spin masters as they create a false illusion that without these items, your life is unsatisfactory and incomplete. They build a vision for you to aspire to whereby luxury goods will enable you to have acceptance from others. It comes to no surprise when you hear news of everyday citizens stealing iphones and luxury bags because they represent status symbols.

Create memories that you will cherish forever

Branding strategies are done so well that consumers link the product’s brand to their own personality. But as we all know, marketers will continuously churn out new items to the market and this becomes a never-ending cycle of materialism. This breeds discontentment as there will always be something else to tempt you. Sometimes we go on shopping sprees due to emotional outbursts of anger and stress. Unfortunately, we often end up guilty after a shopping spree because we know that we do not really need these items and this makes us feel even hollower on the inside.

As such, instead of using your money to buy another branded watch or bag, use the money to watch a concert, go sky-diving, sailing or whatever that reminds you the beauty of life. Create memories that you will cherish forever as you will look back at these experiences with a smile on your face and they make great stories to tell. It is far more interesting listening to someone describing a fun experience they had instead of a branded item they just bought off the shelf!

Focus inward to feel happy instead of relying on external sources

More importantly, you need to focus inward to feel happy instead of relying on external sources such as material goods to fill up the sense of lack that you are experiencing. By doing so, you are in greater control on how you feel and your sense of worth will not be easily diluted. Question yourself, why do you need material goods to feel worthy?

What is the gap or hole that you are trying to fill up? What are the insecurities that are causing you to feel as such?

If you really want to know if you are being emotionally attached to your items, do a spring-cleaning exercise and donate items that you hardly use to charity. Not only will you be able to de-clutter your life, your items will be of value to others.

A quote by American author Tom Bodett goes like this,

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.”

Having memorable life experiences and a positive outlook will make us happy

We need to understand that love, having memorable life experiences and a positive outlook will make us happy. Take some time out from the rat race to do things that you really love. We often put aside our passions because we feel that it is a waste of time if they do not reel in money. That is quite an unfortunate thought because doing the things you love will actually fuel the fire in you to love the life you have. You will even learn to find more meaning in your life.

Remember, even if you do not have lots of money or things to give away, if you can spare the time to make someone happy or smile, that is good enough already.

It is far more priceless to make a difference in someone’s life by showing compassion and kindness. Sometimes you will be amazed at how one small act of kindness can leave a positive impact on someone.

The next time you feel envious that your friend has something new, just be aware that the item will eventually fade or waste away until they find something else to replace it. Be different; channel your focus on actions and experiences that are irreplaceable instead. If you are able to do this, you will find that you no longer need another material item to fulfill your emotional needs.

If you find yourself wanting to purchase something due to your personal discontentment, challenge yourself to see if you can address it on your own without making a purchase. You will slowly begin to understand yourself better and embark on a journey of self-discovery. You need to fill yourself up from within. Re-examine the relationship that you have with your material goods and once you are able to address the issues on your own, you will no longer be at the mercy of another item to make you happy.