There seems to be a major disparity between what the majority of people value the most in their lives and what our culture promotes.
Scanning news headlines, magazine articles, books and even social media, our culture holds the highest esteem for financial success, beauty, power and stardom above all other accomplishments. We are inundated with images of the rich and beautiful and learn every detail of how they maintain their financial power, their unique physiques, their exceptionally youthful appearance or outstanding achievements. Social media communications reflect our preoccupation with idolizing these stars.
Those who achieve exceptional status in sports, art, science, literature, entertainment or practically any field are lauded as our symbols of success. Society assumes that the rich, if not always famous, possess exceptional abilities, talents, creativity and business acumen, which we are all implored to emulate. Even people, whose wealth has not been personally earned, still evoke our awe and admiration.
Yet, when ordinary people are asked what they value the most, they often list a loving partner, family, interesting work, good relationships, friendships, financial stability, fun and a trouble free life.
Professor and author Tim Kassler, differentiates between extrinsic goals, “which seek to have fine possessions, the ‘right’ image, popularity and high status” and intrinsic goals which center on “personal growth, self-acceptance, having close relationships with others and promote helpful, pro-social, cooperative and ecologically sustainable attitudes and behaviors.” His research documents that “the goals encouraged by consumer culture, which are primarily extrinsic, tend to diminish the quality of our lives, our society, and our Earth, whereas intrinsic goals promote greater health and wellbeing, more social justice, and greater sustainability.”
Wouldn’t it be more pleasing if what people valued the most would get greater prominence in our culture rather than the promotion of what a few people have achieved by heritage, chance, healthy genetics or even exceptional innate talents?
Our culture does provide kudos for exceptional everyday heroes who helped or saved others, showed courage and resilience in extraordinary circumstances, facilitated the lives of those in need, volunteered and selflessly promoted worthy causes. People cherish hearing about others who tirelessly make the world a little better through hard work, compassion, kindness and caring for others, such as, firemen, policemen, volunteers, promoters of good causes, teachers and mentors, among many others.
As decent human beings we need to encourage a greater cultural emphasis on intrinsic values: respect, caring and kindness toward ourselves and each other, fairness in laws and practices that empower all of us to reach our personal goals and greater appreciation for our individual talents and accomplishments as we foster a kinder society to the benefit of all.
Live by what you value the most:
- Model appreciation for others’ intrinsic essence – not their fame or fortune.
- Promote your relationship with your family, work and community through caring and helpfulness.
- Realize that acceptance, kindness and compassion are the strongest human bonds that unite us all.