8 signs you’re too focused on material success (and it’s affecting your happiness)

We all need money.

So there’s no denying that we all need some degree of material success. 

And yet it’s not all there is to life, and obsessing over it can easily affect your happiness.

If you’re wondering if this is already happening to you, here are some obvious signs you’re currently too focused on material success.

1) Doing nothing gives you anxiety

The first sign that you’ve already become too focused on material success is when rest becomes work.

You simply can’t let yourself relax even when you aren’t supposed to be working!

You can’t just sit back and enjoy your hobbies or even just lying on a hammock. There’s this cloying guilt over “wasting” your time by not being productive enough.

This happens because you have come to measure your worth based on how productive you are.

So it doesn’t matter even if you’re on vacation…you will check your emails and write your to-do list for when you get back.

You might have a good book on your hands, but you simply can’t focus enough to take your time reading it. Or you might be having a massage, but thoughts of “how to earn more” keep you from enjoying it.

Doing nothing makes you feel like you’re committing some kind of crime. It’s almost like you’re convinced you don’t deserve proper rest UNTIL you get material success.

2) Simple things can’t make you happy anymore

Once upon a time, you would have been perfectly content just whiling your day away watching sitcoms on a 10-year-old TV with chips on one hand and a burger on the other.

But now you find that if you must watch a show and actually enjoy it, you should have a 100-inch 8k TV, a fancy couch to lounge in, and full surround audio to satisfy you. And of course, better food!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have something better, mind you.

The problem is when you have this need to always keep “leveling up” your material possessions just to be happy. 

Even as you strive to build a better life for yourself, you should still try to rewire your brain and let yourself be content with simpler things.

Otherwise, imagine how much it would require you to be happy 10 or 20 years down the line. 

It’s possible that by then you’ll even demand nothing less than a home theater, a $100,000 velvet couch, and a Michelin-star meal served by your own personal butler.

Happiness gets harder and harder to achieve this way, and isn’t the goal in life the exact opposite?

3) You unconsciously become a little judgmental

You’re a genuinely good person deep down, and you’ve always wanted to be open-minded and understanding.

And yet lately, you’ve started judging people based on how much they own, how educated or refined they look, what car they drive, or which neighborhood they came from.

Hell, you might even begin thinking that people who need social support are just being lazy.

Unfortunately, even the best of us can’t help but get a bit judgemental the moment we start obsessing about material success. So while you’re still aware of it, try to tame it before it affects your happiness.

Sure, you might say that these are just your opinions and you’re not exactly harming anyone by having them.

But it also means you’re unconsciously cutting yourself from others—even some long-time friends—simply because you think they’re not as ambitious as you.

4) You say NO to invites (even the ones you like)

They say you should say NO to distraction, so you can say YES to your dreams. And while that’s true, you take it way too seriously!

You’d say no to hanging out with your besties (and your crush, even!) because you have work and you’d rather focus on that.

You say no to a once-in-a-lifetime backpacking trip with your cousins because it won’t help you get a promotion at work.

While it’s perfectly okay to want money and all the things it can buy, you must make sure you still enjoy life.

Not everything has a price tag, and experiences are just priceless. You’re denying yourself that in pursuit of temporary joy in material wealth.

5) You choose stuff based on their price tag

Marketing is fascinating in that most of it is all about brands trying to convince us that the more expensive something is, the classier it is.

It’s all artificial value, of course. These brands can easily sell their goods for a tenth of the price they’re currently demanding…but it’s easy for people to believe their lies.

And the tragedy is that by choosing things based on their price tag, you might even start denying yourself the things you actually like because it’s not “classy enough.”

You might personally find more comfort in street food than you would with a full course meal from a 5-star restaurant. And yet, you’d go to the fancy restaurant anyways, simply because the food there costs a hundred times more.

This is an expensive habit to have, and chances are that the things you throw your money at aren’t even worth it.

6) Intangible things start to mean less and less to you

Peace of mind, affection, creativity, intelligence, good conversations…all these things start to take a backseat when you’re focused on material things.

You might even think “Well, sure, she’s funny and talented. But what’s the use of that if you can’t even afford a decent apartment?”

The Little Prince said that what’s essential is invisible to the eye. And by chasing material success, you might have actually deprioritized the essentials for a happy life.

7) You start to look at relationships as opportunities

And I don’t mean just romantic relationships—I mean relationships in general.

You start being selective on the friends you make, wondering about whether they have something to offer you or if befriending them will do nothing but eat up your time.

You start thinking about whether they have opportunities to offer, let you get to people who can help you achieve your goals, or whether being friends with them will earn you prestige.

This is not something you might not even realize you’re doing… until that friend stops being valuable for some reason. Perhaps they got fired from their managerial position, or they lost their wealth, or they simply retired.

If your friendship with them was built on their “value” to you, and not who they are as a person, you might find yourself quickly losing interest in continuing to interact with them.

And this, sadly, makes it hard for you to build any true genuine friendships. 

8) You start obsessing over looking the part

We all need to put some effort into appearances if we want to be successful. This is just a fact.

You can be the smartest programmer in the world, but you’re not going to just get yourself a decent job if you dress like a basement rat.

But there’s a line, and that line is when you start being so focused on impressing others to the point that you do everything you can to fit in.

You’d buy fancy cars, big houses, silken suits, and more, even if you threaten to put yourself in debt by doing so. 

And debt, as you know, can lead to unhappiness—even misery! People with debt are three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

Obsessing over appearances not only stunts your personal life, it’s also a vain effort that strains your resources.

Last words

“But what is happiness? 

It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

This is a famous line in Mad Men, and we should probably reflect on it.

Material possessions can make us happy, for sure. Who doesn’t want a mansion or a yacht? But the thing is…they only give us temporary happiness.

Definitely strive for financial success because it offers comfort.

However, make sure you’re not too obsessed with it that you forget to enjoy life and disregard the things that truly matter.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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