Artificial Happiness

I chose the below TED Talk to complete an assignment for my business ethics class.  It really resonated with me – while I’m not the most materialistic person out there, I do place more value than most people do in frivolous things.  For example, when I lost my iPhone in Mexico, instead of just buying an inexpensive temporary phone, I paid for a new iPhone 5S at retail.  It is kind of ridiculous, but I really have gotten a lot better, I promise!

I particularly have a problem with spending ridiculous amounts of money on clothes.  A few weeks ago, a good friend of Brian’s mentioned that he bought everything from Costco, including all of his clothes.  I didn’t mean to react in a way that implied a distaste for his choice in fashion, but he could tell by my expression that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of shopping for clothes at Costco.  As an experiment, he brought two shirts out to me and told me to pick out the one that was from Costco.  After I looked at them both closely, examining the material and the buttons carefully, I made a choice and he proudly said, “They’re both from Costco.”

After this experience, I thought hard about how I came to be such a superficial brat.  I mean, I work hard for my money, and I felt that I deserved to “treat myself”.  But I was definitely going over the top: I realized I was paying $150 minimum every six weeks for a haircut.  I was wearing $250 shoes that gave me the same amount of utility as another $15 pair I had at home.  But other than the price I’m paying for these silly things, what else am I getting?

Everyday, I receive at least one compliment on my hair.  I’m not even kidding – after I started going to Heather at Image Studios, people have constantly told me that my hair is always perfect and that I have a beautiful, sophisticated, classic look.  The same thing happens with my shoes – many people start conversations by just talking about my shoes and how they wish they could buy some.  But is this really all that I’m spending so much money for?  Why do I care so much… Life isn’t a damn competition!  I guess just wearing designer made me feel better about myself.  I just felt happier knowing that I was wearing an outfit worth over $1,000, even if no one else could tell.

My boyfriend is the exact opposite of me.  He pays $10 for his haircuts, and his favorite pair of boat shoes only costed him $15.  He would not be able to tell if I were wearing G-Star denim or Forever 21 denim, or if I were wearing Tory Burch perfume or a Victoria’s Secret fragrance.

Luckily, this attribute kind of rubbed off on me.  And guess what happened?  I bought a coral maxi dress from for $28 to wear to a wedding.  And I got more compliments on that dress than I ever have on my $300 dress from Club Monaco.


This is such a simple concept for many people to understand, but for some reason I struggled with it.  Paying more for my clothes seriously made me happy – I just felt better wearing clothes I knew were made in America, or that were made of real silk.  But seeing that I was able to spend a fraction that I would normally spend on a dress I’d wear to a WEDDING of all places, and still feel just as pretty as I would in a more expensive dress, really opened my eyes, and advancing my resolve to overcome my addiction to unnecessary spending.

Following is the TED talk where Benjamin Wallace walks through The Price of Happiness.  It’s a great presentation, and it really puts the concept of conspicuous consumption into perspective. 🙂

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