Trying to Buy What Can’t Be Bought

This a line from one of my favorite songs, Old Before Your Time by Ray LaMontagne. It exemplifies many of my actions in my early and mid-adult life.

Growing up in a poor family and watching/listening to my parents diminish their self worth based upon their income, along with putting the rich on a pedestal, sent me a consequential message. “If you are feeling alone, down, not enough, less than others and not worthy, there is a solution, find a way to make A LOT of money”.

This message didn’t just come from my parents, it is alive and well in every bit of advertising and the media. I think that, like alcoholism or other addictions, some of us are predisposed to low self-worth and the appearance of sudden wealth triggers something inside us that creates a high. An invisible lightning bolt that ignites a power trip causing us to go beyond our usual and reasonable actions in order to hold onto it.

For me, this happened with sudden “fame/recognition” as a nationally recognized leader in my professional field, the money from that, and an eventual multi million-dollar entrepreneurial fund raise. According to what I had known all my life, I had made it at that point, I was worth something and others would put me on a pedestal.

Trying to buy what can’t be bought turns into wanting more things, power and self-esteem to the point of being our identity. Unfortunately, we all know that one can’t buy self-worth and identity, so the inevitable crash is bound to happen.

As a result of the crash, we are drawn back to the realization that money didn’t bring us self-worth. Instead, it brought us pressure, pain, dishonesty, and a deep-down yearning to be free of the “weight” we had ironically wanted for so long. We are lucky to be stripped of everything in order to find our inner strength, love ourselves and discover our real value.

In the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, he is in his elder years and has lived a life full of pleasure and pain. He had spent his life seeking the answers to the questions of purpose and truth. The reality comes upon him that these things can’t be found, “when someone is seeking, he only sees the same thing he is seeking, because he has a goal and is obsessed with this goal. But finding means to be free and receptive, to have no goal, because when in striving for a goal, you miss what is right under your nose”.

For me, “finding” means that my self-worth, happiness and acceptance has always been inside of me. It didn’t need to be put on a pedestal or revered by others. All I had to was stop being obsessed with the goal and I found it.

This lesson is applicable to all things and a key to self-actualization.

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