The ‘Wolves’ singer and Coach collaborator says she doesn’t need material things to make her feel successful. More Americans should follow her lead, experts say
Selena Gomez’s heart wants what it wants — and what it wants right now is less stuff.
For many, success is defined by money; how much they have, how much they spend and how many things they acquire, research shows. But for Selena Gomez, who can afford nearly anything with her estimated $50 million dollar net worth — success means living with less.
As Elle’s October cover star, Gomez told the magazine that she’s letting go of some of her priciest possessions, including a $3.3 million dollar home in Calabasas, Calif., her $2.8 million dollar Studio City bungalow and her $3 million dollar estate in Texas. So where’s she going? The singer has reportedly been living in Orange County, a suburb of Los Angeles, where she’s focusing on doing work that fulfills her in a way material things cannot.
“I’m not a materialistic person. [My friends] wouldn’t judge me on that anyway. I like getting massages, I love getting nice things…it’s just, is it connected to my worth? You can buy a nice thing to feel good. But is that my worth?” she told Elle.
So now she’s getting back to basics — less buying, less stuff. “That’s always who I’ve been,” she told Elle. “For a while, I think I did certain things because I thought I had to. Like, one of my friends looked at me one day — we were at lunch, and I think I purchased something, and she kind of looked at me and said, ‘Do you feel adequate enough?’”
Gomez is bucking a big trend towards materialism that’s spread across America. The average American woman owns 30 outfits, up from just nine in 1930, Forbes reports. And the median size of a newly constructed home stands at 2,478 square feet, up from 983 square feet in 1950, the site reveals— arguably to hold all of the things Americans are buying.
Now nearly half of Americans consider their homes to be at least somewhat cluttered with items they no longer use, and one in seven Americans have a room in their home they can’t use because it’s filled with things they rarely use, according to a survey from ClearVoice Research called Buried: The State of Stress and Stuff. And when people fill their homes to the brim, they turn to self storage units for their excess. The Self Storage Association finds that Americans spend $24 billion annually to store their things in 2.3 billion square feet of units, which equals about 46,000 acres.
That’s because, for many people, acquiring stuff is how they define success — be it a home, car or something else. A 2017 survey conducted by Discover revealed that to feel successful, respondents said they would need a home valued at two times more than their current home. And on average, Americans said they would want a car valued at more than two times that of their current vehicle to feel like a success.
But all that stuff isn’t making us any happier. A 2017 Harris Poll reported just 33% of Americans surveyed said they considering themselves happy. Additionally, the survey showed that close to 40% of Americans said they rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes they enjoy.
“When you look at people who are really happy with their life and who feel fulfilled, they’re not really focused on material things, they’re focused on how to have an impact and leave the world a better place,” says Florida-based licensed psychologist Erika Martinez told Moneyish. Pax Tandon, a positive psychologist and the author of Mindfulness Matters agrees and told Moneyish that being of service is one way she recommends people find success in deeper ways. “Volunteering our time in service of others is among the top ways to access more happiness and wellbeing and it makes us feel of value,” she said. And a Harvard University study finds that embracing community helps people live longer and be happier.
Gomez is doing just that — she’s now interning at a global anti-human-trafficking nonprofit — and she says her work there has her feeling very sure of where she is. “I don’t feel erratic or emotionally unstable. Or like I can’t handle my emotions, like I used to. It’s kind of understanding myself a little more. By all means I don’t have myself figured out. But it feels good.”
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