It seems so long ago since I discovered what direction I wanted my life to go. In reality, it has only been a couple of years but so much has happened in that time.
Before realizing what was important in my life, I had no direction. I was living day to day with no plan for the future and I was not focusing any energy towards acheiving anything better for myself. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was wasting my life. I would find ways of bringing happiness and pleasure into my life, mostly through acquiring material possessions.
The more stuff that I bought, the better I felt, the more successful I thought I was. The feeling of success wasn’t for having actually accomplished anything with my life, but rather because I had acquired objects that I thought would project the image of success. In reality I was broke, working at a job that barely made ends meet, but I had my stuff. Maybe you know the feeling.
I wanted to project an image, but eventually I would realize that no one cared.
I understand now that purchasing all of this stuff was only a way for me to fill something that was missing in my life in a material way. It wasn’t until I realized that an apartment littered with inanimate objects wasn’t making me happy that the accumulation of material possessions was no longer an important part of my life. I didn’t feel like I had to buy something in order to project an image of success. As long as in my heart I knew that I was doing everything I could to accomplish my goals, what I owned wasn’t important.
People project the image of success in various ways. Some use fancy cars, big houses, complex home theatre systems and flat-screen TVs. If you are one of these people who continually buys things because of the happiness you experience from having that object in your life, look inward and try to focus on what is actually missing in your life. I’m going to bet that it isn’t that “Jersey Girl” DVD you thought you couldn’t possibly live without.
Find your focus and align your lifestyle in a way that is harmonious with your new vision of life. Once you have a direction in life it is much easier to get to where you are going.
We are social beings, you can’t argue against that. Its ingrained in us. The portrayal of “image” hinges on the idea that we interact, both actively and passively, with others. The fact is that we use external acceptance of projected self image as a source of internal validation. Acceptance of the image we portray by our peers both validates our internal meaning, however we have defined that, and perpetuates the maintence of these images.
I agree, we often use material possessions as symbols of meaning. A big house may be symbol of success, a black shirt and spiked collar may be a symbol of anti-culture, a chiseled chest may be a symbol of vitality, but they are all just symbols we use to portray an image. And, the mirror image of our portrayed image is our internal meaning. We strive to project what we strive to be internally. The ability to manipulate people into believing the image we project is pivitol to the idea of “self.”
Without acceptance of “self” externally, internal meaning has no weight. Jesus thought he was the son of God. Why did he have to tell everyone? Why want people to follow him? Truth, salvation. BS. Acceptance and validation. I mean…even Buddhist monks wash their robes. Think about it. We are all outwardly aware of our social environment and our position within in it, and we strive to manipulate those in it.
I agree, looking for internal meaning is a great idea, but I’m not sure it is possible. If it was possible for us to shun others acceptance for self-validation, we both wouldn’t wear nice clothes, I wouldn’t have a large television and home theater, and you wouldn’t have a website devoted to your ideas and values.
If you were alone in the world, would your life have meaning?
Noah, you are correct when you say that we use material possessions to portray an image of self. As human beings there is a need for acceptance, however, do you wish to be accepted and valued by others based solely on the objects you possess?
Wouldn’t a relationship based on respect of your values, principles and beliefs be much more meaningful than having a friend simply because you have a nice car or slick clothes?
I’m not saying that we need to shun the idea of materialism completely but I do think that for many people there is no comprehension of when you are acquiring things for the sole purpose of impressing others. There comes a point when the need for acceptance begins to inflict more damage than good in a person’s life.
When a person continually spends their hard-earned money for things they personally don’t value because they think others value it, they are working against their values. Some people have gone to such extremes with trying to impress others that they are stuck working in a job they hate because they are so deep in debt that they feel as though they have no choice but to stay.
Everyone has different goals, afterall isn’t the American Dream to own a nice home, nice car, have a nice wife and a nice family? For some, that is life and more power to them. For others, this way of life is unfathomable. It all boils down to finding what YOU value in your life, and not constantly focusing your attention on what others value.
To answer your question, if I was alone in this world, would my life have meaning? That is hard to say. I enjoy my relationships with people a lot. The people in my life are important to me and a large part of what I value in my life. I’d have to say that yes, my life would still have meaning, but it would be in a different way than what it is today.
there is so much more to this world than material possessions. we miss it because we are distracted by the newest shiny gadget, but we really don’t need all of that to lead fulfilling lives. i feel bogged down when i start getting too much stuff…
anyway, yes, i do believe we should take personal pride in our appearance, and wear clean clothes, and wash ourselves and stuff… not for other people, but because we are worth it. (personally, i shave my legs because i like it, not because someone else will. that was probably too much information.)
if i were the only person on the planet, i hope that i would still do all of that. but there would be something missing. we are communal beings, and thrive within communities. we gravitate towards people who are like ourselves, some gravitate towards people they feel are ‘better’. let’s level the playing field. we are all human; all have a life worth living. if those of us who are more fortunate than others would help those less fortunate, the entire world would be in a much better place. i truly believe this.
so much of us (americans in particular) waste what we have on things that will fade away… if we could learn to invest in long-term impact (dare i say, eternal) such as people, think of the possibilities!