It starts at about 22 weeks of age and peaks in early teenage adolescence, depending on your sense of self, if there is a deficit, you are more likely to be inclined tosuffer from materialism, the obsession with stuff. All kinds of stuff, like bags, books, clothes, cars, toys, jewelry, furniture and electronic devices.
In an effort to feel better, feel good, obtain happiness or validate our sense of personal value, we tend to make up the difference by surrounding ourselves with identifiable things representing the value or success we demand we be associated with by others.
It is likely we are more apt to go buy something impractical or beyond our means when we are feeling blue or victimized or suffering from low self-esteem. The purchase of a luxury item sends a flood of dopamine to the brain that makes us feel good, but the purchase does not sustain the feeling for long, resulting in the common caveat, “You cannot buy happiness.”
No matter how much we realize the possession of things cannot make us happy, we still do it… and the economic virility of our nation depends on it. The system is built and structured around commercialism, breeding and nurturing a materialistic nation of over-anxious consumers, willing to rob from Peter to pay Paul, risk the failure of relationship and financial wellness, to obtain object of desire that may be beyond our means.
Our first major purchase as a young adult, our car, sets the pace for our future as a materialistic consumer of goods which we identify ourselves with and help to make us feel better by being supported or admired by peers based on this item.
What does your cache of possessions say about you when you are out and about town? While you are confidently sporting your latest luxury wardrobe, bag or other accessories, people who do not know you are more likely to assume that you are a member of the snobby, self-centered one percent and unapproachable as a kind, sensitive or caring person. Which is fine, if that’s your intention, to be viewed as such.
Our obsession with stuff helps to mitigate the damages of a fragile ego and could explain our tendency to over-purchase luxury items amidst our “mid-life crisis,” an explosion of demand to be recognized and noticed by valuation of our possessions, regardless of our lack of self-esteem or accomplishments in life.
Men who are prone to one-night-stands surround themselves with flashy possessions to lure unsuspecting women, which works like a magnet as women are prone to associate luxury items with stability and success. Researcher Jill Sundie ascertained that women interested in casual relationships are likely to seek out men with high-priced belongings as a likely candidate for a brief sexual encounter.
Psychologists find that the more expensive your personal belongings, the less they are likely to volunteer, or find satisfaction in community, family, country, religious organizations and are less inclined to join in demanding social activities.
Materialistic consumers are as a rule more depressed, personality disorders, anxiety, selfish, have poorer relationships and are admired less by their peers.
According to a Tufts University study, “People who are highly focused on materialistic values have lower personal well-being and psychological health than those who believe that materialistic pursuits are relatively unimportant.” Also, that they are more likely to suffer from physical problems such as headaches, and to personality disorders, narcissistic, and antisocial behaviors.
The Materialistic Virus
It actually spreads like a virus fueled by advertising and media exposure, most of us are available toward off the materialistic bug, until we are bit and infected by a friend or neighbor who makes an outlandish purchase.
You see them quietly flaunting their purchase and you’re impressed because you feel like you are more deserving of it than that person who earns less than you do. (Even though they cannot afford it, and they themselves have been bitten by the same bug.)
After a while, your natural defense to warding off such irrational thought beaks down as you start to rationalize and find ways to possess such an item – or a better one – for yourself to in effect “keep up with the Joneses.” Regardless of your otherwise sound purchasing practices.
This sense of materialistic competition finds us over-extending ourselves to match or supersede the efforts of our neighbors or co-workers.
Maybe consider asking yourself before you make that next luxury purchase,
“Can I actually afford this?”
And consider additionally asking,
“What will this purchase say about me?”
“How will this purchase affect others?”
If it alienates others, makes you seem unapproachable or spreads the materialistic virus to others, maybe it’s worth re-thinking your potential purchase.