A couple of years ago, I had a run in with the neighborhood jerk. A group of neighbors was trying to mobilize against a potential new road that would cut through some properties and lower the value of others. Everyone in the neighborhood was against the road except this one guy. He felt like having the state buy his property would be the best thing that could happen since there was no way that he could sell it for what he owed on it. (He bought late in the housing bubble and paid way too much. His fault, but not the point of this article.)
Anyway, we were all content to let him have his opinion. Not everyone has to agree. However, he kept turning up at our organizational meetings and making a nuisance of himself. He would talk about how stupid we all were, how we’d never win (we did), and how we were wasting our time. I think it was his passive aggressive way of trying to force us to abandon the cause so he could have his way. Rather than actively fight for his position, he chose to try to destroy ours.
After a few meetings worth of this, I had a conversation with him in the parking lot. I told him (nicely) that we understood his position and that we would prefer that he not come to the meetings anymore. Well, he proceeded to call me a lot of names that I won’t repeat and then condemned the lot of us as idiots and selfish children. For a long time after that, I felt bad. I let his comments get to me. I questioned what we were doing and how we were going about it. Every time I saw him, I shrank a little. I spent weeks dreaming up the perfect comeback that I knew I’d never deliver. I felt that I had been judged, found wanting, and I let that jerk dictate my feelings for weeks.
So what does this have to do with money, you ask? A lot. While this guy was judging me over a political matter, others may judge us according to what we wear, what we drive, and what we do for a living. While others might not be as confrontational as the neighborhood jerk, we nonetheless feel their subtle censure. Their judgments can wreck how we feel about ourselves when before they came into the picture, we saw nothing wrong. It can lead to spending sprees as we try to keep up with them and to avoid failing in their eyes.
I know that it’s easier said than done to let things go. It’s hard not to let judgmental people “rent space in our heads.” But after a few weeks of thinking about Mr. Jerk, I asked myself if he was worth it. He wasn’t. Even if his judgments about me were correct, he wasn’t worth the effort I was expending worrying about him. Until he walked into my life, I was content and happy with myself. His ridiculous behavior shouldn’t have the power to change that. I stopped worrying about him and focused on the things that needed to be done. Sure, I sometimes lapsed into feeling bad, but the overall trend was positive. I felt much better.
When you feel like someone is judging you for your possessions, appearance, or lifestyle don’t race to spend money to change yourself. Ask yourself if you’re happy with things as they are. If they answer is yes, then let the judgmental people think what they want. You don’t have to change just because someone looks at you funny or is so rude as to actually say something about your clothes or possessions. We don’t have a lot of time on this Earth and you shouldn’t waste it worrying about what other people think. If they want to spend their limited time talking about you behind your back or snickering at your old car, let them. You probably have better things to do with your time.
(Photo courtesy of Diacritical)
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