By Ouk Suntharoth
Are you a materialistic person? Does possessing brand names or expensive products make you feel happy?
These are the two questions that I was asked quite often in the past. I have to admit that I used to fall into the trap of materialism – the belief that the key to happiness comes from having more wealth and possessions. However, right now, my perception on valuing materialistic goods has changed completely.
The time before I became materialistic
Throwback to more than ten years ago, life was so simple.
I was just an ordinary kid living in the city, who enjoyed and appreciated every little thing that was given. All I needed was my mom who always cooked the best meals for me, my dad who always read me many bedtime stories, and my brother who always walked me to school.
Besides my family, I also had many friends both at school and in my neighborhood. We spent time after school and on weekends playing games, such as hide and seek, cooking and so on. These activities always made my day better, and until today, they are still my best childhood memories. Back then, nobody judged me for what I was wearing or using.
The turning point
But when I reached my adolescence, I started to notice the change in me. The change that urged me to be desperate for goods, such as cellphone, new clothing, new motorbike and so on, in order to feel happy.
I remember one day wearing a t-shirt with a small ketchup stain to school and every pair of eyes stared at me! My classmates giggled behind my back. I didn’t know why but I felt so embarrassed. Since that day, I became more and more cautious with the things I used at school. I felt the need to wear perfectly new clothes, new bags, new everything in order to feel “happy” and to earn respect from others.
As time passed by, my obsession with luxury goods became more severe. I started to idolize a friend of mine who always had the latest released products and I became a copycat trying to own the same things as she did. One time when we went shopping together, I couldn’t buy the last pair of shoes that I wanted. I came back home feeling frustrated until I went to another market to get the exact same pair the next day.
As time went on, I realized I was hurting myself mentally and financially.
Mentally, I became someone who valued goods over people’s heart. I started to judge myself by what I owned and always felt the desire to buy everything I wanted even though I didn’t need it. Otherwise, I would feel unhappy and insecure about myself. Financially, I became a big spender. Every month I always spent more than my actual allowance, and those spending were mostly on the products that I only used once or twice.
Back to the old me
Fortunately, I was able to wake myself up from this delusion and realized that I was never truly happy by owning those products; instead, I was living a miserable life trying to be like someone else.
I also grew more aware of the people who suffer on a daily basis trying to meet their basic needs, while I was spending my money on unnecessary stuff like there was no tomorrow. Since then, I told myself enough is enough!
Now as I look back to this chapter of my life, I realize that the society has always indirectly injected us with the idea that respect is earned by being rich and having expensive products. But by focusing only on money and possessions alone, we forget what truly matters in life.
Today, I am no longer thrilled to buy unnecessary goods for the sake of being happy. I now know the source of my happiness comes from the people around me, like my family and good friends, who love me for who I am without judging me on what I use, wear, drive or eat. They have always been the people who teaches me the real meaning of happiness, long before I was brainwashed by the materialistic society.
I hope my story gives you the courage to let go of materialism as a way to be loved or respected. You are worth more than anything you own.
As this wise Internet quote says, “Sometimes the things you own end up owning you”.
Lastly, I would love to know about you. Were or are you a materialistic person? And do you think materialism can truly bring happiness to your life?
Don’t forget to share your answers in the comment section below!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.