Woe Is Me! “How Do I Stop Comparing Myself to my Rich Friends?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I think I’m the poorest among all my friends. To keep up with them, I feel compelled to purchase branded products, and wear expensive clothes — even though I know my college student budget doesn’t allow for it. While I do want to stop comparing myself to my friend circle, I don’t know how my group will react if I don’t buy and wear branded goods anymore. What should I do?”
— An unaffordable trap
DR: Newsflash: you’re not in a reality show à la Bling Empire and Dubai Bling, and if you’re worried your friends are going to dump you over branded goods, they aren’t your friends either. Learn from Jenny’s experiences on Gossip Girl (the original one), and don’t spend money you don’t have. Instead, make better — or, in your case, actual — friends, and stop craving for the validation of this current lot of people whom you call “friends.” It’s also possible that they truly are your friends, and won’t stop hanging out with you simply because their lifestyle is unaffordable to you. But, as you already know, there’s only one way to find out.
RN: Change your friend circle. It’s a vicious cycle that will only lead to a spiraling self-esteem and financial crisis if you keep up with it. I know it’s easier said than done, but see what happens when you stop wearing branded products. If the reaction is bad, you know you didn’t have a genuine group of friends, to begin with. In any case, it’s quite shallow and one-dimensional of your friend group if they think that brands are the only way to flaunt personality and style. There are really unique ways to express yourself without relying on logos to signify who you are — find what your sensibilities are and have fun exploring your own self-expression with things that exist outside the consumerist realm of brand and hype culture.
SM: Watch The White Lotus.
AB: Fundamentally, you can’t buy friends. You might be able to buy acquaintances for a period of time, but we both know that this strategy isn’t sustainable because you’re a college student. Treating yourself to the occasional splurge is well and good, but it seems like you don’t even enjoy the expensive things you’re buying to fit into this group. If you trust that these people are your friends, you should be able to be honest with them. You don’t have to tell them details about your financial situation, but the cliché of the broke college student exists for a reason! No one would blame you for prioritizing fiscal responsibility over purchases that don’t seem to have sentimental value apart from trying to fit in. If you haven’t talked about this with your friend circle, how do you know their reactions? Maybe some of them are in the same boat as you! I feel like you’re putting this unnecessary pressure on yourself! You add more value to this friend group than you might know — you shouldn’t feel like you need to “keep up”. If they turn out to like your fears, I’d recommend distancing yourself from them and seeking out new company — it would be healthier for both your mental and monetary well-being.
AS: Buying branded products that are way beyond your budget to appease your friend circle’s fashion or class sensibilities is probably not the way to forge deep and meaningful relationships. How long can you keep it up? The only way to actually know how your friends will react is to stop buying expensive stuff, and then, wait and watch. If your group is friends with you for the brands you wear, then you might be better off without them. While it would be difficult to suddenly not have the support of a familiar circle, you would, in turn, have the opportunity to find people you can be yourself around, without this pressure hanging over you. It may be that they don’t care what you wear and, as ‘real friendships’ go, are there for you rather than the stuff you surround yourself with. Either way, in the long run, it is a win-win for you.
AS: I don’t think giving in to peer pressure is a good idea. It is difficult to survive on a student budget, and honestly, if they abandon you if you stop wearing expensive clothes and accessories — then you’d get to know if they are truly your friends for who you are or only for what you wear and buy. And that will be an important, valuable thing to learn about any friendship throughout life.