Why we always want the next best thing

Dear Daughter,

I don’t know if it’s human nature or just American nature, but it seems that, when it comes to material possessions, we’re never satisfied. We could have the nicest, most luxurious items in the world, and yet we’ll always be on the search for something even better.

This became very real to me just last night. For about a year now, I’ve been wanting a Kindle, or some other type of e-reader. It’s funny because, being a die-hard fan of pen and paper, for a long time I was against e-readers. But eventually I came to appreciate their value and once I did, I really wanted one for myself. So finally I got one, just yesterday. It’s the least expensive Kindle on the market, but still, I was ecstatic to come home to it.

Until I saw the commercial.

While in the midst of downloading books onto my new toy, a TV commercial played about the new Kindle Fire, which is a bright, flashy, touch-screeny masterpiece of awesomeness. It has all the bells and whistles you could ever want in an e-reader. I looked down at the Kindle in my hand. Suddenly its gray screen and plastic buttons seemed dull, archaic. A voice whined in my head: Man, why couldn’t I have spent just a few more bucks for the Fire?

I finally owned the one thing I’ve been wanting for so long, and still it wasn’t good enough.

This is a common way of thinking, especially nowadays when everything gets an upgrade every six months. We’re constantly made to believe we should have the newest, coolest version of whatever product we own. We’re always striving to keep up with the Joneses, to keep throwing our money at these things simply so we can say we have the biggest, best and brightest. Because somehow that determines our worth. It makes us look smart, hip, better than everyone else. Only, in reality, it makes us fools. Because it won’t be long before we’re panicking about having the next biggest, best and brightest thing. And the cycle continues.

Daughter, it would behoove you to come to terms at a young age with the fact that these kinds of material items will never satisfy you, so you might as well appreciate what you do have. I’m not saying it’s bad to have a Kindle or iPad or whatever the “it” product is for your generation. Those things in and of themselves are good, useful resources that will likely enrich your life in some way. But they should not determine your self-worth, and you should not get wrapped up in the rat race of consumerism.

Whenever you have those moments when everything you own seems to be the second-rate version, try to change your perspective. Look at the many blessings you have in your life, like your family or friends, your passions or talents. Even look at the material items you do own and appreciate how fortunate you are to have them, while so many others in the world have nothing.

Be better than everyone else not by having the hottest product on the market, but by seeing the futility in having the hottest product on the market. Escape from the bondage of marketing and consumerism, and enjoy your life, just as it is.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ela83
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 06:11:01

    Dear Mom,

    I love this article. Just last week, I had an argument with my cousin and my niece about an issue in relation to your article. My stand is that 8-year olds do not have to have their own ipod touch, laptop, digital camera and the likes; 12-year-olds do not need to have galaxy tabs/ipads. now and again, it’s good to give in to “wants” but it must be equated with “need,” “appropriation,” and of course “money.” I’ve noticed that these days kids prefer to talk to each other via the net/cellphone rather than talk to each other in person. Furthermore, their attention span on newly-bought, impractical and super expensive toys are so short that seeing this “situation” brings a certain sadness on my part. Although, it is not my right to “argue” since they are not my kids, but I still, I can atleast give a suggestion. On the other hand, I still appreciate my nephew, another cousin’s kid, who spends more time on reading books, drawing and coloring, and playing with affordable toys, even the toys which are freebies of fast food chains like McDonalds.

    Anyway, thank you so much for your article. đŸ™‚


  2. broadsideblog
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 07:18:28

    Love this.

    I was raised in a family that had money for nice things, but partly because of my generation (born in 1957), these were not (thank God) electronics. We spent our disposable income on good food, travel, decent clothes, art. I still do this now in our home. I am writing this on a Mac laptop (and grateful to be able to type away in bed or anywhere I choose) but I do not spend my days lusting for stuff. Any parent who encourages such materialism is setting their child on a dangerous path to debt and envy.

    I cherish every memory of every trip, with framed photos all over the house from Paris, Canada, Mexico…I want experiences, not things. It’s hard to get super competitive with experiences, as they are so personal and private.


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