How Can Materialism Affect Your Well-Being

Buy things that you don’t need. Got bills to pay? Forget about bills; you need Gucci socks don’t you? You can solve all your problems by throwing money at them, and if you can’t, you need more money. You see that hot girl walking down the road, throw money at her, pretend you are playing Pokémon, and you’ll be fine. As you reach the millionaire threshold, you’ll get stronger, faster; you’ll be able to jump higher, see-through walls and maybe even fly. Hi, my name is Jason; often, I start my posts with inflammatory none sense; I even stole someone else’s joke at the end and they won't get any credit because now it's mine.

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We live in a world surrounded by and composed of matter; it’s effortless to become distracted from spiritual, intellectual, and communal things in pursuit of material possessions.

People talk about materialism badly; it affects both the rich and the poor. My materialistic nature isn’t something I think about; the whys behind the feelings that drive me to obtain particular objects have never seemed necessary to contemplate.

From time to time, I hear people say that today’s society is materialistic. When I first listened to this, I recalled my memories, observed people in my daily life, and searched for examples of this nature.

The craving to obtain new items, measuring your success by your material wealth and the thought that owning something will make you happier are all examples of your materialistic side.

Types Of Materialism

I read a journal article written by Rik Pieters, which investigated the relationship between materialism and loneliness; I read about three components of a materialistic mindset.​

Acquisition centrality, from the name, I can infer this element of materialism centres around acquiring items. The acquisition of possessions becomes the central motivation in your daily routine.​

It’s not necessarily a status thing; instead, it’s feeling a level of satisfaction or amusement coming from owning the item, which will vary from person to person.

The following two themes are more closely related. Possession defined success: assumes that excess wealth and the ability to afford expensive things mean that a person has done well in life. Acquisition as the pursuit of happiness is the third kind and pretty much explains itself.

Acquisition centrality is unique because the motivation is simply owning the item, not anything they expect it to bring. Looking at possession defined success or acquisition as the pursuit of happiness, the reason behind these material desires change.​

The motivations start with comparisons; either you compare yourself with others judging whose more successful, or you compare your present with your future imagining you would be happier, based on what you can afford or what you own.​

They both link a negative view of yourself or others with the inability to reach a state of excess material wealth. Furthermore, all three of these components are closely related to a highly materialistic individual who will likely simultaneously display many of these elements.

How can Materialism Affect Your Well-being?

A research paper on the journal of happiness studies talked about the relationship between materialism and our well-being. It made the point that the nature of this relationship depends on our personalities.​

Your well-being referred to how you view yourself, from how it’s written about in the paper. It’s a personal assessment. Similar to self-esteem, whether or not your happy with who you are or where you are in life.

We all know that excessive materialism correlates positively with narcissistic and Neurotic personality traits.

Narcissism occurs in two forms, grandiose and vulnerable. They are both similar in that they express a sense of entitlement, egocentrism, and self-absorption. Grandiose narcissism embraces dominance and aggression.

Whilst vulnerable narcissism is more introverted-like, Individuals are susceptible to criticism and are more passive-aggressive; they will find more indirect or manipulative ways to get what they want.

Neuroticism is a product of our negative feelings like anxiety, jealousy, worry, and depression. Vulnerable narcissism is closely related to neurotic tendencies.

Combining the two personality traits into one term to relate to materialism doesn’t work. Both subtypes of narcissism are related to materialism; however, only vulnerable narcissism is related to neurotic tendencies. Grandiose narcissism appears to oppose neuroticism.

Thus materialists can be separated into two types; the peacock and the mouse, and you can distinguish them in two ways. Either the peacocks have a much higher expression of grandiose narcissism, or the mouse has a much higher expression of neuroticism.

You can describe materialism as “a functional strategy applied to solve various problems encountered by people with different personalities”. The study describes two of these strategies, which apply to either the peacock or the mouse.​

Mice, plagued with feelings of anxiety, fear, tension and negative anticipation, use material possessions as a source of comfort and security. The core of this model suggests the materialistic drive aims to remedy feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and falling short of their standards.

This type of materialism focuses on using material possessions to make you feel better about yourself, to cloud a negative view of yourself. Note this type of materialism had the most damaging effect on your well-being because it’s linked to high levels of neuroticism.

Looking back at our components of materialism, mice relate to materialism centred around success and happiness. These components had a significant positive correlation to neurotic character traits.

For the peacock, materialism serves more to construct and maintain their identity. The desire for material gains is a means of promotion rather than protection. Interestingly, this form of materialism didn’t seem to harm your well-being as it’s associated with a positive self-view.​

The peacock is more closely related to the acquisition centrality component of materialism. This component had the strongest correlation to grandiose narcissism and had the weakest relation to neuroticism.

Within a consumer society, the peacock’s strategy works. I’m going to be lazy and quote the study because I don’t feel like I can explain it better in my own words.

The self-oriented narcissistic materialists promoting themselves through the acquisition and possession of material goods have a chance to achieve a satisfactory level of well-being. Their strategy may be effective because the “language” of material goods is convenient, easily accessible, socially approved, and understandable within consumer culture.

Although being a peacock, your well-being may not differ from a non-materialist, the narcissistic character traits which can come up, as a result, can be a pathological issue.

Is it okay to love money?

I’m going to use the Bible as a quick example because when I think of a saying involving the desire for wealth, this bible quote comes to mind. It’s a saying we’ve all heard in one form or another.

1 Timothy 6:6–10: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

The Bible didn’t mean that being wealthy was a bad thing. The quote suggests a link between evil and your desire to obtain wealth.

You can argue that this lack of satisfaction can cause you to lose humility. This loss of humility can fuel selfish desires. You could start to think highly of yourself by assuming that you deserve more or getting jealous at the thought of others people having what you want.

The ​message seems to warn about the narcissistic habits which we now know can accompany a materialistic mind.​

Even though I believe the Bible makes some good points regarding loving money, some topics are missing. I don’t think it’s wrong to desire wealth; the desire could connect to values other than self-enhancement.

Would you say it’s wrong to desire wealth if you honestly wanted to use it to benefit a greater good?

Fair enough, the desire may lead some people to commit harmful acts, disregard issues outside of their concern, or even warp their moral standards.

However, I don’t believe these consequences are autonomous with the desire for wealth; it will depend on the values of the individual. I haven’t read the entire Bible; perhaps it mentions these points or more in a later passage.

How can You live a less Materialistic Lifestyle?

Firstly, do you even need to be concerned with becoming less materialistic? The desire for material things is only a problem when used as the only means to fill a void, that void being discontent.

If you think that material riches are an absolute necessity to living a happy or successful life, then perhaps your attitude would need a shift.

Becoming less materialistic wouldn’t start with abandoning your material desires or possessions.

I agree with Scott Young, who stated that If You believe abandoning your possessions was the solution, it proves that you was overly concerned with the items anyway. It’s more about stepping away from the ideology that your assets dictate your happiness or success.

To fill this void of discontent, I encourage you to pursue intangible assets; this could involve challenging yourself to learn a new skill, helping the community or other people, finding hobbies that relate to your passions, and commitment to a cause.

In any case, the point is to find assets which you can relate your happiness or success toward, outside of material objects.​

Lastly, I feel like society wants me to be materialistic; big business calls us consumers and tricks us into thinking we need to buy things.

Corporations flourish and thrive through this deception, and you don’t have to think of it as evil intent or that they are brainwashing you; it’s strictly business.

If I genuinely want something, there is no harm in buying it. However, if I get misguided into thinking that I need an item to validate my success or make me happier, I could be disappointed long-term.

It’s my responsibility to stay aware of how society wants me to think. I won’t conform to the darker side of materialism.

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Autistic and Opinionated

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Jason Maverick

Jason Maverick

Autistic and Opinionated

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