You might not find too many Paris Hilton-lookalikes in Singapore, but that doesn’t mean that society at large doesn’t have its own brand of materialism. The Singapore of the past is long gone, and kampungs have made way for glitzy hotels, fleets of Ferraris and Chanel handbags at every turn. But in spite of this prosperous veneer, Singaporeans don’t seem to be getting any happier—in fact, according to most recent polls, we’re downright miserable.
Still, many Singaporeans are materialistic and proud of it, and it’s not uncommon to hear women proudly declaring that they’re princesses and like to be pampered, or status-conscious men showing off their flashy cars. But don’t be fooled by those smiles. Here are three big reasons a materialistic mindset can make life harder for you:
They sacrifice quality of life to amass possessions
Singaporeans often blame the high cost of living and a lack of employees’ rights for having to work some of the longest hours in the world. That might be one part of the equation, but it isn’t the full story. The problem is that many people here do have the leeway to select less demanding or less stressful jobs but choose not to because they prefer to earn more in order to maintain their lifestyles.
(Note: Not saying this is true of everyone here, as there are people earning incomes so low a house cat couldn’t survive on their salaries.)
Each time I log on to Facebook I see endless photos of fancy European holidays, designer handbags and fast cars. Yet many of these very same people work routinely work until 10pm and beyond every day, and they don’t like it one bit.
Of course, it’s a personal choice to sacrifice time and quality of life in order to earn money to support a lifestyle of a certain standard. But the danger of doing this unquestioningly is that you risk becoming a slave to your possessions and feeling like you are forced to sell your soul for work because you have no other choice. If you are lucky enough to be in the position where this is a choice and not a necessity, it’s important to ensure you choose your lifestyle consciously rather than by default.
They always want more
The problem with getting into the habit of amassing lots and lots of possessions is that it gets addictive. For instance, as a child you might never have dreamt of owning a designer bag. But once you entered the working world and realised that all your PMET friends owned handbags that cost 2 months’ worth of salary, the seed of desire was planted. After buying your first Louis Vuitton, you gradually progressed to wanting a Chanel, and so the story goes.
As is patently obvious in Singapore, materialism is addictive. Once you start enjoying a certain standard of luxury, your brain gets used to it—it’s a process called adaptation and explains why the thrill you get upon returning from a shopping spree with your arms full of bags fades all too soon, and you’re left craving your next purchase. This unquenchable thirst for acquisition is one that no amount of possessions can rid you of, and the sooner you realise that and try to find satisfaction in other areas, the sooner you’ll be able to live life with true satisfaction.
They’re always chasing after approval from others
In a materialistic society like Singapore’s, a person’s worth is often measured in money. Those who are high earners end up being treated better than those who look poor, parents warn their children they’ll ruin their lives if they don’t study hard and get high paying jobs, and it’s considered shameful and a loss of face to appear poor. This is a reality we live in and it may take a while for that to change (if it even ever does).
It appears that a big part of materialism, at least in Singapore, is wanting to appear to be a person of value in front of others. Once you get into the habit of wanting to buy everything you see, if all your friends show up in a new car, your own beat up old Kia starts to look lousy in comparison and before you know it you’re feeling like crap. This sounds archaic for sure, but unfortunately it still exists, even if in a more subliminal level for some.
It’s true that we live in a society that’s still largely conformist. But learning to find acceptance within yourself rather than trying to look good in front of others can not only make you a lot happier, but also save you a pile of cash. This isn’t to say you have to starve yourself of any material comforts, but not making that the central focus of your life can lead to a healthier outlook on your career, relationships and life in general.
Do you think materialism is making Singaporeans unhappier? Share your opinions in the comments!