Unhappiness & the Fear of Not Fitting In

Social pressure to conform isn't in your imagination. It’s real.

If it’s such common sense to only spend what you can afford, why do so many people spend money they don’t have – use credit, in other words – to buy things they want?

Think about it for a minute? Why did you whip out your credit card and pay for that meal in a restaurant, pair of new shoes, or groceries? Why did you buy that big screen TV on a buy-now-pay-later program? Why did you use your line of credit to pay off your credit card? Be honest. Why?

People want to maintain lifestyles they can’t afford. Whether it is the social pressure to conform, our own sense of entitlement, or a disregard for the potential risk we place ourselves in when we use credit to buy STUFF, we’re delusional.

There are actually people out there who believe that using credit is “normal”, that it’s what they should be doing. After all, their parents did it, their brother’s doing it, so is their best friend. In fact, most of the people they know are doing it.

It’s as if people are afraid to just be. They have to drive the right car, go on an annual cruise, have new leather furniture, watch a high-definition, big-screen television, eat out three or four times a week, drink the best Scotch, or consume store-bought coffee every day. And they’re willing to exchange hours, days, months, years of peace of mind for the momentary high that comes with the new acquisition. Whazzup with that?

Social pressure to conform isn't in your imagination. It’s real. But if you submit, if you’re willing to live a life of smoke and mirrors, if you want it ALL right NOW, then you need to accept that you’re creating a miserable life for yourself. It’s only a matter of time before the piper comes a’knocking.

One way to gain some perspective is to ask yourself (and your partner) what it is you really want in life. If you only had six months left on this sweet earth, what would you want to be doing? Would you be shopping for new furniture? Would the kind of car you drive really make a difference? How about the handbag you’re carrying?

I often talk to my daughter, Alex, about how important it is to live a worthwhile life: A life that brings challenge and love, that allows you to share, to laugh, and to be happy.

So, what are the things that make your life worthwhile? And what are you doing to put more of the things that make you happy into your life?

Want a great book to read on happiness. Read The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, Associate Professor of Psychology University of Virginia. Terrific book. Lots of great ideas on what makes us happy and what you can do to be happier.

If you love your life (as opposed to your stuff), relish the time you spend working, look forward to seeing the people you share your space with, and feel as if you’re making a difference, I don’t think the kind of car you drive, whether you have a big-screen TV, or how often you eat in a fancy restaurant will mean much. If you can focus on creating the life you want, taking small steps to achieve your goals and finding a way to laugh while you’re doing it, I’m willing to bet you won’t even miss your credit cards.

As Jonathan Haidt’s website (www.happinesshypothesis.com) says, "Happiness is not the shallow state of feeling pleased and chipper all the time. Happiness is the state of a human being that has achieved cross-level coherence within herself, and between herself and the people, challenges, and institutions around her. Happiness comes from between."





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