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10 Characteristics of a Materialistic Person (and WHY They’re Unhappy!)

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Do you know someone who always wants more? Someone who is never satisfied with what they have? If so, then you know a materialistic person.

Materialistic people are always looking for ways to acquire more money and more possessions. They believe that having more money or things will make them happier and more fulfilled in life.

However, studies reveal that this is rarely the case. In fact, materialistic people are more likely to have low self-esteem, be unhappy, and even make it harder for them to have healthy relationships. When you compare their habits and behaviors to the happiest people in the world, you realize that stuff isn’t what brings true joy!

Here is a list of the top ten characteristics of materialistic people and a few insights as to why they are never satisfied – no matter how much they have!

A materialistic person looking sadly at red shoes

Are materialistic People Good or Bad?

These days, materialism gets a bad rap, as people often associate it with selfishness and evil. As with many things in life, there are usually two sides to the coin.

On one hand, highly materialistic people believe that money and material goods are the means to a happy, successful, and fulfilling life. In their quest for more, they ignore other important things in life, such as relationships, community, and the environment.

On the other hand, we could argue that materialism is a natural human tendency. We know from early human civilization that accumulating food and possessions was part of the survival of the fittest.

Humans are physical beings living in a material world. We need food, water, and shelter to survive.

Hence, materialism is only bad when it’s out of balance with other important values, such as social relationships, experiences, and family. 

Top 10 Characteristics of the Materialistic Person

According to Tim Kasser, Ph.D., and professor of psychology, being materialistic is seen as a negative trait because it’s often associated with competitiveness, being manipulative, a lack of empathy, or other selfish behaviors that most of us tend to avoid.

In his interview with the American Psychological Association (APA), Kasser shared that materialism is associated with:

  • lower levels of well-being
  • less pro-social interpersonal behavior
  • eco-logically destructive behavior
  • poor academic outcomes
  • more spending and debt
  • increased rates of depression and anxiety
  • physical health problems

Let’s dive into the psychology behind materialism and why being materialistic is not the path to happiness.

RELATED POST: 7 Signs of a Selfish Person (and How to Deal with Them!)

1. They desire social status

A materialistic person associates money and possessions as symbols of identity on a social level.

They seek to elevate their perceived status with goods and money, and the higher up they are in the pecking order, the better they feel about themselves.

There is an old Chinese saying:

“The nature of water is to seek depth, while the nature of humans is to seek heights.”

– Chinese proverb

2. They are competitive

Materialistic people tend to be more competitive and constantly compare themselves to others. They feel like they need to keep up with people or groups they want to associate with, or even place themselves above them.

This can result in a materialistic person becoming envious or jealous of those who have more than them and treating people they deem “beneath” them poorly.

Their self-confidence takes a hit when they feel they do not measure up to others. Their perceived self-worthiness can get easily undermined, for there are always people who have more.

If you are guilty of this, read this blog post on why the comparison is the thief of joy – and how to quit!

3. They prioritize money and possessions

A materialistic person seeks comfort and security in money and possessions and always chooses them over people.

They would rather spend money on things than on experiences. This is because they believe that objects will make them happy and fulfilled when in reality, the relationships we have with others matter most.

Since material possessions don’t provide enduring happiness, materialistic people constantly chase after the next new thing and are never satisfied.

If you would like to learn more about how to overcome materialistic tendencies, I have a blog post about how to stop always wanting more that can be an antidote to materialism.

4. Money is how they measure success

A materialistic person only measures success in terms of money. They believe that the more money they have, the more successful they are.

This, however, is a false belief because success is not just about money. Many other things contribute to a person’s success, such as relationships, health, happiness, family, and so on.

You may see materialistic people on social media surrounded by incredible people and luxury, but they are lonely and insecure deep down inside. They fear that the moment their money is gone, their “friends” will be gone as well.

If you’ve read or seen The Great Gatsby, you know they’re probably not wrong.

via GIPHY

5. They like to show off on social media

A materialistic person likes to show off their wealth. You see them on social media showing off their new toy or gadgets.

They constantly need the attention and recognition of others to feel self-worth, which makes them vulnerable to others’ judgment – when you don’t show interest in what they just bought.

It is all about materialistic things for them, and nothing else matters.

6. They shop when feeling depressed or sad

Shopping is a materialistic person’s way of coping with negative emotions. When they feel down, they like to buy things to make themselves feel better.

It is a temporary fix that never really solves the problem.

They become addicted to shopping and buying things to make them happy. Their home is often filled with clutter accumulated from their shopping sprees – clothing they never wear and things they never use.

Emotional spending is called “retail therapy” for a reason because it makes you feel good – but only for a short while! You can read more about how to stop impulse buying in this blog post because it’s a bad money habit that just leads to debt and unhappiness.

7. They are extremely brand conscious

The science of branding has become highly sophisticated. Advertisers have learned how to tap into our psyche, effectively lifting up brands to become social status symbols.

Materialistic people are very susceptible to branding, and they want to buy what will make them look good to others.

They are willing to pay more for a product because it has a particular label.

Brands provide materialistic people with a sense of identity and social status. They feel that wearing or using certain brands will be associated with the image of the elite class status.

They need to have the latest designer clothes, shoes and handbags. They want people to know that they can afford the best, and they want others to be jealous of them.

For them, it’s all about instilling the perception in others that they are better and superior.

But, what materialistic people don’t realize is that they are sacrificing their true happiness for temporary validation from others.

But remember, just because someone looks like they have money doesn’t mean they are actually well-off. In fact, they could be deeply in debt while wearing designer suits and driving luxury cars. Appearance can be deceiving!

A materialistic woman showing off her expensive clothes on social media

8. They suffer from mood swings and anxiety

The materialistic person is never satisfied because they constantly look for the newest, best thing. They compare themselves to others and always feel like they are falling short.

Since happiness derived from materials is short-lived, they are constantly in and out of their elements. As a result, they may suffer from anxiety and depression. You can find out more about how too much clutter and materialism affect you psychologically in this blog post on the benefits of minimalism.

9. They care less about the environment and people

Naturally, materialism is strongly connected to consumerism.

The materialistic person is more likely to buy things they don’t need, which creates a lot of waste. They also don’t care about where their products come from and how they’re made – as long as it looks good and serves their desired purpose of elevating them somehow.

This way of thinking often leads to neglecting social and environmental issues.

On the other hand, people who care less about material things tend to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious. They are also more likely to donate money or time to charitable causes.

READ MORE: 25 Minimalist Habits That Can Transform Your Life

10. They go into debt to keep up with the Joneses

The materialistic person prioritizes money and possessions, as well as social status and popularity, which is always expressed through money and owning things.

This need to keep up with others often leads materialistic people into debt. Look rich, go broke.

While it’s not necessarily wrong to want some material possessions, it becomes a problem when it starts to consume your life and take control of your finances. At which point, you no longer own your possessions, but rather they own you.

If you find that material possessions are starting to consume your life, it’s essential to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Owning things shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your existence. There’s more to life than just acquiring material possessions.

Live a life rich in experiences and having the time to pursue one’s passion and purpose is a life worth living; you can read more about this and other bad money habits here.

Final Thoughts

A materialistic person’s mistake is believing that pursuing material possessions will gain them happiness, social status, and admiration; however, the opposite is true.

Collecting meaningful experiences, living authentically, and having quality social relationships are the prerequisites to a fulfilling, happy, and healthy life.

Therefore, one should rethink the decision to pursue materialism over life experiences.

Instead, focus on what truly matters in life:

  • relationships
  • experiences
  • and health

Only then can you achieve long-lasting happiness. When your desire for money and possessions are out of balance with other important values, such as people, experience, and family, practicing contentment can restore balance.

Do you know anyone like this? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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