American values are too often focused on material goods.
Products, lifestyles, and ways to spend money are all marketed to us with the assumption that we want to improve our status through the products in the market.
Security, freedom, insurance, status- these are desirable things. Money can buy us things that are desirable, but are the things that wealth brings really the things we are looking for?
An improved status may change how we feel about ourselves, but will it really make us happier?
It’s hard to say.
Financial Foundation and Self Worth
Research shows that the degree to which you place your self worth on your financial foundation may determine your level of happiness.
Finances are often unstable, and if your sense of well being fluctuates with your market value, you’ll be in for a shaky ride.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t feel good about making money.
Working hard toward goals and achieving personal milestones should be a source of self worth. The important thing is to be aware of why you are seeking money.
Do you have enough right now? If so, what is motivating you to accumulate more wealth?
It seems like a simple question, but think about it: If you have a secure financial foundation, what is your incentive for making more money?
There are certainly some valid reasons to grow your wealth.
If you are trying to create a secure financial foundation for your children through a savings account, it’s probably a healthy thing to work hard for your kids. When you have a value system that holds certain things above money, working for wealth can be a great tool to benefit the things and people that you value.
You may have created a business, and the success of that venture has given you a healthy sense of confidence and self worth. In that case, it might be wise to pursue money in order to further your business, give back to the community, and pay your employees a healthy wage.
For some people, making money is like a science. You may relish in the process of understanding the market. You might be able to capitalize on nearly-invisible opportunities. In a way, making money is an art form — and a very exhilarating one.
You may enjoy the art of money making in much the same way that a painter enjoys painting. This is a perfectly healthy way to accumulate wealth, as long as you understand what you’re doing, and your sense of self is not dependent on your bank account.
Negative Effects of Wealth on Self Worth
The rush of buying a new car is much the same as the rush of taking a drug. There’s a euphoria, then we are right back where we started.
The thing about most drugs is, they’re addictive. And how often do you hear people advocating that we get addicted to drugs? Probably never, unless they’re talking money.
Drugs can tease us further and further away from our selves until eventually, we have a hard time remembering what we were like before we started. Money, if treated unwisely, can have the same effect.
It’s hard to break your self worth away from the status of your financial foundation. I mean, studies show that our values are processed in the same part of the brain as money. There’s definitely a connection there.
The correlation between money and value is a side-product of the fact that our brains are wired for hierarchy.
When we exist in a fixed hierarchy like a monarchy, a caste system, or any other rigid system that doesn’t allow for us to change status, one’s position in the group determines a lot about them.
Under those circumstances, people lower on the totem pole are hard-wired to experience stress, and are more susceptible to illness.
In the United States, however, we don’t have a fixed hierarchy.
We live in a place where upward mobility is the goal, and it’s proven that we are able to move up the chain if we have the heart, and money, to do it.
Most people strive to leave the stressors of poverty, which is why advertisements work so well!
“You’re stressed about being poor? Well, you’re in luck because this is the product that will change your life.”
Here’s the thing: there is evidence to show that this idea is an illusion.
An interesting thing happens in societies without fixed hierarchies. Those who hold the highest positions are actually more stressed than those below them, because their status is always subject to change- they have more to lose.
The financial foundations of wealthy people are solid, but the happy ones may not place their entire worth upon their stack of money.
You Can Have Both
It is entirely possible to accumulate a fantastic amount of wealth while maintaining a healthy sense of self worth. It just takes some skill to navigate your values, your ideas of yourself, and your ideas of money.
Our ideas of wealth are instilled into us from a very young age. Much of the popular media promotes an American ideal of wealth and happiness. It is an effective tool to sell goods, and it is a product of the culture we live in.
Money may bring happiness for some people. For others, it may bring a low self worth if it isn’t accompanied by a healthy sense of self. The key is understanding your values and leveraging them against your financial foundation.
1. What things do you value more than money?
Try making a list of the things that you value more than money. Do your actions reflect this list, or are you doing things that go against your values in order to gain money?
2. Is your financial foundation working toward your greater values?
Money is not an end in itself. It is currency that we use to exchange the things we want and need. If you have enough to satisfy your needs, and maybe even your wants, then what is the point of your ambitions?
If you don’t have a lot, but you’re able to pay rent, buy food, and go see a movie here and there, ask yourself if that is enough.
3. How would you feel about yourself if money wasn’t an issue?
Who do you think you are? It’s difficult for everyone to answer that question, and there may not be an answer. In order to achieve a lasting happiness, you need to have a sturdy sense of self-worth.
It would be difficult to maintain happiness if you were threatened by every friend that received a pay grade.
4. Is money pinning you against others?
Have you lost touch with your less-wealthy friends? Or, conversely, do you stay away from your wealthy friends out of embarrassment? Answering these questions will reveal a lot about your relationship to money.
Are they are still the same people that worked with you for minimum wage at one point? There should be no good reason to avoid people based on their income.
Healthy Ways to Approach Money
The fact is that we need money. So, if we have a relationship with cash, why not have a healthy one?
1. Separate your self worth from your net-worth
We’ve touched on this idea a few times already. It’s a hard thing to do, and it may not be entirely possible.
It would be very hard to completely understand the relationship between yourself and money. The important thing is to do some critical thinking about that relationship.
As long as you don’t leave your search for wealth unchecked, there’s a good chance that you’ll do what you can to balance money and happiness.
2. Spend your money on things that line up with your values
From soaps to houses, you can feel good about the purchases you make. Instead of buying a Gucci bag, you could buy dinner for an entire restaurant. You could also donate the money.
The latter two things would likely contribute to a healthy sense of self worth. Buying things for yourself improves status in the same way that buying things for others does.
The only difference is that one of the options builds a value of self worth that isn’t dependent on material goods.
3. Understand how much money you actually need
Develop a good grasp of how much money you need to earn each month.
Calculate your rent, mortgage, cost of groceries, clothes for growing kids, etc. Take a look at that number, and determine how much more you actually want.
You might be working 60 hour weeks, when you actually only need to work 40. You may be surprised how that extra time allows you to understand how the search for money is affecting your self worth.
Make the Effort
You won’t know if you have a healthy relationship with your financial foundation until you take a look at it. Write down your goals and values, and evaluate if your relationship to wealth is helping or hurting your self worth.
Get more information by researching on sites that have well-rounded financial advice.