There's nothing wrong with you!
And who wants to feel like a failure?
This starts very young. It's not just the entertainment industry and retail businesses feeding us this horrific lie, either. Starting all the way back in grade school we are told that we must perform well in our classes, not to become better people, not to acquire knowledge to help us someday make a difference in the world; no, we're told this because it will be important that we "get into a good college" when we graduate high school. And why is that so important? Because, of course, we have to "get a good job." That's it. In the end, public schools are teaching us that it's all about the money. (More in full post.)
With that kind of pressure on us, is it any wonder so many of us wind up in the big houses we can't afford, driving the expensive cars and wearing the designer clothes, so we can at least appear like we aren't failures, even if it means being way over our heads in debt? And the pressure only grows when we have children, as others tell us we're depriving our kids and damaging them for life - even abusing them (!) - if we don't let them live like we're quite well off, even if we aren't. And if we aren't affluent enough to afford all the latest this-es and thats? Well, there comes that failure label again, only now, we aren't just personal failures, now we've failed our children, too.
It's all a bunch of horse hooey.
Children need to be fed. (Nutritious meals - NOT Burger King!) They need a clean, safe home, whether it's an apartment or a condo or a house or a manufactured home or a trailer. They need clothing - no over-paid designer's name stamped on the pocket necessary. They need an education, which doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars to be good. And mostly, they need the love, care, and time of their parents/guardians. The things beyond these basics are treats and should be handled as such. No child *needs* to watch television. This is a treat. No child *needs* to have an ice cream cone with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sprinkles. Again, it's just a treat.
Give them too many treats to often and you wind up with spoiled children who have no concept of money nor of self-restraint. And self-restraint is not a bad thing! It prevents you from buying every little thing that catches your temporary fancy, which will only drive you straight to financial ruin.
So right now what I want to say is this: There is nothing wrong with you! (Or your spouse.) You are not a failure just because you don't have a six figure income. Your house does not need to be a palace. Your car doesn't have to be a Mercedes. If you've been struggling with this lie, if you've been feeling ashamed or guilty or anything else because our society gives off an attitude like nothing less than a McMansion is acceptable, take a moment to step back and re-evaluate.
Whether you are just beginning to get control of your own finances, or if you've been living within your means for a long time, real success is not the amount of money you have, but rather how well you are living your life regardless of how many dollars you can call your own. Ignore the critics and focus on what's really important. So what if your own home is only 1100 square feet in a working class neighborhood while Family X lives on some million dollar estate? They are no better than you are and you are not a failure because of it. Don't compare what you have to what anyone else has. It doesn't even matter in the end.
Remember, it's a cliche, but it's true. You really can't take it with you. And when you come to the end of your life, you will not be looking back at your bank account. You will be looking at your friends, your family, your loved ones, at the memories and milestones.
And should someone ever imply you're a failure for not having some smashing career with an outrageous salary, just remind yourself that you are doing what's right, and doing what's necessary to live by the means you have for you and your family. Yes, sometimes you might slip or maybe you're currently facing a mountain of debt you're trying to climb out of, but if you keep working at it, one baby step at a time, then you are a true success, not just the flimsy image of one.
Labels: general chatter