September 26, 2012

In Search of Contentment - Part 3

3.  Quit tying contentment to what people think of you. 

"If I am popular, I will be happy and content."

"If people like me and I have a lot of friends, then I will be happy and content." 

"If people want what I have, then I will be happy and content."
In this series, I have listed and will list several beliefs that I have observed on searching for contentment.  Some are more on a smaller scale than others.   Today I am focusing on quit tying contentment to what people think of you.  I believe that this is one of the biggest struggles that people can face.  We want to be revered, looked up to, and perceived as successful.  However, being driven by what people think of you can be detrimental to your life and your finances.  If you put your faith in what people think of you, you may never be happy doing what you are now doing.  You will not be content.  

Think about it.  Does what people think of you hold you back or push you forward?  I know that this is a problem that a lot of people have, as there are a lot of designer clothes, new cars and brand new homes being sold even in this economy.  Statements are being made.  Perception is valued above reality.  If I am perceived as being successful, then this will be my new reality.  I will be successful and happy.

The problem with this way of thinking is that if you are going the way of what others think, then you will end up making bad decisions.  It does make you feel as if you have a higher value than others, but it is false and doesn’t last.

Since this blog is about living a frugal life, here is an example of how that kind of thinking can be detrimental.  If I buy this great new expensive car, that I can’t “afford” unless I extend the loan to 72 months, then people will think I am successful.  The same goes with if I build a beautiful large new house, one that I can’t afford, then people will think that I am successful and happy.

Having a nice vehicle or new home is not a bad thing, but if you can’t afford it and if you are only doing it because you want to give a certain impression to people, then it won’t be long before the thrill wears off – especially if you are extended financially and really can’t afford it.  You will not be content in the end.   In fact you will be miserable as there will always be something else you will want in order to give the correct appearance. 

I’ve often wondered how many people are afraid to move forward with their lives because they worry what people will think.  Would more people be able to retire early or more comfortably if they weren’t worried what other people thought?   In other words if you drove an old car and lived in a small two bedroom house, even though you could afford a “McMansion,” would you be able to meet your dream of retiring early or living on one income?  Better yet, would you finally be able to work part time and spend more time with your family?   Contentment can only come when you are doing what truly makes you happy and it does not come from what other people think of you. 

Live your life without worrying about what others think.  It is hard to do at times, but the older I get I realize that doing what you want to do, going your own way does bring true contentment and happiness. 

People thought I was crazy to stay home full time after a successful career as a legal assistant.  I had offers from two attorneys from two nearby cities when we closed the law practice and I know that I would have made a nice sum of money but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do.  This was totally against what people thought I should do.  Some people could not believe that I would “waste my talents” by staying home full time.

I’m not perfect and I still struggle sometimes with the “what will people think” equation, but I am happy.  Here I am 3 years after losing my job working Saturday afternoons at the Public Library and watching an 8 year old neighbor boy after school 4 afternoons a week.  I am doing what I want to do and not because I have to.  I am for the most part, content. 

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