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You Are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff Is Not You.

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photo by Uh “¦ Bob

You cannot buy your way to happiness. There, I said it. I talk a lot about money on this site, but there is one thing I like to keep in mind as I am writing articles for My Two Dollars. And that is that no matter how much you make and how much you spend, you cannot possibly buy your way to happiness. Believe me, I tried. I got into debt chasing some happiness. It did not make me happier, but rather it made me miserable because of the debt I had piled up. So if you have already learned this lesson, this post is not for you. But if you are still struggling with learning that being a consumer does not make you happy, please keep reading!

Everyone struggles with the notion of “if I only had X, Y or Z, my life would be better!“. Including myself! I have learned to shut it off for the most part, but it still creeps back in once in a while. (MacBook Air, anyone?) Even if you never saw an ad on TV, heard one on the radio, or read one in a magazine, you still would be carrying around the “if only” gene with you. We have all been programmed to consume in order to improve our lives by everyone else around us as well, with or without the advertising: Neighbor got a new cool car? Man, how nice it would be if I could get one too! We all do it – the key is to learn to adapt to it and see through exactly what it is.

Advertising is designed to make you think you can have a better life – pills will make you slimmer or happier, certain food will make you energetic, alcohol enables you to have a good time, buying a Jaguar makes you a very cool dude. The idea of a “better life” is appealing to everyone; that’s why stuff is sold that way. Ad agencies get paid the big bucks to make you think you need a new TV, a new car, new clothes, etc – consume and then consume some more – go on, it will make you happy!

No, it won’t. It might in the short term, but it won’t long term. Here is why:

You are not your stuff. You are not what you own, how much money you have, the size of your house, your flat screen TV or your new car. In the end, none of this matters at all. None of it. It’s nice stuff to have, don’t get me wrong, and if you can afford it and have room for it in your life, go for it. But keep in mind that your stuff does not make you who you are. You know that license plate you see sometimes that says “He who dies with the most toys wins“? Actually, he who dies is dead and doesn’t win anything, and you don’t even get to take any toys with you! The reality of it is that you are more than the sum of your stuff, and the key to happiness is to start thinking as such.

You are your health.

You are your interests and hobbies.

You are your relationships.

You are your sense of purpose.

You are your dreams.

Having a large bank account is fantastic, as long as you are happy with how you built it up. Having a new BMW is great, as long as how you bought it makes you happy. We all want to be comfortable in life – and we all get a maximum of about 100 years on this planet. But basing your existence on what you have is not going to make you a happy person in the long run. Save for retirement, of course. Save for a house, of course. But don’t look to consumption to make you happy, it will only make you miserable. Work to pay yourself for your efforts, not some multi-billion dollar company that sells a product that they want you to think that you need. Chances are, you don’t need it at all. You are not your stuff, and your stuff is not you. If you are interested, one of my favorite documentaries on “stuff” is Affluenza, which you can watch on YouTube now.

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Comments (26)

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  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    I know this and I live it out, but I’m still struggling to internalize it. I know it but it’s still hard to _believe_.

  2. What a great post.
    I reminded my daughters and son the other day (when they were all begging for their own cell phones) that they didn’t even play with their new things they received for Christmas — just 6 weeks ago!!!

    What we crave is the pursuit, the dream of something new, the next mountain, the next joint venture, the next fish, the next Stumble, the next sunrise.

  3. david says:

    Thanks Ron, glad you liked it!

  4. Holly says:

    This is so true and understanding it once is good, but reminding myself on a daily basis is absolutely necessary! It is such an easy trap to fall into when we are being bombarded every waking moment with the message to consume…more…more…MORE!

  5. Matt says:

    So very true! Its nice to read a reminder of this every now and then. Although personally I would pass on the MacAir seeing all the slick toys and gadgets that come out each year does raise excitement levels and gets the brain going. But we are not our stuff… I learned my lesson the hard way and I think finally after years I am off the habit of indescressional consumerist spending (I hope).

  6. Nice post and great reminder. I often get caught up the “I will be happen when” state of mind. But the smile on my kids face at the end of the work day when I walk into the family room quickly reminds of the things that really matter.

  7. fathersez says:

    I agree. This is an important point, but not really understood or like Mrs. M says, internalized, by many.

    We are all so caught up with the next this and the next that and trying our best to keep up with the Joneses.

    I suppose the need to “conform” to the standards of our peer group plays a large role in this too. This is why, I am a strong advocate of looking for the right peer group.

  8. Emily says:

    How did I miss this post in my reader this week? Thanks to PaidTwice for linking it so I could find it. Excellent post, so well written and so true!

  9. [...] Two Dollars – You Are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff Is Not You. I couldn’t have said it [...]

  10. [...] You are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff is Not You [...]

  11. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing it. I plan to include your article in my weekly carnival review this Friday.

    Best Wishes,
    D4L

  12. david says:

    Glad you liked it D4L and Emily!

  13. [...] David at My Two Dollars writes that you are not your Stuff, and your Stuff is not you. “You are more than the sum of your Stuff, and the key to happiness is to start thinking as [...]

  14. I agree! I feel like my possessions largely distract from who I am. But I do like money to travel!

  15. [...] Price are you Paying to Have it All? The Supermom Myth Ask the Readers: Talking About Money You are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff is Not You The Parent Trap: They Give and Give and Give”¦ What is a Certified Financial Planner? Ways to Save [...]

  16. [...] You Are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff Is Not You (via Get Rich Slowly): You are not your stuff. You are not what you own, how much money you have, the size of your house, your flat screen TV or your new car. In the end, none of this matters at all. None of it. It’s nice stuff to have, don’t get me wrong, and if you can afford it and have room for it in your life, go for it. But keep in mind that your stuff does not make you who you are. You know that license plate you see sometimes that says “He who dies with the most toys wins”? Actually, he who dies is dead and doesn’t win anything, and you don’t even get to take any toys with you! The reality of it is that you are more than the sum of your stuff, and the key to happiness is to start thinking as such. [...]

  17. [...] you know that you’re not your stuff, and it isn’t you? I bet you really did think you were that stuffed penguin, huh? Well let My Two Dollars explain the [...]

  18. [...] finally, I liked this post over My Two Dollars because it reminded me of Fight Club. My Two Dollars writes, You are not your [...]

  19. [...] Two Dollars presents You Are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff is Not You: “Ad agencies get paid the big bucks to make you think you need a new TV, a new car, new [...]

  20. [...] us into feeling like our self-worth is tied to our stuff? As My Two Dollars so succinctly put it, “You are not your stuff.” Do THEY really shame us, or do we do it to ourselves? Do THEY really [...]

  21. [...] and enjoyed on other blogs like Social Proof and Flying Without a Net at On Simplicity and also You Are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff Is Not You at My Two [...]

  22. [...] us into feeling like our self-worth is tied to our stuff? As My Two Dollars so succinctly put it, “You are not your stuff.” Do THEY really shame us, or do we do it to ourselves? Do THEY really [...]

  23. Noah L. says:

    Great post.

    There’s one point that I want to comment on: Trying to be free from the identification of self with anything but being alive (AKA “the moment”) is identifying with something that is always there and never changes (until we die, that is). Almost everything else changes. Relationships change, health changes, sense of purpose changes, interests and hobbies change, and dreams change. This is very hard for most to accept (including me, though I’m slowly getting there!), but I believe it to be the truth, and in the very few people I’ve met in my life who are fully “living”, that’s where their minds have been at.

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