There are easily 14 Cinderella movies floating around my house. Thanks to the two princesses in this house, who typically call the shots on what we watch, I have seen most of them (and secretly love them…but don’t tell them that).
Cinderella’s Meet Cute (go watch The Holiday)
In a scene in the most recent version of Disney’s classic, Cinderella gallops on a horse away from her house after being devastated by her ruthless stepsisters and stepmother. She happens upon a stag while riding through the forest that is being followed closely by a royal band of hunters including the prince himself. She urges the stag to run off, and he does, away from the party of hunters, unscathed.
Inevitably, she meets Kit, the handsome prince.
She encourages Kit to leave the stag alone and asks why he must pursue the creature. His answer, stated rather casually, is that it is “what’s done”.
Cinderella replies, “Just because it’s what’s done, does not mean it’s what should be done”.
Floored by her response, the dumbfounded Prince evaluates all of his life decisions and future aspirations and eventually ends up with Cinderella, happily ever after.
Today, during a rather slow weekend shift, I got a break to grab some lunch. I walked up to the cafeteria to spend some of my food allowance and came away with a tray of sushi and bag of chips. Thoughtlessly, I grabbed some chopsticks and soy sauce on my way to the register
Once back to my computer to check on some X-ray results, I cracked open the sushi and began chowing down with my chopsticks.
I became perplexed mid-bight and thought, “why in the world am I using chopsticks?”
I was born and raised in Arizona… a non-chop-stick culture. I have literally used a spoon, fork, and/or knife on EVERY OTHER MEAL MY ENTIRE LIFE… And here I was using chopsticks on this tray of sushi.
I turned to my supervising physician and asked, “why is it that we have to eat sushi with chopsticks?”
“Because I would feel like a failure if I didn’t.”… and now, blog post!
What things do you do in your life simply because it is what is done or expected?
Like me picking up a set of chopsticks and Prince Kit hunting stags in the forest, we each follow the crowd in one way or another. Inventory your decisions throughout any given day and you will realize it is made up of a series of choices that are highly biased by your environment.
- How you get to work
- TV shows
- Food and Drink
- Who you associate with
- How often you brush your teeth
- How you wipe
This is basically the definition of culture.
The root of the word culture is “cultus”, a Latin word that means to care, and “colere” a French word (which means it’s sexy) meaning “to till” or “cultivate”.
Our society has cultivated and cared for certain beliefs and tenants that have eventually evolved into our culture and manifests in almost everything we do. Well… it manifests in what MOST of us do. It is like saying the average typical person in most scenarios does or believes etc.
But, as Cinderella would say, “just because it is what’s done, does not mean it’s what should be done”.
When the Audience Gets it Wrong
I used to love watching “Who wants to be a millionaire” back in the old school days with Regis Philben. It always used to amaze me when a contestant would poll the audience and the audience would get it wrong!
It made me question the masses.
Likewise, when recognizing our culture of consumerism, we too should reconsider what the crowd may be telling us.
The 5 Fallacies of Consumerism
Here are five fallacies believed by our society about consumption that we in the FI community should question.
1. Your self-worth is dependent on your consumption
How do you feel about yourself?
Honestly, answer that question!
If you are unhappy with yourself, you will do one of two things.
A. You will analyze and reconstruct yourself to close the gap between where you are and where you hope to be, while keeping the humble perspective that you always continue to improve by learning new things and refining your skills.
B. You will close this gap by medicating in an effort to temporarily treat your unhappiness. You will tell yourself, “If I buy this new suit or fancy car, if I go on this expensive trip or move to this city of status, or if I down this cabinet of alcohol or this entire bucket of fried chicken… I will feel better”.
No… you won’t, at least not for very long.
But marketers will lie about this all day long! Remember this post? Don’t fall for it.
A word on humility: I was always taught that humility is a strength. However, my initial impression of humility looked more like self-deprecation then actual humility. I used to constantly put myself down and thought that by doing so, others would think that I was humble… thus making me humble. I still struggle with this, but it is WRONG!
I have learned that humility is actually the attribute of being teachable, recognizing there is always something to learn while persistently practicing kindness and respect to everyone including oneself.
2. Consumption makes you happy
What I don’t want to do here is tell you what should make you happy. I know what brings me true, lasting happiness, but that may be different for you. What I can say is, the idea that consumption alone will make you happy is false.
There is a lot of attention on the pursuit of happiness these days. It is very clear that “things” do not make you happy.
There is no “chicken, egg” dilemma here. First comes happiness. Then, in a context of happiness, consumption should further enrich your life. Beware, because this study has shown that there is a threshold of annual income, $75,000 to be exact, beyond which money has extremely limited returns. It can make you feel like your life is working out as a whole, but making more won’t always unlock the more happiness.
A loophole: According to this recent study, if you can engineer your spending to buy you more time to do the things that you love while limiting the time you spend doing activities you hate, your happiness could increase.
3. Income and consumption are directly proportional
There is a cultural expectation of consumption that is directly proportional to your income… let’s call it culturally acceptable consumption.
When I am officially making a “physician’s salary”, I will be expected to consume at a culturally acceptable amount. I will be expected to drive a certain type of car, live in a particular area of town, and send my kids to specific schools.
Jim Dahle, the White Coat Investor himself, recently wrote a post discussing the 10 Reasons Doctors Spend Too Much Money. #3 talks about this fallacy. He did a good job of reminding me of my actual net-(negative)-worth
Ask yourself these questions:
What part of my spending is culturally acceptable consumption?
How much of what I drive, where I live, what I do, etc. is done just to meet a societal expectation?
This is the premise of my favorite personal finance book, The Millionaire Next Door. If you have read this book then remember where the millionaires actually live. They are not in THOSE neighborhoods, they are in yours. Remember what the millionaires actually drive. They don’t drive THOSE vehicles, they drive vehicles like yours, or cheaper.
4. Consumption = Freedom
Society would want you to believe that the more you buy, the more freedom you will have. Freedom to eat, drink, and be merry, enjoying your purchases to their fullest potential.
If you fall for that, then you haven’t read this article. Debt makes you a SLAVE, and the average American household has about $139,500 of it, when including mortgages. Do not let your things own you!
5. More consumption leads to less consumption
Finally, resist the lie that if you buy things now, you will not have to purchase other things later.
I love to fish and have always dreamed of owning a bass boat!
Purchase a bass boat and you will be buying fishing gear, gas, and losing bets until the day you die. Mic Drop…
Cinderella was right. Just because we live in a culture of consumption, does not mean we have to be uncontrolled consumers. How have you stuck-it to our consumer culture? Comment below and tell us your stories!