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How to Know if You’re Shallow (+5 Tips to Not be Shallow)


Do money, clothes and cars impress you? Are you more interested in someone’s job than you are in their values? Here’s the thing. Stuff does not define us. Our job does not define us. With the rise in the culture of influencers who showcase extravagant lifestyles, it can be hard to get off the shallow treadmill. 

We are surrounded by messages that to be desirable to others and happy yourself you need stuff. Not just any stuff. You need the latest gadgets and cars. And not just that. Anyone you associate with needs this stuff too. What happened to us? When did society discern someone more by the car they drive than the morals in their heart? Let me ask you something. Does having X, Y or Z make you a good person? 

When we learn to disassociate our self-worth from stuff, we see people for who they really are. It’s difficult not to go along with the crowds of hysteria, all striving for the next big thing. Read on to learn how you can stop being shallow and find more meaning and happiness in your life.

This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!

What’s wrong with being shallow? 

What’s wrong with being shallow? Everything. This dictionary definition uses the word “superficial” to describe someone who is shallow. 

And someone who is superficial lacks substance and depth.

Would you like to be described as someone who lacks substance and depth? 

But here’s the real kicker. When we place an onus on materialism to seek our happiness, we are in for a disappointment. Money and materialism don’t necessarily make us happy

Fascinatingly, this study outlines that up to a certain point we gain happiness from consumption. Thereafter, our happiness starts to fall.

We feel we “should” be happy with all our consumption, but we aren’t. What a great argument for staying in the sweet spot. Having just enough to be happy and grateful. But not too much that we start to feel our happiness fade. 

Put very simply, it is not a case of the more you have, the happier you are. 

And it is not just about being shallow with our own consumption, wants, and desires. When we are shallow, we judge others through the same lens. But guess what, someone with great wealth is not automatically a better human being than someone with less wealth. 

Shallow people often overlook the people gems around them, in favor of the flashy false gold people they aspire to be like. 

How do I know if I am shallow? 

When we are shallow very often the things that impress us are false vistas. For instance, think of your friend’s fancy car that makes you want to hang out with them. Well, it is likely on finance and they are struggling to meet the payments. 

Your friend who posts all those images on Instagram who seems to have it all? Well, he is about to get divorced. His wife is cheating on him and his kids resent him. 

Do you admire shoes and handbags, fancy holidays, and jewelry? What is it about this stuff that reels you in? 

Maybe the media has brainwashed you into believing all their adverts. You know, the ad about the watch that will turn you into a babe magnet. Or the one with the fizzy drink that will boost your intelligence.

If you are consumed by your image and how you come across to others you are likely shallow. If it is important to you to project an image of wealth and success, You are likely shallow. 

Success is subjective. What is successful to me may not be successful to you. Let’s eradicate the notion that success is all about wealth, a good job, house ownership, multiple foreign holidays a year, high education, marriage, children, and doing what we are “supposed” to do. 

Don’t let society prescribe your success. Only you can know what your own success looks like. To me, success equals happiness

5 immediate actions to stop being shallow

When it comes down to it, I don’t believe anyone actually wants to be shallow. I believe there is more to someone than the bling they have around their neck or the car they drive. Yet we still get caught up.

But when we feed into this shallow cycle, we believe having the bling around our neck is essential for our acceptance. We actually think our car brings us respect. We believe our self-worth is based on stuff. 

And you know what? Maybe this is true. But if you want a more meaningful life, it’s time to jump into the deep end and stop feeding into this shallow cycle. 

Here are 5 immediate ways you can stop being so shallow. 

1. Question your shopping habits 

It’s very simple. When you are shopping, shop for yourself. Don’t purchase something based on what you think others will think of it. Don’t spend money on an item that you don’t particularly like, but everyone else has. 

I don’t particularly like shopping anyway. But very often, if I am mulling over a purchase I ask myself a few questions. 

  • “Do I want this or do I need this?” 
  • “Will this item make me a better person?”

If you really want the fluorescent jacket because it makes you feel amazing. But end up buying the trendy, black designer jacket that is “in” at the moment. It’s time to have a word with yourself. 

Stop spending money on purchases for other people’s approval. Buy for yourself. Even better – spend money on experiences and not tangible things. Fact is, there is a ton of research that experiences bring us more happiness than stuff. 

2. Find your authentic self 

When we live our lives to prove ourselves to others, we lose ourselves. For a long time, I tried to be “cool”. I think I was doing an OK job as I fitted in and was accepted, but I was not myself. I felt alien. For example, I laughed at jokes I didn’t find funny. I wore things I didn’t feel comfortable in. 

As I glazed over for the umpteenth time whilst my peers talked about handbags and makeup I made a promise to myself. I was going to return to myself. 

I no longer fit in, but I do get to be myself.

Handbags and make-up do nothing for me. But I could talk about trail shoes and dogs all day every day. I

Cut the shackles and find what is right for you. Follow your own yearnings.

3. Strip your labels and find out who you are beneath the surface 

Admittedly, in the past I found myself judging others for their jobs, cars and house.

I saw these things and decided if they were a good person or a person worthy of knowing. I would cast aspersions on someone depending on who they were friends with. Then I would make up stories about people in my mind depending on what they did in their spare time. 

Two years ago, my life turned a full 180 degrees. I have gone from someone with many labels to brag of:

  • A successful and interesting career.
  • A host of influential friends.
  • An admirable voluntary role.

People wanted to be my friend. They wanted me in their life.

But if you strip away all those labels, who is left? An empty carcass?

No. 

My roles did not define me. What is left is the human being that I truly am. I can not hide behind labels. I can not use my positions to prove myself. I am vulnerable and bare. I am kind. I speak up for injustice. I fight for animal rights. I invest time in real friends. 

What is left is me. Unapologetically me. And it feels good. It feels amazing not to be constantly seeking self-worth in the labels I claimed. 

So, strip away all your labels, even just in your imagination. Who are you? Do you like yourself? Are you worth knowing? That’s what you need to work on. Those are the qualities to judge others on. 

4. Stop trying to keep up 

Keeping up with the Joneses is exhausting. When we lead a shallow life, we live automatically. We forget to even check in with ourselves and ask if we like or want something. We automatically assume we do as everyone else does. So we copy and emulate those around us. 

Then we wake up and realize, heck, we don’t even like our job. We can’t stand our partners. And we didn’t even want kids!

Stop comparing yourself to others. Live your own life to the beat of your own drum. It’s OK to take the road less traveled.

I know confidently that I don’t want children. But I have heard first-hand accounts of people who had kids to keep up with their friends. Luckily, they love their children but they admit if they had their time again, they would not have had children. 

Accept agency over your life. Stop blending into everyone else. It’s your life. Live it at your pace and go in whatever direction you want. 

5. Recognize that happiness comes from within 

The thing is, when we buy something new we do experience happiness. We experience a rush of endorphins and a surge in happiness. But these feelings are short-lived. There is a real risk of creating a shopping addiction, a compulsion. We then constantly need more stuff to experience the endorphins.

Materialism does not buy us lifelong happiness, as discussed in this article

So, it’s time for you to seek happiness within yourselves, instead of in stuff. 

You are not your car or your house. You are not the fancy watch around your wrist or the designer shoes on your feet. 

Find happiness inside by finding your authentic self as described above. Then focus on these personal tasks: 

  • Learn to be kinder.
  • Spend more time in nature (it truly increases your happiness).
  • Disconnect from your phone.
  • Unfollow “influencers”.
  • Have real conversations about dreams, goals, feelings and fears. Not about people and stuff. 
  • Sign up for voluntary work.

And one last suggestion. 

  • Try to embrace a minimalist life.

Do a massive clear-out. It may feel scary at first. But when you get rid of things that you once placed your self-worth on, I promise you will feel liberated. 

Science has proven living a minimalist life and reducing our consumption is positively correlated with well-being.

Wrapping up 

Living a shallow life is unsatisfying and flat. Luckily there is a way out. I am not going to lie on my deathbed and think of the expensive designer shoes I bought. Heck no. I am going to be thinking of all the experiences I had.

Do you live a shallow life and want to live a life filled with interesting experiences instead of possessions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

ali wyllie portrait

Ali Hall

Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.


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