3 Stories; 1 Lesson: on Why You Should Never Define Your Worth by Material Possessions.

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I have 3 interesting stories to tell you today. But before I start, I must say this:

The main reason I teach about self esteem is because I suffered from a low self-esteem too and I know exactly how rotting it feels to be intimidated by people who have more and how pressurizing it is to want to belong. I felt this way every single time I went out on my own to events, church, school and even to visit friends.

Like I told you last week, in a bid to be confident, I took in a lot of things that were wrong. Another one of those things was assuming that the people to whom I felt intimidated were confident because of the kinds of things they possessed. So I wrongly assumed that once I started having those things as well – once I also started to drive a car; or my family moved to a bigger house; or I got myself an iphone or wear the most expensive hair, I would be able to walk into any room without feeling inferior to anyone.

If you sometimes think this way too, say ‘ay’.  Well, it goes without saying that this is wrong, but I didn’t know at the time, and ended up doing things which thankfully now, I have learnt from and from which I can teach you too.

So, without much ado, I’m just going to tell you the stories.

picture of Seun, the storyteller.

Osheeey Seun, the storyteller.


Story 1: The Plasma TV

A couple of years ago, I went to the Lagos domestic airport for the very first time to meet up with a couple of friends. I had however miscalculated the timing, so I got there two hours before the rest.

To ease my boredom, I began to watch the people who surrounded me. At this time, I had already been asked out of the lounge by one of the airport officials because according to her, the space had been reserved for some selected few, of which I wasn’t one. That alone had gotten the idea of social class and stratification etched in my head, but I didn’t think so much of it until I went to sit outside and began to watch people.

I watched the women who sold food, the cab drivers waiting to pick up passengers, the mallams, the security men and the family drivers.

I also watched those who were making their way out of the airport upon arrival, and for some, the kinds of exotic cars that came to pick them up. It was at this point I really started thinking about social class and somewhere in the middle of these thoughts, I caught myself trying to place where I also stood on the social ladder. Before long, I found myself being grateful that I was better than some of the people I saw and believe me, I ridiculously measured that position, with the fact that my family had just gotten a plasma TV. What did I say? A plasma TV.

Now, hold on. I’ll come back to this but first, let me tell you the second story.

Story 2: The Blackberry

This one happened also a couple of years ago at a friend’s event in Ilupeju, Lagos. It was one of my first exposure to high society events and because I had hated the experiences of previous events, I decided I was going to make this one different.

The experience were always the same. I would go for an outing and would end up feeling inferior to everybody that had been there. So, this time, I decided that I was going to blend in and at all cost, leave that event with my confidence still intact.

This was about the time that blackberries were in vogue and every ‘big’ girl had a pin to exchange. Luckily for me, I too had just gotten my ‘BB’. I can still remember it clearly o. It was a Blackberry Torch 1, you know, the kind that slid up and down, but anyway, my plan was to legit get to the venue, bring out my Blackberry and keep pressing the phone, especially when I get to the midst of the other girls whose conversations I couldn’t join.

Did I hatch my plan? Yes. When I got to the event, I sat quietly – like a lady and made sure that I brought my blackberry out. Did the plan work? Noope. Cos even though I managed to exchange smiles with a few people, my phone still wasn’t enough to ease out the feeling of exclusion and inferiority I still went home with.

Story 3: Bigger House or nah?

When I was secondary school, I used to feel ashamed inviting friends over to my house for fear of being looked down on. This feeling was compounded after I had invited a couple of classmates to my house and they had gone behind my back to laugh about how small they thought it was. That really, really got to me.

Something however happened in my 2nd year in University that fundamentally changed my perception about defining myself by the mere size of a house. One of my friends, who I had only just met at the time, invited me over to her house. She had just gotten her own room and she wanted me to sleepover. At first, I didn’t understand why she was so excited about getting her own room. I mean, what’s the big deal? I too had only just cleared the extra room in my house and turned it into my bedroom but I wasn’t so excited about it. Then, I went visiting and realized that before then, my friend and her entire family had always shared only one room.

Honestly, until that day, I would never have believed it. Why? Because my friend was and still is, undoubtedly one of the most confident people I have met in my entire life. She is one of those girls who would walk into anywhere and just take charge. When she speaks, she speaks with so much intelligence and such eloquence, you’d literally want to eat the words right out of her mouth. In school, this same friend would sometimes take up my financial responsibilities and would send money to me and our other friends for upkeep. It didn’t matter whose house was bigger, because she didn’t define herself by what her family has or does not have, she’s been able to build herself into something more, so much more that it’s impossible to picture her any other way.


What am I saying?

Looking back, it seems absolutely ridiculous that I really did place my confidence in things as insubstantial as a plasma TV or a blackberry, but fact is a lot of us still do the same thing today. We live our lives comparing and taking consolation in the fact that ‘at least our house is bigger than our neighbour’s’. Many times, we are told to be grateful for the things we have, often measuring those things in comparison to people who do not have as much as we do but while it is a good thing to be grateful, there is a problem if every time you want to feel good about yourself, you always have to revel in the things you have that others do not have. Likewise, there is also a problem, if you always feel inferior to others just because they have more things.

I have learnt from these experiences I shared above that there is so much more that should define a person’s self worth, than the quantity and quality of the material possessions they own. Why?

i. These things are very insubstantial. Take the case of the Plasma TV shared above as an example, it only took a second to put some sense back into my head. I mean, how much more of my confidence will I continue to shred, piece by piece, if every day I find myself surrounded by people who have got bigger, better things? Or what happens if the next day, our plasma crashed? In what then would my worth be placed?

ii. Material possessions can be faulted by time. Next year, that car may go out of vogue. Those shoes might not fit anymore. That cloth or house may become old-fashioned. That phone may crash and I really wish at this point I could insert the picture of my beloved blackberry, which fell and shattered to pieces sometime in 2014 (and eventually crashed later that year) but somehow, I couldn’t find the phone when I got home, so no picture, painfully. But you get the point.

iii. Where losing or amassing physical possessions is concerned, time plays a critical role and time passes. The things you have {or don’t have}, they are a part of your story. Learn to be content, while working justly for who you want to be and where you are going. These things will come. {I mean, this point deserves a separate post, so I won’t even stress it but} be patient, all these things you want, if you should have them, they will come in their time.

Learn to be content, while working justly for who you want to be and where you are going. Be patient. All these things you want, if you should have them, they will come in their time. Click To Tweet

That will be all for today, guys. I know I ended up sharing more than one lesson, but you’ll just have to pardon me. 🙂 I really hope that you learnt something from this though? If you did, please share it with me in the comments. Also since our self worth shouldn’t be defined by what we have, what then do you think should define our self worth? Share this with me in the comments too, ooh and if you have a story similar to any of mine? I’d really love to hear it.

With love 💛,

Tirzah.

pS: Don’t forget to share this post with your friends. Thank you!

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Author: Seun Olagunju

Just a simple 23 year old all out to making an impact.

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  • Hi Seun!!!!
    If one learns to be content, one”s problems will appear to be smaller than they really are. I’m familiar with stories 1 and 2, but they still feel new each time I hear it. Thanks for sharing babe!

    • Yes babe, they sure will. Contentment is everything!

      You are familiar with stories 1 & 2? Gosh, you deserve an award for being one of the most consistent readers here. Thank you.

  • Mummy Seun!
    Loooool I can relate omgggg. The “bigger house and B.B.” especially.
    The first time I visited Orejesu’s house, I didn’t want to invite her to my place cos it was smaller and not as fine lol. But somehow sha she came and even sat on the rug in the sitting room. I kept telling her to sit on one of the chairs and she said “Ahn ahn why can’t I sit on the rug? Your house is my house”, and she later accompanied me to the kitchen to fry prawn crackers . That day marked the end of me asking my dad why we can’t cement our compound . I found out that day that Orejesu’s confidence was not in how big or fine her house was and so I made up my mind not to let that define my self-esteem.
    I honestly would not say it was easy trying not to let it bother me and at some point, I used to say “at least my dad has 3 cars…blah blah blah. He can buy a house anywhere…” just to feel better.
    But just like you said, there’s so much more that should define a person’s self worth than the quality or quantity of their possessions, so I started to look for the “so much more” and I consciously worked my way above low-self esteem.
    It took a longggg while though lol.

    P.S: Orejesu, if you see this, thank you for that day. I love you.
    (My comment is starting to look like an essay abeg I’m done).

    • Me I was just laughing all through your comment. First of all, you brought ‘mummy’ here?! Please, Victoria, let’s leave her at the fellowship.

      I pray God bless Orejesu. I already showed her your comment. she couldn’t even remember doing that. God bless her real good, and you too, babe. xo..

  • Self worth indeed is a LOT of work in this generation of outward appearance. I sometimes feel this way, especially with the nature of my job. .

    But I think, when we as individuals decide to realign ourselves, set our priorities straight.
    Everything will surely work out.
    Including getting that Plasma TV.

  • Oh my! I was actually smiling while reading this, because I was already getting emotional.
    I think I’m one of those people who was at some point ashamed to bring people to my house.
    Yes, we live in a room due to a lot of reasons, but I’ve learnt to look past that.
    I mean! A lot of my friends don’t believe me when I say it.
    They even think I’m one “omo babaolowo”, oblivious to the fact that most of them live in a better house than mine.
    I sometimes hate to come home because my place in school seem to be better.
    So, I freely bring my friends home, but I’m my heart I feel like (God, when will this story change?).
    Well, I came to realize that I’m more than a big house or whatever.
    I definitely do not look where I stay, but that’s the idea.
    You know this little things that most people don’t pay attention to actually matters a lot.
    Thank you Seun, you never stop amazing me.
    This just increased my confidence from 100 to 200. And I mean it!

    • Haha. Osheey! omo babaolowo. Wow, Maureen! Thank you for being so open. Yes o. You are more than the size of your house and you know what? Eventually, when your story is being told, it will be a part of it that you once lived in one room. That’s what makes it all the more inspiring.xo

  • So Ṣeun, can I like this post a million times? . Thank you for this post – insightful! Well, I’m one of those who used to think that self worth is determined by material possession and I suffered greatly from low self esteem back then. I used to be intimidated by the ‘bigger or’ finer house’ thing back then in secondary school.
    Years after, It dawned on me later that my assumption was totally wrong so I changed my perspective regarding that. Afterall, some people are even craving to have what I have so why shouldn’t I be contented.
    Having read this, my confidence level has been boosted and multiplied . Now, I’m more convinced that there are other things that should determine our self worth and not how much thing we’ve acquired.

    • Wow, Nike. Reading your comment at this point,I’m just awed at how many people struggle with this low self-esteem thing. Gosh! I’m so glad you’ve been able to overcome this. Thank you for sharing.