An impulse purchase is often something a lot of us grapple with. It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a personal and psychological thing too. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen have a provocative discussion about impulse purchases and why people buy things we do. Jason and Whitney discuss a German study on impulse purchasing and talk about credit scores, knock-off items, and the cost of living. This is an interesting discussion on consumerism, finances, chasing accomplishments, the psychology of winning, and more that you don’t want to miss!
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Impulse Purchase And Why We Buy The Things We Buy
Chasing Accomplishment And The Dragon Of Success
It’s always interesting when you look at your life and realize you have a problem you didn’t know existed. Throughout the course of the pandemic, I feel like it’s offered a lot of interesting reflections on things in terms of habits, behaviors, traumas and things that maybe a lot of us haven’t addressed in our lives. Interestingly enough, I’ve been looking at my budget for life, my expenditures and whatnot pre-pandemic. In looking at my monthly budget and my expenditures, I’ve noticed that I’ve spent a lot less money on frivolous things or impulse buying as a result of taking my financial life and looking at my budget in a different way. We have a cool episode with Jesse Meachem who’s from You Need a Budget.
One of the financial articles that popped up for me was about these German psychologists. This is a little bit of a clickbaity title, to be honest with you but nonetheless, the article is interesting. These German psychologists were trying to analyze psychologically why we as humans overspend, shop too much, impulse buy and leverage our financial resources in deeply emotionally motivating ways. Apparently, the researchers at Germany’s Julius-Maximilians-Universität found a solution.
They carried out this research on 250 participants and they found that there were two buckets of people, generally speaking. The one bucket were people that impulse buy and emotionally purchase things were in the category of pleasure seekers. They want enjoyment and they’re driven by spontaneity, variety and curiosity like treating themselves to a truffle or a piece of chocolate or a shirt they’ve never had or adding a great pair of jeans to their wardrobe. These pleasure seekers are constantly looking for that hit. They want the experience, variety and novelty.
Curbing the expenditures for the pleasure seekers is a matter of curbing the spontaneity by forcing a pause between the emotional urge and then the actual purchase. In the research, they’re suggesting some low-tech solutions to this. They say, “Put a note on your wallet or your purse that has the word stop on it,” or immediately limiting the access to your money by locking cash in a drawer or a lockbox or keeping credit cards in a place you can’t get to. The goal for the people that are pleasure seekers is to try and halt or stultify the impulse to buy.
The other category here, which is interesting, is security seekers. Apparently, they’re slower to buy. They’ll stand in front of a thing they want and think, “Is this going to make me feel as good as it looks? Should I buy this?” They’ll spend 10, 15 or 20 minutes hovering over the buy button on the internet. For security seekers, the key is simply to not give themselves time to consider. They suggest you walk away, stand up, take a break from the computer, stop hovering over the buy button on Amazon and stop ruminating so much.
If you click through, they referenced this long study. It’s an entire research abstract talking about these different kinds of impulse buyers. Interestingly though, if you get deeper into the research, you find that security seekers are as likely to impulse buy as pleasure seekers and as likely to want to treat themselves. The motivational state plays a huge role here. The researchers also found in the study that people who have a dwindling bank balance are less likely to buy but a pleasure seeker who got a promotion or a bonus at work is likely to celebrate further via consumerism and materialism. They’re saying, “You need to check your mood and your emotional state before you start to purchase things.”It's always interesting when you look at your life and realize you have a problem you didn't know existed. Click To Tweet
I acknowledge through this that for me, over the years, I have definitely bought a lot of things from food to clothing to musical instruments because my motivation to impulse buy has been rooted historically in like, “This thing is going to make me feel better. I feel like I’m not enough. I feel like I need to prove to people I’ve got cool clothing.” For me, a lot of the impulse buy has either been to make myself feel better because I’ve been depressed and a lot of my mental health issues have manifested in impulse buying. There’s another layer of, “I want to impress people with the stuff that I have.”
One of the reasons I’ve been obsessed with getting a certain car or a piece of clothing or certain shoes over the years has been this social hierarchy, “I need to show people I’m successful. I need to show people I’m worthy.” It’s super interesting to get into the mechanics of consumerism and this idea of impulse buying. I want to bounce it back to you after that intro to see if is this something at all that resonates with you. If you look at your purchasing history or how you buy things, do you feel like impulse buying and emotionally motivated buying have been a part of your life and your financial history?
It’s an interesting question because it’s not conscious for me. I was thinking about this because I went clothes shopping for the first time in a while. I love going to secondhand stores. Buying clothes is usually less expensive that way but also better for the environment especially if it’s used clothes. I get the majority of my clothes especially previous to COVID, through clothing swaps, which are completely free. I would notice both that when I do secondhand shopping and clothe swaps that there’s this desire to have different outfits. I’ll have these moments where I don’t like any of my clothes anymore or I don’t feel confident in them.
It’s fascinating to me because I also noticed during COVID that because I wasn’t going out much, I was wearing things around the house that felt comfortable. A lot of people notice this. The only time that it felt important for me to dress up relatively was if I was on camera for a talk, another podcast or something like that, something where I felt like I needed to present myself more. Clothes are interesting to me because that’s what on the splurge side for me. It also ties into this conversation of buying something for a reason to impress people, for example.
I was reflecting on how I got this boost in confidence by buying certain clothes and how I’d spent money that wasn’t a super high amount but it was definitely more than I typically spend in a day. I was able to justify it because I’m like, “I’ve got these new outfits and I’m going to feel good in them. I can wear them for this long. That’s going to boost my self-esteem.” That was interesting to me, too. Clothing, in general, Jason is something I’m fascinated by. Simultaneously, I was wearing an outfit that I felt comfortable in but not confident in and I was reflecting on how it felt.
When I was in the clothing store, I kept having these moments of like, “Are people going to look at me and judge my clothes? Are they going to think that I am dressing weird, I’m not pretty or it doesn’t flatter my body? Are my panty lines showing? Is that embarrassing?” All of these little things that I kept noticing. I kept coming back around to the fact that I felt comfortable in them and that’s all that mattered. I was around all these strangers so it didn’t matter what they thought of me. It’s fascinating how many of us have been conditioned into being concerned about what other people think of our clothes and we have to spend all this money.
Another thing that came up for me was, as a woman, I felt a lot of pressure to look pretty. I often think about that and how my worth has often been associated with whether or not I look pretty and how much effort, time and oftentimes money it takes to produce what I believe is pretty within myself. That’s fascinating to me because when I step back and examine it, it’s odd like, “Why do I feel that pressure to be pretty?”
I’ve also had conversations about the pressure to dress a certain way and part of the reason that I got these clothes is because I’m going to be speaking at an event and I didn’t feel confident in any of the clothes that I had. I also didn’t feel like the clothes that I had fit what I believe the atmosphere to be and the type of people that would be there. That desire to fit in and to impress people to give that first impression to them of looking attractive, put together and I’m valuable. That ties into this whole conversation when you talk about impressing people through our purchases like cars and such.
There’s an opposite side to it too because having my Tesla, which first of all, the Model 3 is so common as you predicted, Jason. I was coming back from my shopping spree and noticed so many Tesla Model 3s in this mile radius of where I was coming and it doesn’t bother me. I was like, “This is cool. I love my car. It’s neat to see other people.” It’s comforting, Jason because I felt insecure in some ways about having a Tesla in two elements. One was that I didn’t want to come across as braggy. Simultaneously, I did feel this heightened sense of something. I’m not even fully sure what word I would use. When you pull into a parking lot and you know people there, you have that sense of, “I have a nice car and I feel proud of that.”
I remember in the past, I’ve always enjoyed my cars but most of my cars previous to this one, I didn’t feel proud of them, at least after a little time of having them. Having a “luxury car,” there is that element of status when you pull up to the valet or something. It’s like this air of more confidence. That’s rooted in this desire to impress people with a material thing, which is interesting. Sometimes, that will lead me to feel insecure.
In fact, I experienced this one time. I traveled a bit with my car and a lot of people that I was seeing for the first time in a while we’re complementing it like, “That’s so cool that you have a Tesla. I’d love to have one.” One person even commented something about my finances. They’re making assumptions that I had a ton of money because I had a Tesla. It was this comment around, “You have a Tesla.” This assumption without them knowing anything about my finances and how I afford that car. I thought that was interesting and it also made me a bit uncomfortable. People are making assumptions about who you are and what your means are based on something material without knowing what it took to get that thing.It's important to remember that there's so much more to the story behind these purchases. Click To Tweet
That’s part of this interesting element of what you’re discussing too, Jason. All of the assumptions we can make about something like that but there are so many ways that people can acquire things. It could be even a dishonest way of getting it or it could be pure luck. What if you won the lottery? What if you received an inheritance? What if you got a raise and then you lost your job? There are many things that can happen. It’s important to remember that there’s so much more to the story behind these purchases. Also, recognizing that because you have nice things, it doesn’t mean that you feel that great about them. I can buy all these wonderful clothes but what if I don’t feel that great about myself after I take them off? It’s a temporary thing. It’s like a band-aid.
Clothes are fascinating, too. At the secondhand store, Jason, there were a number of high-end designer clothes there and you’re getting them at a fraction of the price too. There are many ways that you can get expensive things but secondhand so you get them at half or less or even more off. People can make all these assumptions about what you’re wearing but maybe you’re borrowing it. It might not even be yours. We’re putting on this facade to perhaps make ourselves feel good. If it’s not ours or it’s been acquired in a way that isn’t what people believed it to be acquired in then does it have the same meaning to us, if that makes sense?
This brings up a specific story. Years ago, my mom Susan did some international traveling. In a lot of international countries, they will have street vendors and shops that have, in some cases, authentic knockoffs or recreations of super expensive stuff like Gucci bags, Prada and things like that. My mom got a Montblanc pen. If you’re into pens, it’s an incredibly expensive high-end manufacturer of pens. She found this street vendor that had this Montblanc pen. She buys it for maybe $40 or $50. The lowest is $240 and on the higher end, they’re almost $1,100. Montblanc makes pens and watches. $200 to $1,000 is not what I would consider an inexpensive writing utensil. That’s heady for a pen.
She gets a Montblanc pen and takes it to work. Her boss walks into the office and notices on her desk this Montblanc pen displayed on her desk. The reaction that he had was like, “Susan, I didn’t know you had a Montblanc pen.” He had this visceral reaction to my mother having a Montblanc pen. All the while, she’s not going to let on that it was a $40 or $50 knockoff from wherever it came from. It looked real that her boss, who was much into high-end stuff and expensive things, was impressed. Apparently, it colored their interaction for a while because she had a Montblanc pen.
To your point, Whitney, is it about having the actual thing? What if we find something that is a recreation of a Prada, Montblanc, Hermès bag or whatever it is? If it looks, acts, smells and feels like the actual thing, why do we need to spend the $5,000 on a clutch? What if we can buy a $50 clutch and it looks, feels and acts like the actual thing? It’s an interesting thing. If the whole idea of social equity and impressing people is a part of this then why not get a fake one and save the money? It’s not like you can buy a fake Tesla. There’s a limit to this conversation. You can’t have someone build you a knockoff Tesla. There’s a limit to this idea.
Nonetheless, it goes back to why are we buying the things we buy? Are we buying them because they’re quality? That’s a different conversation. If it’s a thing we want to buy and have for years or decades of our life then maybe buying a knockoff or a recreation is not the best choice because maybe the quality of the materials isn’t up to par. If we’re doing it because we want to impress people and we don’t care about the quality, this comes back to why are we buying what we’re buying? Are we clear about the reasons why we are putting our money into the places we’re putting it? It comes down to a question of intent and motivation, don’t you think?
Yeah, absolutely. Many people understand this on the surface level but it becomes addicting. We’ve talked about shopping retail therapy before and how some people are aware that they’re doing it but that doesn’t mean that they know how to stop or they feel motivated to stop. It seems innocent but finances are a sensitive thing. If you add it all up, you might be getting into some extreme debt because you want therapy. You might as well get therapy at that rate. The money some people spend on clothing, cars or whatever else is insane.
My car is expensive. I’ve had it for a few years and I’m used to the payments now. It’s part of what I’m paying for. I remember before I got that car thinking, “I feel a little bit crazy getting this car and spending that amount of money.” There’s a lot I could do with that money instead. I enjoy my car and I’ve already made the decision and the commitment to have it. If I wanted to, I could sell it. Sometimes, we get into situations where we’re like, “Here we are. I made this decision.” I was even thinking about this with animals, Jason. There was a TikTok I saw discussing pet rent and how silly it is that landlords charge extra for having pets. I paused and I watched this and I thought, “Wow.”
First of all, I’m grateful. I don’t have to pay pet rent. I must have in the past at some point. I know you have, Jason. If you think about how much a pet cost or a child cost ahead of time, it can get you to step back and say, “Am I sure that I want to spend this much money?” With a pet, hopefully, you will have them for many years, ten-plus if you get them when they’re young. That’s a lot of money if you add it up. Not just the rent but the food and all the other stuff.
In some ways, comparable to what I’m saying with the car, you’re deciding to get something that you’re going to have for many years. A car is probably five-plus years. If you add up the sticker cost, interest, gas, charging, insurance or whatever else that you’re spending, it’s a big financial commitment. That’s why it’s important to understand why you’re buying something especially if it’s a long-term payment. People decide to have kids and it sounds like this great idea and this easy thing. Kids are expensive and they’re a huge commitment, time, energy, resources and emotionally.
If you’re having a kid because you want some form of fulfillment and love in your life, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Some people have children and then they’re like, “This is nice but it’s a lot harder, a lot more expensive, a lot more time, etc. than I thought out.” This can be said about many of our decisions, Jason. Clothes don’t seem like that big of a deal because it’s a relatively minor expense but there are some big decisions that we make that have long-term ripple effects on our lives. If we’re not conscious of why we want them and if we want them then we might end up feeling more stressed than we were before we even acquired them.Just because you have nice things doesn't mean that you feel that great about them. Click To Tweet
This is also an important moment to bring up. I don’t know if I can find the article but it was talking about the psychology of consumerism and how people will, most of the time, make decisions that they think are based on rationality. They’re using the illusion of rationality to justify, which is a mostly emotional purchase. There are two examples that come to mind. I have a next-door neighbor who bought a giant SUV, an extended-wheelbase Tahoe, fully loaded brand new 2021. It’s a monstrosity of an SUV. I was like, “That’s a nice SUV.” He said, “Thanks.” It is a beautiful SUV if you’re into that thing.
He went on this whole thing about all these justifications of why he bought it to me. I don’t know him that well. He’s my next-door neighbor. He goes on this few-minute rant and he gives me all these reasons. In my mind, I’m like, “All the reasons you listed, you could have bought a Honda CRV. You could have bought a Subaru Forester. You could have bought a Honda Accord. You didn’t need that big ass tank of an SUV. You’re giving me all of these rationalizations for what is essentially an emotional/ego at purchase. You’re telling me you needed it but all the reasons you’re telling me, you could have bought something else that gets better gas mileage, less of a strain on the environment and serves all of the needs you mentioned in a smaller, more efficient vehicle. You got the giant ass extended-wheelbase with the 22-inch rims.”
He’s trying to justify his purchase through rationalization, which was completely egoic. A lot of us do this. If you think about consumer psychology, we do this all the time, like, “I needed it because of this.” It’s like, “You could have gotten a less expensive,” whatever it is. I’m using that as an example. We have a couple of close friends and I’m not going to name them for privacy purposes. Many years ago when you and I stayed with them, I remember there was a magazine article in the bathroom and it was talking about the cost of what it takes to raise a child in America through the first 18 to 20 years of their life. It was a stultifying amount of money. From what I recall, it was close to $1 million.
I remember having a conversation with our two friends and they were debating like, “Do we want to have a kid? Because of the environmental concerns and resources.” We were talking about this article. When you look at what it cost to raise a child in America on a middle-class budget, it was a shocking amount of money. No judgment, they ended up having a kid anyway. The kid is lovely and beautiful. We love them. Rationally speaking, they were aware of what it would potentially cost to raise this child and they did it anyway.
We as humans make decisions that are out of pure emotion and ego all of the time and then back it up with rationality or we completely ignore the rationality and be like, “I know it’s going to cost that much and I know it’s going to be this but I want to do this.” We throw rationality out the window. We are a fascinating species with how we choose to justify our actions and our choices. It’s mesmerizing to me. As I say that, I’m looking at my decisions in life and how I’ve chosen to justify them, like how have I justified being in this house and how have I justified what I choose to spend money on.
It’s interesting, Whitney because you talk about the animal conversation. It’s not that I wouldn’t have chosen to have my companion animals. If you would have done the math and been like, “This is how much it’s going to cost to feed them, medical care, litter, food and toys,” I don’t think it would have dissuaded me. It’s a chunk of money every month to take care of these fools. This also goes into the house conversation because as you know and as we’ve discussed on the show, me looking at purchasing a house and moving out of state. One of the reasons is the incredible cost of living in real estate in California.
If I break down the mortgage costs and I look at a 30-year mortgage, the math and what it’s going to cost in interest, it’s like, “Damn.” I wonder how many people who have the means, credit score and down payment do the math on what a house is going to cost over 30 years. It’s fucking crazy if you do the math on it. For me, I’m realizing, Whitney, that when I do get around to buying a house, I don’t want to be house poor and I don’t want to extend myself like, “It’s got to have this and got to have that.” Having five animals and a partner, it has to have a certain amount of square footage. We’re not going to pack that many humans and animals into too tiny of a space.
It’s interesting to look at what is happening in the housing market and car market because we’re in a bubble where the median price of a vehicle in America has gone over $40,000 for the first time in history. It’s the highest median price for a car purchase ever in history. In many places like Los Angeles and Orange County, we also have the highest median house prices in history. The median house price for a house in Orange County is over $800,000. Some people might not sneeze on that. I sneeze on that because I look into the monthly payments and I look at what at $800,000 house is going to cost over 30 years and it’s like, “Holy crap. That’s crazy.”
It is important to do the math on things and look like, “When I’m about to make this commitment, can I reasonably handle this? Not just the monthly payment but what is it going to cost me over years of doing this?” I always say this too when people win a car on The Price is Right. There was a story years ago about a woman who won an Audi R 10 convertible Spyder that is a $220,000 car. She won it on The Price is Right but then she had to turn around and sell it right away because she couldn’t afford the insurance, oil changes and maintenance on a $220,000 supercar. On the surface, it’s like, “This is great,” but then you get into the actual living with the thing and it can often look different when you get into the nuts and bolts of what it takes to live with a thing like that.
This also was part of my personal experience when I came to terms with my debt. For many years, Jason, I didn’t want to think about it because I hadn’t created the structure in my life to pay more things with cash, less on credit and get rid of my debt. I don’t know what it was. One day, I was doing my taxes or something. I was going through the system I was using and seeing all the numbers come up and it hit me. I was finally ready to acknowledge it and I thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore. Why am I spending all this money on interest? Do I need to live this way?”If it looks like, acts like, smells like, feels like the actual thing, why do we need to spend the $5,000 on a clutch? Click To Tweet
In the past, I had chosen to put things on credit cards because of financials, tough times and challenges. I remember in 2012, I had almost paid down all my credit card debt and then I made some lifestyle choices and didn’t have a lot of income coming in. I was like, “I’m going to live off my credit cards.” I chose not to pay attention to the interest because I felt like I was doing what I had to do. I don’t have regrets about that but now, it’s the opposite. I don’t want to put anything on my credit cards. I cannot wait to pay them off. It’s weird because even though I want time to go by slowly, in general, I’m excited to reach that milestone.
First of all, it’s possible I might put money on them again. There’s no guarantee I’m going to decide never to be back in credit card debt. I keep wondering what that will feel like and how long the high is going to last of like, “I’ve reached this financial milestone and this goal. Will it be a shrug and I’m on with my life?” I thought about this when I paid off one of the cars I bought. It was the first car that I have fully paid for myself. My first two cars, my parents co-signed on and were helping me with payments, fortunately. My third car was 100% mine.
I remember the day of making the final payment vaguely but then it was like, “I own this car. I’m done paying for it.” I think about that too with the Tesla. I’m like, “I’m halfway through my loan for the car.” I see the amount getting lower like I’m seeing my debt goes down. It’ll probably be a shrug at some point in the future and that’s weird. When you’re in this moment of anticipation of a goal and then it happens, you realize how fleeting all of this is. It’s weird cognitively because you’re like, “It matters but it simultaneously doesn’t matter.”
I have so many things to riff on this and I’m glad you brought this up, Whit, because for a lot of people, psychologically, the chase, struggle and idea of getting to something are often more sustaining or motivating than achieving the thing. The idea of paying off your debt completely, a fully paid off Tesla, me of being a homeowner and me accomplishing something in my career. You and I could substitute so many things. I’m only speaking for myself and I’m curious how you feel. The pursuit of something, dreaming about accomplishing something is more engaging, fulfilling and rewarding than when you do it.
The idea for me of having a TV series or being on a magazine cover or whatever, if I’m honest about it, it was more motivating, satisfying and felt more purposeful. When it happened, it was like, “I did that and now it’s done.” It reminds me of a story about Alexander the Great. The story goes historically when Alexander the Great “conquered the world.” At that time, we didn’t know how big the world was but we know the countries and the empires that Alexander the Great conquered.
After he had done so, the story goes that he went into his chamber, wept and cried because there were no other empires to conquer. There were no other battles to fight and there was no one else that he had to defeat. He had defeated and conquered all the armies and empires. He was the conqueror of the world in his view. We now know that the Earth was much bigger. At that time, his perception was like, “I defeated everyone. There are no more enemies. I have control of all these empires now.” He cried because there was nothing else for him to do.
I feel like whether or not that story is historically accurate, that parable as an example of how human psychology works is true. We want things so bad. We want the relationship, the wife, Hermès bag, Tesla, TV show, house and 800 credit score. My credit score hit 800. I told you that’s what I wanted, Whit. I was like, “I’m determined. I want that 800 credit score,” and I did it, which is considered “perfect credit.” After you hit 800 apparently, it doesn’t matter whether you’re at 820 or 830, I’ll get the best rates, fine. In a vacuum, I hit it and I was like, “Okay.” I didn’t celebrate, didn’t go out for a saké and a piece of chocolate. I was like, “Cool. Great.”
When it comes time to buy a house or get a new car, that will be a handy thing to have 800. They’ll be like, “Great. Here’s the money.” In a vacuum, it doesn’t matter. Who gives a shit? Someone we know posted that they had an 820 credit score on social media. They’re like, “#Adulting.” I’m like, “#NoOneGivesAFuck. No one fucking cares on social media about your credit score.” I say this not to brag. Anyone out there is like, “Great, Jason. No one cares about my credit score except for the mortgage lender, the auto lender and when it comes time for me to do things.”
In a vacuum, to your point Whitney, no one cares. It doesn’t matter. When it comes time for me to do something with it and leverage it socially for a mortgage or a car loan, it will be handy. Now, it’s just a number on a screen. It was like, “I did it. I hit the goal. So what?” Some people are like, “You need to celebrate yourself, Jason,” which is true. I don’t celebrate myself. Until it comes time to buy a house or a car, it’s meaningless.
It’s interesting because I was going to bring that up to you. Both of us have been working on our credit scores and I find a lot of pleasure in checking my credit score every single week. I check my credit score twice a week because the two financial systems update automatically. I know the exact days and times of the week, Jason, that my credit score will be updated and I get such a high when it goes up. Most weeks, it stays the same because of the way the frequency in which the credit cards and bank statements update. There are a few times a month where I’m like, “It didn’t go up,” and then once or twice a month, it goes up and I’m like, “This is awesome.”
I don’t even know why. Similar to you, Jason, I don’t have a reason to care about my credit score. I enjoy. It’s satisfying. It’s another level to paying off my credit card debt. There’s some joy and reward. To your point, I wonder if I will feel empty at a certain point. I’m farther away from the score that you’ve talked about so maybe it’ll be a longer process for me but it’s interesting to hear you reflect on that. It is sad in a way when you hit those milestones. Especially with something like that, you still have further to go. Even though it won’t necessarily get you any external rewards, Jason, your score can go up higher. What’s the max credit score?
Depending on the bureau. The whole thing is a little bit confusing but in most bureaus, it’s 850. The scale is 350 to 850. There are some sub bureaus that have a 950 score. From what I’ve read, if you get to 850 or 950, you’re not getting better interest rates or more favorable rates. Once you pass 800, that’s the top tier. I was reading some articles online about people who have perfect credit scores and they’re like, “It doesn’t do anything more for me. It’s bragging rights.” If you go to a bar like, “Tim, what credit score do you have?” “Only 790. Whiskey’s on me,” but whiskey’s on you.
It’s like any other metric in our collective obsession with metrics. It’s not that different from your GPA. Who cares about your GPA besides you, your parents and your college admissions? You could put it on your resume. It’s also similar to college, it’s rare that anyone cares that much about where you went to college. Certain jobs maybe but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be this imperfect employee or anything. All of these little scores are a way for us to stay motivated and it’s also part of the system.We are a fascinating species with how we choose to justify our actions and our choices. Click To Tweet
I think about this too with body weights. I remember when I was losing weight in 2018 and 2019, I had gotten to a point where I was uncomfortable with my body size and I became determined to lose weight. To be transparent, I’m at that point and I’ve been reflecting on like, “I don’t like the number I’m seeing and I don’t feel that confident in my body. How important is it for me to lose the weight?” Nobody else is carrying around a scale weighing me. Nobody’s asking me. The only person I’m discussing my weight with was my doctor and my doctor didn’t seem concerned. I see that number and feel concerned. It’s a trigger for me.
I’ve been more conscious of it and I feel this determination to lose weight but it feels weird now. I’m reflecting on what that was like years ago when I was in a similar spot. I went through the process of losing a significant amount of weight in 2018 and 2019. I remember, Jason, I wanted to lose more and more and it became a bit of an obsession, which certainly isn’t healthy. I hit this point where I felt good in my body but it wasn’t that big of a difference, to be honest. People mentioned it. They noticed that I lost weight but that honestly makes me feel uncomfortable and that’s something that I dread. If I do lose weight again, I don’t want people to point out, “You look great.”
I’ll never forget this woman, Jason, who saw me after I lost probably 20 to 30 pounds in 2019 because that’s when I had reached that point. She made this huge deal about it and it made me feel so uncomfortable because then I thought, “She’s praising me for this weight that honestly is unsustainable for me.” That’s the other thing. This whole conversation whether we’re talking about finances, credit scores or bodyweight, most of these types of metrics are hard to sustain. With your credit score, Jason, I’m curious how long will you be in that range. Can you stay there? How long will I be debt-free once I reach that? How long until I decide to buy another car while I’ve paid off my car?
Same thing with my body. The big reflection I’ve been having is I don’t know where my body wants to be. I came back up to the weight that I was a few years ago when I decided to lose weight. I’m like, “Maybe my body wants to be at this weight if I hadn’t been able to sustain it.” Part of my curiosity is I don’t necessarily want to lose a certain amount of weight. I like to fit my clothes a little bit better. I’d like to feel better. Part of this whole conversation is like, “Does any of this make us feel better?” When we make more money, lose more weight, get a certain credit score, get a car or acquire these things, if it’s not sustainable then is it better if it’s a constant wanting, a constant trying and we’re never satisfied.
Part of my point here is I’m grateful for the awareness I had in 2019 where I recognized that I lost a significant amount of weight but it wasn’t fully sustainable. I don’t know if it drastically improved my life aside from fitting in certain clothes and occasionally people telling me how great I looked, which didn’t ultimately bring me that much joy. This all awareness is when we’re going to gain or lose things for a certain goal, if it’s all temporary, are we constantly chasing temporary highs? Do we want to live our lives that way? I feel like it’s all up to each of us to decide. There’s no right or wrong.
That’s the other thing with weight and money from the metric standpoint. To your point, Jason, does anybody care how much you weigh, how much money you have, what your credit score is and what things you acquire? They might care for a short amount of time. People may feel like, “I’m more attractive if I weigh less. First of all, I have to decide, do I care how much I weigh?” Them caring about my weight is temporary. They’re going to take one glance at me, decide how they feel about my body size and shape and move on with their lives. Is it worth me spending all of this time obsessing over that stuff? This is a longer conversation because there’s a lot more to our individual concerns with our body shapes and sizes.We have to decide if the struggle is worth all of that short experience of joy and satisfaction. Click To Tweet
My point is, for the most part, none of this matters that much. We have to decide is the struggle worth all of that short experience of joy and satisfaction? If you weigh it out, the struggle is so much to achieve these things. For you to get that credit score, Jason, it takes some amount of struggle. For me to pay off my credit card debt has been a struggle but not an enormous one. I’d shifted some things around and make it work but it’s a good amount of money that I’m spending every month to pay off my debt faster. It is a struggle and that’ll be worth it because it’s got a long-term ripple effect. I can tell you from my experience but also from research, weight loss generally doesn’t last that long. Your body is going to fluctuate throughout most of your life or you’re going to find some range that you’re in that you keep coming back to over and over again. Is it worth trying so hard to change something that can’t be sustained in terms of joy or a long-term experience of it?
When you talk about people caring, Whitney, the reason that some people care depending on the nature of your relationship is that it’s a reflection on them through association. If I’m hanging out with you and I perceive you to be overweight or obese and my sense of self is tied to the company I keep. Without even being conscious of it then I am worried about what people will think if my friends are obese, disheveled, drive a crappy car or wear “crappy clothes.” The reason some people care is they’re worried about the reflection on them through the association of being with you and their judgments about your appearance, weight, financial situation, material things and all of that. People care because they’re worried about what it says about them. Not everyone but that’s common.
The other side of this too, in conclusion, is chasing accomplishment and chasing the dragon of success. We live in a society where that is constantly rewarded. You see it in sports, business and art. People who have accomplished diamond records, won championships and billionaires in our world are rewarded with privileges and access that other people don’t get. People are going to chase that because in a binary materialistic world, the winners get the spoils and everyone else gets the scraps. It’s a fucked-up system.
My opinion is that the system of achievement in finance and everything that we are in is fucked-up and imbalanced in a lot of ways. What you see is, “If I play the game a certain way, I get a lot of those spoils. I’m going to keep going because I want the spoils, access and association.” It also reminds me of a quote that I’ve shared in our early days of the show, which is one of my favorite quotes from Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She said, “The moment of victory is too short to live for that and nothing else.” Yet, we’re chasing those victory moments all the time because we want that high. We want what we think society is going to give to us by being a “winner.”
That’s a whole nother subject we could get into, the psychology of winning and the psychology of losing the binary system but we get the point. Chasing that all the time, Whitney, has a lot of precarious psychological implications. All of that being said, we are curious, dear reader, how you feel about impulse buying and how you feel about the emotional aspects and the rationality versus emotions regarding our life decisions, what we buy and who we choose to associate with. There are a lot of layers to this conversation.
If you have thoughts, musings, smartass remarks or whatever you want to share with us, you can email us at [email protected], which is also our website Wellevatr.com. We also have a great Patreon account where our private podcast lives, This Hits The Spot. If you want to get our product reviews, book recommendations and the things we’re super excited about in life, we’re sharing all of those on our private podcast. Thanks for being with us as always and diving down the psychological-emotional rabbit holes. We’ll be back with another episode soon. Thanks!
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