It was over five years ago. Both of our family cars were down. Not because of fuel but due to technical problems. For a couple of days I had my brother-in-marriage picking me and my family to work and school. He then mocked me ‘Achimwene, anzathu paja mumakhala ku Area 10. Mumafikanso pokhala opanda galimoto kuno? (Do those of you who stay in Area 10 also reach a point when you have no family car on the road?).
I laughed because there is courage in laughter after an affliction. But this joke sent me thinking really hard. I had a couple of questions that pushed me to write this article: how many people suffer in silence—barely scraping through life while staying in poshy locations? Why do many people care so much about impressing others at the expense of their own family’s welfare? Why stay in Area 10 and drive a BMW when your children are getting malnourished?
Just to jostle you a bit. If you buy a car that is flashy, but always running on the fuel tank’s amber light, you could perhaps just be spending money to impress other people. If you always want to be seen in different expensive attire each day and be buying in up-market shops each month-end, you could be spending to impress other people.
If you always strive to have the latest phone or notebook, you perhaps are spending money to impress other people. If you always must be seen at the coolest new place in town, you could be spending money to impress other people. Stop it because you could be living a life bigger than yourself and you can’t sustain it for long!
I found it was really powerful for me to take people and split them into two groups: people whose opinions I cared about, and people whose opinions I didn’t care about one way or another.
It was easy to stop caring about impressing people whose opinions I didn’t care about. Who cares what they think? As long as I’m not doing something truly offensive or heinous – something that might potentially create a negative reputation for me – it doesn’t matter what they think.
The trickier part was worrying about impressing other people whose opinions I do care about. People I want to meet. Customers. Friends. Family. Workmates. Shouldn’t I want to impress them?
Again, I go back to the basics. As long as I’m not offensive – meaning I’m clean, I’m presentable, and I behave myself – I don’t need to impress these people with expensive, shiny things. The relationship I have built with them – or I am going to build with them – is based on me, not on the material items. They will either like me for me or they won’t – no amount of bling will change that.
So, to put it simply, take care of the basics. Keep yourself clean. Keep your weight under control. Wear reasonable clothing. Work on your communication skills. If you have them covered, you don’t need to invest time and money into impressing other people. You will naturally connect with the people you will connect with, and you won’t connect with those you wouldn’t connect with anyway.
Coming to this realization is incredibly valuable. It drops your clothing budget. It drops your automobile budget. It drops your electronics budget. It drops your housing budget. You don’t need a castle, a shiny car, a blackberry, or a K25 000 hair-do and expensive manicure.
Yes, you may actually still want one or two of these things, but the impetus comes from what your personal core values are, not what other people around you seem to value or what marketing messages you receive.
In short, don’t play socially by the tired old rules that revolve around needing to impress people. Instead, spend your time on things that bring real value to you – and give real value to others.
Blessed weekend to you and yours as you seriously reflect on your lifestyle.