The internet, particularly the minimalist blogs I follow, moan to high heaven about the ways that people try to impress each other. The huge houses! The high-paying jobs! The luxury vehicles! The ever-brand-new iPhones and laptops! As someone who doesn’t care the least bit about those things, I usually start to glaze over while reading an article about the pull to impress people.
Of course, if I’m being honest with myself, I do (or have done) all sorts of things to feel impressive. And they’re all pretty weird. For instance, I feel the impulse to impress people with:
|Accurate self-portrait #1|
The secondhand status of my clothes. Whenever someone compliments me on a piece of clothing, it is a difficult battle for me not to blurt out, “It came from Salvation Army!” Or even better, “It was a present.” Or even better, “I dug it out of a trash can from behind a vintage clothing boutique! See how non-materialistic I am in conserving the earth’s precious resources?!” (Okay, maybe not the last one.)
The obscureness of bands I listen to. My music tastes are mainstream (and don’t even get me started about movies), but, especially in the past, I’ve felt very insecure about it. Whenever someone brings up my musical taste, I’ll feverishly shuffle through all the obscure artists that I like. All two of them. “Oh YEAH, well have you ever heard of Peter Mulvey?! Yeah, I didn’t think so! And… and… uh… Jonathan Coulton! He’s obscure enough to be cool, right?!” And then I feel really defensive for a while, then go drown my sorrows by listening to my favorites bands you’ve probably never heard of, The Who and Queen.
The healthiness of my food choices. Among a certain subculture of my generation, the temptation to one-up each other with healthy food is severe. “Oh yes, I’ve started eating lacto-fermented radishes for breakfast along with my daily glass of kombucha, although I did splurge yesterday morning by adding a sprinkle of nutritional yeast to my adzuki-chard pastured-egg omelette, after which I drank my organic raspberry-nettle tea.” But it’s impossible for me to spout that rhetoric and not be a hypocrite when I make quesadillas (white flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, and chili powder) for Zach and me. For the seventh meal in a row.
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How beat up my athletic shoes are. When I see someone with shiny-looking athletic shoes, my first thought is, “Wow, they must not walk much.” Because I have this judgmental impulse toward other people, I automatically apply it to myself. Whenever I buy new trail runners, I feel incredibly self-conscious. I feel much more impressive when I have a well-worn pair on my feet, shoes that say, “Oh yeah, this person has walked a lot.” Because EVERYONE CARES ABOUT THAT, I’M SURE.
Of course, when I actually stop and think about these things, I chide myself for being so judgmental, both of myself and other people. A little self-reflection can help me break free from these arbitrary standards and dig deeper. Behind these pompous feelings, I have genuine interest in these subjects. I am deeply concerned about the disturbing amount of waste in the clothing industry. I care a lot about eating food that is healthy for my body and for the planet. I want to listen to obscure bands because... okay, never mind, that’s just a desperate grab at pretending to be something I’m not. And the shoe thing is just weird, although I am proud of my walking and hiking accomplishments.
In the end, like someone obsessed with cars, jobs, and houses as status symbols, I need to put away my pride and my desire to project an image that people will like, and try to live honestly and sincerely. I want to enjoy things because I enjoy them, not because I want to impress anyone— and admitting I have a problem is the first step.