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Thoughts and Observations Regarding Status Symbols

In the United States, we have a phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses”. What it means is that people have a drive to have things that somehow make them seem or feel better than their neighbors, in their minds. Naturally, they aren’t better than anyone else, but many people are honestly consumed with the desire to have things that make them look better or more important.

Most often, that means buying things that are either not needed or buying something that is far more expensive than it needs to be. The people doing this will often not have the money to throw away like that but will do it anyway.

For example, people will buy designer pants, not because they are any better than other pants and in fact, they often aren’t as good as others, but because they are trying to impress other people. They will spend $200 on a pair of Nike shoes instead of spending $20 or $30 for a pair of shoes that are every bit as good but don’t have the Nike name. In no way am I slamming Nike, either.

They often even do it with automobiles. My own father would purchase, right off the new car lot, the top of the line Lincoln Continental. Every other year, he’d trade the old Lincoln in and buy a new one. It was a status symbol and he even admitted it. He liked to gloat about it. Some people saw right through the facade, but others never did. Truth is that I’ve never owned a car that cost as much as the value his Lincoln lost the moment he drove it off the car lot. Just for the depreciation value on one of his Lincolns, I could almost buy a new car that would be something I’d actually want.

There are people who spend absurd amounts of money on an outfit that they will rarely wear. Hollywood types do this often, spending more on a single dress or outfit than I’ve spent on my entire wardrobe for the past decade.

Others tout the very expensive vacation they’ve been on, complete with five-star accommodations. Truthfully, I’d be more interested in hearing about a great camping trip that someone went on at some out of the way place that cost less than a tenth of the mega-vacation.

Now, I’ve never faulted anyone for wanting to have the fine things they can buy, to make themselves more comfortable. Wanting more and better things can often encourage people to work harder for it, which isn’t a bad thing. It also isn’t my right to judge anyone who chooses to spend their lives focused on material things, which are temporal at best.

The part that I’ve never approved of, personally, is buying things with the express purpose of trying to impress others. I, for one, have never been impressed by material goods, especially just because they carry a certain name brand. I wouldn’t be the slightest bit impressed if a neighbor bought an expensive car, designer clothes, Nike shoes, a big screen TV or anything of that sort. I wouldn’t envy the neighbor, neither would I say that I wished that I had those things.

However, if I saw a neighbor go out of their way to help someone who really needed help, even if not necessarily monetarily, I’d be impressed. I’m impressed by one of my neighbors who puts food out for stray cats in the neighborhood that have been abandoned. I’m impressed by the people at my church who cut, split, haul, and stack firewood for people who don’t have the money or means to get their own, all for no cost. I’m impressed by people who give things away that can be used by others who are genuinely in need. I’m impressed by someone who will stop and help a total stranger who has a car that needs a jump-start. I’m very impressed by people who actually ask if they can help, like saying, “Can I help you with that?” They aren’t simply assuming that help is wanted but actually consider the feelings of the other person.

I gave the excess from our garden to the local food bank last year, not for praise and certainly not to make a status statement, but merely because I knew that others could use that excess. In fact, I gave that food freely and anonymously. I’m impressed when others do the same thing, giving of themselves to help others, in whatever way they can.

What I’m saying is that people can have their status symbols for all the good it does them. Except for very gullible people, the only person they are really impressing is the one who stares back at them in the mirror every morning. There are ways to impress people, but having status symbols isn’t one of them, as far as I’m concerned.

If I suddenly became wealthy, I still wouldn’t buy status symbols for the sake of impressing other people. I have no care to keep up with the Joneses, though I’d be happy that the Joneses were able to afford to get something they felt made them more comfortable. I would try to help as many others as I could, but even that wouldn’t be to get a pat on the back. It would be to genuinely help others.

Do you have any status symbols? Be honest about it.

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23 Comments

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  1. Early in life I found out about these types of people, things are everything and people are nothing if they don’t have them according to this type of person
    I would be more impressed with somebody who helped lift some one up and then not talk about it afterwards.

    I would like enough to be comfortable but if I had excess, help some one out but not allowing them to know who did.
    Have you ever read Frank Slaughter’s novel called, “Dr Hudson’s secret Diary”. ?It’s all about doing good deeds in secret.

    Thanks for this interesting post, Im pleased to know some people are not as shallow as the super facial ads.

    6 months after the newest thing becomes old hat, the world is running out of things to impress. Best to recycle and clear up the mess men have made for years.




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  2. I don’t believe in this, buying branded clothes and using branded things and try to impress other. But my husband says that because of the brand only we get some status. Whether it is a cheap or whatever the cost may be.




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    • The question to ask would then be; if you only get status by the brand you get, how shallow is that status and who is it that controls the status of others? I personally feel that if I can only get status by buying certain brands and certain things, then I don’t want status. It is as simple as that.




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  3. No status symbols here, though I’ve been known to express appreciation for nice things. Appreciating them and coveting them are not the same, though it can be a slippery slope into going after them. This post can help a person evaluate what they are impressed with thereby evaluating whether they need to revaluate their values. Nicely done.




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    • Thank you. You got to the point of the article. Sure, there are a lot of things I’d love to have to make life a little easier, but it isn’t to impress anyone and they aren’t major goals. For example, it would be great to have a garden tiller. Yet, my garden isn’t large and I’m perfectly capable of tilling it using a shovel. Our vehicles are also not flashy or really expensive, but I simply want a car that is reliable and that will get me where I’m going.




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  4. No I don’t. I grew up always taking care of myself and became very independent. I never have had any desire to keep up with anyone. But there are so many out there who do, kind of sad. Think of the debt they must be in, and how can they be happy!




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