That Time Image Mattered to Me

image is everything
I often like to think that I’m so emotionally mature that I don’t care about image at all. I don’t need expensive clothing, a luxury car, or high tech gadgets; and I don’t really care when people notice that I don’t have these things. It doesn’t matter to me. Until it did.

It was a Saturday morning and my wife was making breakfast when she noticed that we were running low on milk. I said I would get it from the supermarket which was only two blocks away. She asked me to bring our 15 month old son along with me, as he’s starting to climb on furniture and she wouldn’t be able to supervise him. My 4 year old didn’t want to come. He was too busy watching his cartoons.

On my way back from the supermarket, I stopped by my minivan to pick up a box of diapers I had bought the previous day. As I turned around, I saw a familiar face. It was a girl that I kind of went out with back in college. More accurately, I guess we hung out and then I was banished to the dreaded “friend zone” while she would go out with other guys. Anyway, long story short, back then I remember imagining myself being this successful guy with a fancy sports car and her regretting banishing me to the friend zone. Um, yea…I was kinda shallow and petty back in my college years. Sometimes, I still might be =) In defense of my pettiness and for some perspective, I want to disclose that I was a bit of a dork back in my college days…I still am…so that might be an explanation as to my pettiness!

In any case, I bump into her and she was with her husband. They were dressed up and probably going out to brunch. My hair was disheveled. I hadn’t shaved yet that day. I was wearing sweat pants, holding a box of Huggies diapers, and pushing a stroller, standing next to my minivan. We exchanged pleasantries and said how time has flown and that it was such a small world that we would bump into each other there.

After we parted ways and I was on my way back home, I was seething. Why couldn’t I have been driving a luxury SUV or something! Argh! Maybe I should have thrown on a nicer pair of jeans and combed my hair, before I left my house! I tried to remind myself why I don’t have a fancy car or expensive jeans. I have bigger goals: I want to be FI! But it’s not like I can show off by wearing a shirt that says “I’m on the Path to FIRE!” Did I mention that I can be shallow sometimes?

When I got home, I opened the door and my 4 year old jumped into my arms. “Where are we going today, papa?!” My 15 month old, still strapped in his stroller, stretches his arms out asking to be picked up too. My wife brings out breakfast. She made oatmeal and we’re also having Mickey Mouse shaped waffles.

I started to feel embarrassed. I was ashamed of myself for feeling like it mattered what someone I barely even knew thought about me. What really mattered were those people in that room with me at that moment. I have a loving and caring wife. I have two wonderful kids who adore me. Why did I waste my time in mental anguish over what someone else may or may not have thought about me.

Do you have any moments of weakness when you care too much as to what others may think of you?

11 thoughts on “That Time Image Mattered to Me

  1. Brad - MaximizeYourMoney.com

    Thanks for sharing that story – it’s a good reminder. I also have to be very purposeful in reminding myself of what I’ve made certain decisions and set certain priorities. One that trips me up sometimes is where I live. I purposely sold a million+ waterfront home to pay cash for a much smaller townhouse. On occasion I feel tempted to clarify that we’re in that house because it aligns with our FIRE plans, not because we have to. But, who cares? Why should I care? Why am I so vain?!? #WorkInProgress
    Brad – MaximizeYourMoney.com recently posted…Highest Paying Jobs Without A College Degree – 2017My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, I remember your story about the nice waterfront house. But you’re FIRE now right? I feel like that’s the ultimate mic drop! =) “Oh, you have a smaller townhouse.” “Yes, and I’m retired and you’re still working!”

      Reply
        1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

          Haha, yea I know. There’s no reason to throw that around…unless someone REALLY gets under your skin! It’s best to stick with Stealth Wealth.

          Reply
  2. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    lol I think when it comes to ANY ex at any time in our lives we somehow want to prove to them we’re doing better. Especially if we got dumped or like you, got put in the friend zone. I think this is TOTALLY natural! In the moment we are kind of caught off guard, but you found some perspective about it after, and that’s all that matters.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…My Happy PlaceMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      You’re right, I’m sure it’s a natural reaction for most people. Although it’s been so long that I’m like…why do I even care?!

      Reply
  3. Brian

    I used to have those moments more frequently. Today, I try not to let things outside of my control or people affect me that are not important to me. It’s something I’m teaching my kids too. To learn to deal with others, and don’t let what the say or do affect you so much.
    Brian recently posted…Interview Series: Finance Yo SelfMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, I will definitely try to instill that to my kids as well. It’s definitely tougher on kids though…especially those teenage years.

      Reply
  4. The Luxe Strategist

    Sounds like you dodged a bullet with that girl from college :)

    Just remember that you don’t actually have to spend a lot of money to look put together and feel good about yourself. You can get nice jeans that fit well for like, $30! I do spend money on my stuff, but I despise obvious luxury. The people who are really rich and classy (like those in the FI community) aren’t really flaunting it.
    The Luxe Strategist recently posted…How I Got a Job in Fashion with No ExperienceMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      You’re absolutely right. My wife can put together a great outfit without spending a lot of money. I also despise obvious luxury…way too showy for my taste.

      Reply
  5. Jason

    Oh I have this all the time. Part of it is this self-comparison thing I have. But image is, at least somewhat important, because of the research profile I am generating and also wanting to be competent for my students. For me, it is about a sense of credibility and that is one of the reasons I did the finance instructor. That image, at least outward, can be important because I want to be seen as a competent professional. I take it much further than I need too however.
    Jason recently posted…A Little Financial Perspective Is Sometimes NeededMy Profile

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