As 2016 started, I was blessed to be able to attend a very expensive private high school my senior year. It was an amazing experience that really changed my life and I am grateful for that experience every day. As I began getting older, the things I valued and prioritized changed and I started noticing the things that I felt really mattered. As a senior in an all girls school, I immediately knew what a lot of girls my age valued: their long hair, getting their nails done, being able to spend money to go out to dinner, spending a lot of time with their friends. Others might have valued their new iPhone, partying, their best friend’s sense of humor. What I have experienced from January up until now, is a negative sense that my values, along with many people my age in America and other first world countries, are misplaced.
I was blessed to be in a middle-class family that had the money to afford nice things. We could go out to eat, each had a cell phone, I could go shopping if I wanted, I could occasionally pamper myself. Many people in my city couldn’t afford those kinds of things. As a child, I had a plethora of toys at my disposal and my grandparents spoiled me relentlessly. I wasn’t ever told I couldn’t have something because we couldn’t afford it. I was blessed in the sense that I wasn’t ever restricted and I never felt like I struggled with the things I wanted like many people my age growing up.
I found throughout this year at private school, as I noticed what other people valued, it changed my own values. Everyone implies that “men value girls with long hair and perfect makeup” which made me simply feel like I wasn’t up to anyone’s standards. Many girls valued having an expensive iPhone and a Michael Kors purse and I’ll admit I was one of those girls that valued materialistic things because I felt like if I wanted to be seen as “pretty” or “cool”, those were the things I needed. If I wanted someone to want me, there were requirements. I had to be tan, I had to be skinny, I had to have perfect teeth, or no one would want me. I valued my appearance and the things I spent my money. And a lot of it was because I went to a private school with girls that could afford even nicer things than me. I felt immediate pressure to have the same things and fit in.
I realize now that I’m an idiot for feeling that way. I’m sure that I have a makeup addiction now because I really felt like it was something I needed. It was the same when the newest iPhone came out, or everyone was wearing Miss Me jeans and high-top converse; I felt like I really needed those things. With all the media around us today, it’s so hard to feel like you don’t need the new it thing. People value having a lot of money and being able to show off their nice things, and that’s okay! But having nice things is a privilege, a blessing, and I am lucky to have what I have. A lot of people don’t have that luxury. Watching television or surfing the web, I constantly see ads and feel pressure to try new products whether it’s makeup or clothes or a new watch. Because of this, I have spent so much money on things I thought were important but I never ended up using them.
In a capitalist society like ours, America is built upon consumerism and making people feel like they need things. And sometimes it can feel suffocating. I often catch myself looking at something thinking, “will that make me happier? Will that make me feel prettier?” Well, the truth is, I might feel happier and prettier if I just put the internet down and tried to appreciate what I already had and lived in the moment. So would many other people. It’s hard in this world of constantly being available to disconnect yourself, but I urge you to try it. It can be harmful to someone’s self-esteem to spend so much time wishing for things they think would make life better. True happiness and beauty will always come from within, and no amount of self-tan or likes on an Instagram selfie can beat that.
Featured Image via WeHeartIt.