Materialism as defined by Wikipedia, is the excessive desire to consume and acquire material goods. What exactly causes this desire? Does personality, experiences or events in one’s life cause one to be materialistic?
Society nowadays usually revolve around one’s social status. The misconception that happiness can be increased by having more money and more material wealth is usually the cause for one to be materialistic. To go more indebt about the causes of materialism, we need to know the root of it. Research has proven that low self-esteem starting as early from childhood is normally how materialism begins.
Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self-esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem. The study primarily focused on how this relationship affects children and adolescents. Lan Nguyen Chaplin (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Deborah Roedder John (University of Minnesota) found that even a simple gesture to raise self-esteem dramatically decreased materialism, which provides a way to cope with insecurity.
The paradox that findings such as these bring up, is that consumerism is good for the economy but bad for the individual. Many items nowadays are targeted at the younger generation. Handphones, and other electronic devices are the main draw for youngsters nowadays. The desire to have the latest handphone or the newest gadgets in town may create a false sense that one would be highly looked up to by having these items.
Richard Layard wrote in his book, “Happiness: Lessons from a New Science”, that materialism exposes a paradox at the heart of our lives. People want more money so that they may consume more, however as society becomes richer, more problems arise. In fact, the First World has more depression, more alcoholism and more crime than fifty years ago. This paradox is true of Britain, the United States and other first world countries.
Happiness can be found in many other ways. One does not necessarily have to make a lot of money to be happy. Experiences are essential to one’s life and this is one way of gaining happiness without having to spend a lot. Having a simple meal with a loved one or learning new languages which you can later share with others would be money well spent instead of buying material products which may not serve its purpose as technology and trends tend to change ever so often.
In Charles Dickens’s 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, the main character Ebenezer Scrooge was a wealthy man but also a greedy man who looked down on the poor. It was only after being visited by the 3 Christmas spirits did he realise that being rich would not make him happy as he would be lonely and no one cared for him. He later became a model of generosity and everyone saw him for the better and embraced him. Doing a good deed or going out to help another would be something even more precious than a diamond necklace. One does not need to spend much to help another. Seeing another person smile after being helped can be most rewarding.
One person being less materialistic isn’t going to make a noticeable impact on the world, but it is a start and will improve the life of that one individual. Once entire nations start to understand the myths about what really makes one happy, then maybe we still have a fighting chance.
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