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fear, conform, consume

Why the Joneses can suck it…or how conformity will kill your dreams.

Winter has officially eaten then entire United States of America (except Florida). From Oregon to Alabama, people everywhere are hunkered down. Stuck in their homes. Trapped there by gazillions of little tiny flakes of ice.

…and many of them are ready to kill each other.

Are you one of them? Or are you one of the few who seem to be really embracing all of this together time?

What in the hell does this have to do with the Joneses?

Hold your horses, I’m getting there.  First, let me ask a few more questions. Warning: These questions might suck for you, because this might not be shit you want to admit. That’s alright. Just keep reading and nodding and pretending I’m talking to someone else.  That always works.

When you’re out there…in the wild…among your kind…is your ego fed more than it is at home? Do you get nourishing approval from the pack because you drive the right car, drink the right coffee, took on the right hobby or your shoes have the right name in them? If so, you’re not alone. It’s human nature to crave that validation, but we have become addicted to it.

The majority of our buying decisions & perceived needs are subconsciously driven by the damn Joneses. Status. Or, because that’s what everyone else has. (And, yes, you do sound like a 14 year old when you say that.)

Your ego is a spoiled brat and she’s starved for attention while you’re stuck at home in the snow.

It’s time for some tough love for your ego.

Who are you trying to impress anyway? Just yourself, really.  Think about it.  You are the one who feels bigger, better or somehow ‘more’ when you have something bigger, better or ‘more’ than the person sitting next to you.

You may not even be a shopper or label reader. You’re probably still playing a mental game of one-up more often than you’d care to admit.

Do you smirk a little when the neighbor’s grass has a few yellow spots and yours is a lush carpet of green?
Have you ever heard a friend brag about their 1 year olds first steps and thought “Ha, mine was walking by 10 months!”?

It’s little things. It’s cultural. But you can change it if you want to.

And, here’s the kicker…

You will never find that joyful, simple, well-blended, DIY lifestyle you want so much at the boutique, on your best-on-the-block lawn or inside your designer purse.

I know what you’re screaming at the screen right about now. We carry this deep-seeded fear that someone is looking at us and deciding whether to be our friend or our client based on those “right things” I just said you don’t really need.

You’re right. They are. But guess what? You don’t have to please those people. Or like them. Or beat them.

They aren’t playing the same game you’re playing.

You don’t have to conform to fit their idea of what your life should look like.
Did you hear that sneaky optimal word drop there?  It’s YOUR life.

Acknowledgment is your first baby step toward joy-producing non-conformity

Today, while you’re snowed in and spending more time in your house than you can stand, think about this:

What made you decide you needed to buy a 2800 square foot house for your family of four? That’s 800 square feet per person. Did you know less that 20 years ago, the average house was closer to 300 square feet per person? That begs for a big fat “why?” Did we get bigger? Do we have more stuff? Do we need more personal space?

Nowadays, we’re told by all of the house hunting experts that we should want a separate room for every activity and every person. Apparently, multi-purpose rooms are the devil. But, is that what you really want? Is that separation making you happy?

I want to know your thoughts

Tell me in the comments:

What are some of your Jones-based decisions or justifications?

How much faster could your budding business cover your expenses if you stopped trying to fit some conformist ideal? How much less expensive would life get?

Would it be easier to ride out this storm if your family spent more time in the same room, playing the same board game, breathing the same air, watching the same movie and sharing the same experiences?  Is some ingrained need for conformity keeping that from being an option?

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10 Responses to Why the Joneses can suck it…or how conformity will kill your dreams.

  1. Giulietta Nardone January 13, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Hi Laura,

    Our economy “grows” (that needs to be challenged as well since we are running out of natural resources) when we all buy junk we don’t need. That’s what school teaches us to do, be good little consumers at the expense of living fulfilling lives.

    Sure, it can be fun to buy something, but the “high” doesn’t last long and that stuff (how many hours of work did it cost?) gets tossed in the corner, eventually carted off to the salvation army.

    I’d much rather have experiences and adventures and hang with people rather than shopping purchases.

    I spent way to many years of my young adulthood trapped in the climate controlled mall looking for myself in things on a rack or a shelf. But I never found her there!

    A huge house becomes a trap as well. You end up working like a dog to pay for and take care of it, when a smaller home is all you need.

    See, if we were out in the world rather than inside all the time, we’d see more clearly that a giant house may impress the 8 people that come to your party (or not) but is it worth it for 1 night of envious looks?

    Why not live in a smaller house and have more time to enjoy life? Hang out in nature more?

    All learned in school …

    Good post! Giulietta

    • Laura White-Ritchie January 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi Giulietta,
      Thanks for stopping by! I have to agree. The ideal Capitalism is formed by creating products & services that fulfill a human need and in return, doing well for yourself by doing good for others.

      Social Enterprise is now in the spot where the original idea of Capitalism started. But it has veered so far away from its roots. In our western world, almost all true human needs are met. So, to keep the economy going needs had to be manufactured, designed and ingrained into us. Distorting Capitalism’s altruism-meets-self-interest roots into this ugly thing called Consumerism. Our economy depends on the success of consumerism. In fact, our public school system was designed with the direct help of manufacturers and business giants to teach these lessons of conformity and manufactured needs. These lessons start young…even with TV commercials aimed at toddlers…and they’re multiplied by 1000x once our kids go to school.

      It becomes such a part of our psyche that it’s hard…painful even…to see that it isn’t real. It’s all an illusion.

      It’s time we took a stand and said NO MORE!

  2. Gail January 13, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Great post! I’m typing from my laptop in my office/kitchen table/middle of my very small slightly-overcrowded house and loving it. Kids can find me, I can see what they’re doing and I don’t care what I’m wearing as long as it’s clean. Sometimes I’m envious of the moms who look so organized and put together. But I also know it’s not my lifestyle. I’m happy where I am… thanks for the post! It helped remind me I’m happy where I am.

    • Laura White-Ritchie January 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      Yay Gail!
      I’m sitting here in my yoga pants with my hair in a ponytail on my couch in my great room. This is where we hang out, eat, play games, watch movies, work, pretend to be pirates, have tickle fights, chase the dog, make craft projects, everything. It all happens here, in this noisy, cluttered and well-loved room. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      Thanks so much for visiting my new blog! Please come back and read more.

  3. Delisa January 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Great post. I have been a non-conformist since birth. lol. I’m raising my children to think for themselves and not contribute to the buzz of the hive mind.

    Thanks for reminding me why the Joneses can suck it.

    • Laura White-Ritchie January 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      Good for you! Welcome to the BrainyFeet party and thanks for stopping by and introducing yourself, Delisa!

  4. Julia January 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I came over here after reading your comments on Kyeli’s blog entry.

    And as I was reading, most of it didn’t sound familiar, because I have been playing a totally different game for awhile. I have autistic kids, and if you were comparing yourself with others before, it can become really depressing to start comparing your kid to a “normal” kid, you have very different concerns from most of the other parents in the neighborhood, and your priorities just get shaken up.

    I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart, but it will adjust your attitude. The thing is, do you opt for the frantic, gotta-get-this-therapy-for-my-kid-NOW, possibly self-pitying attitude, or do you opt to roll with it, know that someone will think your best isn’t enough but they can stuff it, and focus more on the wonderful person your kid is, and the wonderful person you yourself can be? If you opt for the second, you won’t be worrying so much about conformity as just doing what works for your family, even if it’s really weird by most people’s standards.

  5. Laura White-Ritchie January 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm #


    I’m so glad you found us from Pace & Kylie’s site. They’re pretty awesome!

    Having a child with unique needs and challenges will definitely give you a crash course in non-conformity. The beautiful thing is that you learn about what makes you truly happy…and you discover that they aren’t “things.”

    I love this: “”know that someone will think your best isn’t enough but they can stuff it.” You couldn’t be more right!

  6. Christine January 28, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Wow. I’ve always said: the more kids you have, the smaller your house should get – so you can keep track of them all. NOBODY believes me.

    Of course, I do pine for the day when the kids grow up and move out and I can build my 5000 square foot dream home to retire in. . .so shoot me :).

  7. Rayven February 13, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Love this! I’m going to pass it around. The one thing I want for both of my boys is for them to understand they don’t have to fit into someone else’s idea of “in”. They need to just be themselves. No they may not have the coolest car, or the nicest house, but they will be themselves and that is all that really matters. When we are happy with who looks back at us in the mirror we can be happy and fulfilled in life.

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