I think you'll agree with me that some of our fellow humans have a tendency to evoke a level of superiority over their peers or in other words, “flex”. But, why?
If one seeks to flex, this is simply an attempt to mask personal insecurities regarding one’s true happiness, wealth and success.
Don’t do it. These should all be internal processes of validation and you don’t need society’s approval.
Starting with basics
You could boil it down to Darwin’s evolution theory which would go something along the lines of flexing equals asserting dominance and increasing one’s perceived status. This means that individuals with higher status can attract more mates, which improves their odds of producing offspring and blah blah blah. But, it’s 2020 and we know this archaic theory no longer applies.
Here’s the background in today’s terms
We must first look at “uber-rich people” or “socialites” who naturally elicit this type of behaviour out of self-indulgence and hedonistic tendencies. Nothing particularly wrong so far, if you have developed the financial means to indulge in luxuries and if your heart truly desires then that’s fine I suppose.
But, regular people with lower socioeconomic status’ have for long been seduced into mimicking the lifestyle of the said higher socioeconomic class. They buy designer clothes, finance brand new cars, check-in at restaurants where celebrities and socialites have previously dined, all at the expense of hefty monthly bills and limit-reaching credit cards. This is a huge societal problem - the snowball has been rolling down the hill for too long. However, realising that this is not something we should all succumb into could help us - at least it helped me.
Doing the above achieves three things: we feel happier, we think we are wealthy, and that we are successful. Not truly, of course. Let’s quickly go back to 1974:
In 1974, Richard Easterlin, an economist, found that although a country’s richer citizens are happier than its poorer ones, as countries become richer, their citizens do not become happier - a contradiction known as the Easterlin paradox.
Happiness, Easterlin reasoned, must depend on one’s wealth relative to one’s compatriots: when everyone gets richer, no one gets happier. A study of 12,000 British citizens would seem to support Easterlin’s conclusion, revealing that increased income boosted life satisfaction only when income rose relative to peers of a similar age, educational level, or region.
So how does this explain the flex mentality?
Conventional life advice - all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time - is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be and then emphasises them for you.
You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don’t have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you’re beautiful because you feel as though you’re not beautiful already.
Ironically, this fixation on the positive - on what’s better, what’s superior - only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, what we lack, or what we should have been but failed to be. After all, no truly happy person needs to flaunt non-existent wealth to prove to others they are successful and happy.
“If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we think we need to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” - Charles de Montesquieu
This all explains the flex mentality for two reasons. Firstly, the aim of flexing is one that arises from one’s insecurities - they feel they are not happy, they feel unsuccessful, and therefore they mask these insecurities because that’s the easier thing to do. Secondly, to climb up a social ladder that is more flaunting equals more success. These people are yet to realise in order to be truly happy and content you do not need anyone’s approval - it’s an internal matter.
How this realisation changed my life!
If you go around wishing you only had more money so that you could buy the newest car you're going to be miserable. If on the other hand, when you get into your older car and realise whilst driving how much easier it is to get from A to B by car rather than by walking or public transport, then you're going to be much happier. It's your mindset that determines the effect that your possessions have on you.
Log Kya Kahenge?
If you know, then you’re a real one. But for the uninitiated, this is a phrase that has been driving Indian culture mad for generations upon generations and it means “what will people think?” This is the mentality we need to lose. Don’t live for others, live for yourself.
If you’re happy with how your life is currently - then that’s all you need.
For me, I’ve fine dined at Sushisamba, brunched at Duck & Waffle, sipped cocktails at the fanciest bars in London. You know all the usual activities “flexers” partake in, but it didn’t bring any added happiness compared to a simple meal at Nando’s or a cheeky pint at a local pub. The only benefits I received were bragging rights on social media and the ability to tell others I’ve experienced what they’ve experienced. This wasn’t true happiness.
Through reading over 40 self-improvement books in the past year, I’ve learnt that true happiness and sense of success should always come from within and never be defined by others.
I won’t share my reasons for why I believe I’m happy or successful but adopting a more minimal approach to life where I seek less to please society and meet social constructs has helped lead a healthier life with better mental clarity. Not to mention also the ability to build more assets and fewer liabilities. But that’s a topic for a future post.
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