Thinking about materialism and consumerism:
Much of the things we purchase is in order to ‘flex’ our personal possessions. To assert our status, richness, power, etc.
- Is flexing ‘bad’?
- Why flex?
- What would a world without flexing be?
- Is flexing ‘good’?
Why is flexing seen as bad?
I think flexing is seen as bad because when you flex, you make those who are weaker than you feel bad about themselves.
I think this comes from Christian morality. To be humble is seen as a virtue, and to be superior to others [or to assert yourself] is seen as a vice/bad/evil.
For example if you’re Arnold at the gym and flexing your muscles in the mirror [in public, when others can look at you], this is seen as ‘improper behavior’ because people who are less buff than Arnold will feel bad about themselves.
Thus it seems the ethical rule is:
If you do any public behaviors that makes others feel bad about themselves or feel lesser, that is a moral evil/badness.
I like to flex much in private. For example before or after I take a shower, I like to flex in the mirror and admire my own muscles for my own private enjoyment. And this is the funny thing:
I don’t really care to flex my muscles to others in public.
I sometimes do, and it is an added bonus, but it isn’t essential. I enjoy flexing in private, to feel more self-confident in myself, and to derive joy in my personal progress.
Is it possible to build your own ego in private and not at the expense of others?
I think so. The times in which I’ve built up my own personal ego to greater heights is generally when I spend more time by myself [creative solitude], when I reflect more, think more, life more, eat more meat, listen to music, and when I’m creatively prolific.
Thus my takeaway:
You can build your ego in private, but you can also build your ego at the price of others.
However I think being dependent on building your ego by putting others down — this is a sign of a small and petty soul.
In praise of building your ego in private.
Once again — we can build our ego in private. Perhaps we can gain massive gains in our self-ego and self-esteem by spending LESS time with others. Less time with toxic people, less time watching toxic and fear-inducing news.
Is it bad manners to flex?
I don’t think so. If you want to flex, go ahead! Don’t let the fear of “upsetting others” or making others “feel bad about themselves” get in your way. If you are afraid of hurting the feelings of others, you should never talk to any other humans, nor should you leave the house, nor should you create any art works.
It is impossible to be a social human being without upsetting the egos of others. And this is totally fine, and part of the game!
Don’t waste money in order to flex
If I lived in a desert by myself with no other humans, I think I would still love to own a Lamborghini — to admire as a design object, and for the joy of driving it around.
But I think it is always a poor decision to buy things for the sake of flexing to other humans. Why? It seems like a waste of money.
Perhaps a better way to flex is:
- Flex your artistic skills and powers
- Flex your muscles [it doesn’t matter how poor or rich you are, building muscle isn’t based on externals like status, money, or luck]
- Flex your intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and mind/
But the purpose of flexing isn’t to flex for the sake of making others feel bad. The point of flexing is because you have deep pride in yourself, and you feel that by flexing, you can actually help empower others.
The upside of American wealth mentality
Apparently in the UK, there is a notion of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ — if you see others [rich people, ie. poppies] prosper, you want to tear them down.
However in America, we have this interesting mentality– when you see rich people, they are aspirational. We have the mentality that:
If I work hard, be industrious, and with enough luck — I can become as successful, rich, and happy as them!
I think this is good– it is a positive aspirational thing. I’d rather be foolish and insanely ambitious [and motivated by the successes of others] than to spit poison on the rich and successful — by thinking that their success is ‘ill-deserved’ or that they somehow ‘cheated’.
This is why I think the mentality of ‘privilege-shaming’ people a bad practice. You cannot help the fact you were born into privilege. And why do you care if others are privileged? Just ignore them — focus on building yourself!
Motivate and encourage others
From my personal life experiences I can say — I couldn’t have made it this far without the help, support, wisdom, guidance, and empowerment of others — individuals, organizations, institutions, etc.
Thus it seems to me, once you become successful — the only logical thing is to spread your wealth with others. Not to self-sacrifice your wealth, but rather– because you have so much overly abundant wealth, you share, to ‘flex’ your bountiful nature– and to benefit others!
Now isn’t this ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or ‘disingenuous’? I don’t think it even matters! Of course Bill Gates gets a ‘warm glow’ by helping others with billions of dollars. But this is good! We want Bill Gates and others to feel good by sharing their bounty with others. This notion of ‘100% pure selfless altruism’ is nonsense– and perhaps even a toxic idea. We should make people feel good about flexing their abundance and being altruistic, if we truly desire to help the poor and unfortunate.
Does the flexing of others annoy you?
When you see others flex their wealth, muscles, cars, whatever– does this upset you? If so, why? Is it because their flexing lowers your self-esteem and ego?
For example when I see a dude driving a new McLaren on the freeway, I don’t think he is a douchebag. I rather think:
Wow, that is a sweet car. I would love to own or drive that car one day.
No bitterness, no poison, no malice. Only positivity, love, ambition, hope, drive, and determination!