I just returned from a glorious three days in Naples, Fla., with a few of my best girlfriends from college. We make a point to get away for a few days once a year to reconnect. We soak up the sun. We go out for nice dinners. We drink wine. We sit in hot tubs and cry.
In what’s become known as “Hot Tub Therapy,” my friends and I save up a list of topics we just need to hash out in person with our besties. We actually compiled an official agenda for this trip just to be sure we made the most of our time and didn’t miss anything. This year, one of my agenda items was a recent phenomenon I call my “Inner Entitled Snob Voice.”
The Inner Entitled Snob Voice tells me things like, “You are the wife of a successful technology executive. You’re a wonderful mother, and you work hard. You’re in your thirties, and you’re doing pretty well. No, very well! You deserve a certain lifestyle. You deserve nice things. You need to keep up with everyone else.” (In case it’s unclear, each italicized phrase is delivered with an extra touch of douchebaggery.)
Shockingly, this voice often comes to me when I’m at Target. Or browsing on Nordstrom.com. Or looking through my daily Zulily email. Or looking at photos of other people’s amazing vacations on Facebook. Or enjoying a flawlessly executed dinner party in a friend’s gorgeous new home.
The Voice is not me. The Voice belongs to a really sucky person, someone who worries a lot what others think of her and does a lot of comparing. The Voice helps me justify frivolous spending that does not align with my values. Because honestly, this is not who I want to be.
I’m someone who is naturally influenced by marketing messages and advertising. I watch a commercial and I want to immediately purchase the item. I’m a sponge, and it’s tough to keep myself focused on what really matters. Sometimes I’m one episode of “Fixer Upper” from throwing away every item in my home and draining my savings account at West Elm.
The truth is, it’s hard to be grateful for what you have once the shiny newness of your Brand New Adult Life starts to wear off. You see your peers climbing professional ladders, property ladders, social ladders. It’s difficult to resist the urge to keep up with the Joneses. Things can get a little hazy, and it’s easy to lose your balance in the media-saturated hum of life. This is called Lifestyle Creep: the more money you make, the more money you spend. It’s common, but it’s important to be aware of it if your financial goals are more ambitious than just going with the flow.
One of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton of the blog Momastery, recently imparted some elegant wisdom on this issue:
“Give me gratitude or give me debt.”
I do not value most things. What I value is my family, my friends, my service to others, my creative life, and myself. I try to remember Glennon’s words often. I frequently tell myself, “I have all I need,” repeating it again and again until I really believe it.
I don’t need a fancy giant new house in the suburbs; my little house here in bustling Broad Ripple makes me quite happy. I don’t need fancy, expensive clothes; I do pretty well with my Old Navy duds and the occasional clearance purchase from J. Crew Factory. I don’t need to keep up with the latest fashion trends; I know what works well for my body and can feel perfectly stylish in affordable clothing without buying something new every single week.
Here’s another truth: The more material things you acquire, the more time and energy you spend on material things.
- The giant, showroom-perfect house requires lots of maintenance and work. I would much rather play with my daughter at the park than tend to perfect landscaping or clean four bathrooms.
- The expensive, dry-clean-only clothes look amazing, but I would much rather pick my daughter up from her high chair to give her a big hug, sticky fingers and all, and know that she won’t be ruining a $200 blouse.
- Vacations and travel are amazing, but they are also draining. I would rather take infrequent trips making lasting memories than use all my energy recovering from a weekend jaunt to somewhere impressive.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for nice things and luxurious treats; we all deserve to feel special and comfortable, and we all have different recipes for a happy life. I certainly fall a little short of my idealistic visions on a daily basis, and sometimes a little pick-up is just exactly what I need. But it’s important to examine the reason you’re drawn to something. I try to make sure I’m not using material items to distract myself from something that can only be truly fixed with love, healing, hard work, patience, growth, or acceptance.
So if you also suffer from Inner Entitled Snob Voice, remember that the products of her fervent demands quickly fade. The trendy clothes go out of fashion. The manicure chips. The new throw pillows are covered in crumbs and PB&J handprints before too long. The Real You is in there. What does she REALLY need?