House Anxiety
January 9, 2007 12:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop caring so much about the appearance and status of my house and neighborhood?

I don't know why I give a flip, or why it occupies my thoughts, but it does. Every few months feelings of inadequacy start to creep up regarding my house. Thoughts that it isn't good enough or large enough. Regrets that we didn't buy in a better neighborhood back when prices were dirt cheap and we could afford it.

My husband and I put a massive down payment on our house when we bought it eight years ago. We bought within our means, and in less than eight years it will be ours outright. Because of this we have a lot of financial freedom. We are able to travel and I don't have to work if I don't wish to. In spite of this, I am still disenchanted with our house.

I believe materialism and public perception are the main problems here. I feel that because we "settled" others and myself view it as laziness or lack of gumption to buy something bigger, nicer. Even a fixer-upper on a bigger piece of property or closer to the water.

I am sort of embarrassed by this question. I don't want to come off as a materialistic, unsatisfied brat. The house is newish, in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Most of the time I feel that life is good here, I am very fortunate. But these bad feelings about my house continue to be present.

Moving is not an option, since my very practical husband doesn't wish to move, and logically I can't blame him.

How can I get over this ridiculous thinking and become more content with my house?
posted by LoriFLA to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Find something else to occupy your time. Pursue a passion. You are what you do, not your house.
posted by trevyn at 12:16 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

It might not be about the house... it might be that you're feeling inadequate in general. For instance, maybe it's (deep down) that you don't feel like you're doing enough with the rest of your life, or with your financial freedom, and that's leading you to fixate on something that feels more manageable, like the look and location of your house.

I mention this because I've noticed with myself, whenever I get the urge to move or redecorate, it's actually because I'm evading facing my bigger/scarier goals. I've also seen this with others I know -- people who buy and restore and make-perfect a house in the country, only to decide that it's too big or too much upkeep and so sell it and buy, restore and make-perfect a house on the coast, only to move on to a house in the mountains or in Europe... it's a pattern of dissatisfaction that might not have to do with the house at all.
posted by xo at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2007

When I get to hating my condo because it's too small and in a semi-basement, and is ugly, etc...all it takes is saying to myself "Jesus christ, how lucky you are you have a home. Others are not so lucky. Imagine sleeping under a bridge tonight and trying to find somewhere to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night." That usually does it.
posted by tristeza at 12:19 PM on January 9, 2007

I don't have to tell you that by owning (oh my god, you OWN!?) a "newish" home in a "nice, quite neighborhood" that you're probably living better than MOST Americans - hell, you're living better than most human beings on the planet.

How can I get over this ridiculous thinking and become more content with my house?

You gotta ask yourself where this feeling is coming from? Are you in competition with your neighbors? Do you have snobby friends who flaunt their McMansions? Do you spend a lot of time watching unrealistic home improvement shows? MTV cribs?

How, where, and why are you confronted with these feelings in your day to day life?

Whenever you figure out what is making you feel this way then just cut it out of your life and you'll instantly start to feel better.

Without being too snotty you could be suffering from affluenza. There maybe a lot of other things in your life which you need to examine other than how spiffy your home is...
posted by wfrgms at 12:22 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You are very fortunate and you did something sensible. Why put yourself in a difficult financial situation to keep up with the Joneses? If you're happy, the hell with everyone else. Bigger isn't better.

Couple ideas... You might need something to keep you occupied and make you feel like you're working to improve the house or the surroundings, even if it's minor like painting or new fixtures.

Do you like to garden? I ask because it's a nice little hobby that beautifies your home, keeps you occupied and gives you a sense of pride in your work.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:25 PM on January 9, 2007

Is there anything you can do to your house to make you like it? Remodel the bathroom? bedroom? Refurnish? It's the most expensive purchase you most likely have ever made. You should at least like it.

Yes, you are lucky to have a home, and you should be thankful for it, and it sounds to me like you usually are. Have your friends ever said anything to make you feel inadequate? Maybe xo raises a good point. My father and step-mother move constantly and can never find the right place to live. But that, in my opinion, is the least of their problems...
posted by Roger Dodger at 12:29 PM on January 9, 2007

I believe materialism and public perception are the main problems here.

Your buying into the importance of materialism and public perception are the main problems here. You believe these things matter. Every now and then I become dissatisfied with living on a shoestring budget. But then I remember that material wealth doesn't matter to me. Why should it? That's enough to snap me back to reality. But it works only because I'm reminding myself of beliefs I already hold. Ask yourself: do you believe that material wealth is important? If not, why on earth do you act like you do? If so, then you have a choice: change your beliefs about materialism by thinking it through, or buy a bigger house.
posted by smorange at 12:33 PM on January 9, 2007

Man, talk about a question I can totally relate to.

I recently had this moment this year, where I realized that most of my materialism and obsession with the image as "successful, tasteful, with beautiful things, etc." was compensation for my feelings of inadequacy.

I am fortunate enough to have a lot of things going very well for me, but I don't quite feel like I deserve them. I felt like I wasn't fitting into what I perceived to be the idea of a "grown-up", and that buying things and appearing to be successful and appreciating the finer things in life (high-end china, crystal, that kind of shit) would fool everyone around me into thinking that I had all my shit together.

Then, one day, I realized that there is no such thing as being the prototypical "grown-up", at least not in a material way, or an income way, or a cost-of-living way. I realized that everyone is trying to just figure their own shit out, and why should I surround myself with things I don't even think are that pretty, just because it's X brand name, or was in Y magazine? Who fucking cares where I got it, and who cares what it looks like - if I like where I am, and derive a real pleasure from my things and my home and my life, the comparative pleasure becomes so trivial and unsustaining.

And in the same vein as why nobody should ever be afraid of the gym, I realized that the same friends I assumed were judging me on all aspects of my life were far too concerned about being judged themselves to think of half the shitty things I thought about myself.

So I just decided to pursue what makes me happy. Some of it is still expensive, and some of it is cheap, and I couldn't give a fuck. My genuine enthusiasm for it will rub off on other people. And besides, anyone judging your character based on your possessions isn't the kind of person you want to hang around with anyway. They are really boring.
posted by mckenney at 12:35 PM on January 9, 2007 [5 favorites]

I agree with Roger Dodger. Take some of your spare time and work on your house. My parents' house (the one I live in since I'm a poor college student) isn't the nicest thing in the world, but we've remodeled the bedrooms and the dining room, added a patio, and this summer, we're going to remodel our sun porch so it's more than just a storage space.

Sure, I still worry about what people may think of the home I live in (regardless of whether or not it's "mine"), but my family gets tons of compliments on it now that we've even done that bit of remodeling, and it really gets rid of the inadequacy issue.

Besides. You're a nice person, right? And you keep your house relatively clean and sanitary, right? Then what are you worried about? I really find that people look more at the cleanliness than the "newness" of the furniture/paint job/etc.
posted by Verdandi at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2007

I’ve noticed a trend in your posts where you seem to be pretty fixated on how others perceive you and how well you measure up to some standard that’s been vaguely defined by others. Maybe you should ask yourself why you care so much. Hopefully you’ll realize that you’ve got it pretty good and if other people are judging you, then those aren’t people you should be surrounding yourself with anyways.
posted by mamaquita at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2007

Perceived status is, generally, a natural, way-more-important-than-would-be-ideal component of human happiness. So, don't beat yourself up about these feelings.

Other people's suggestions about making the house a matter of pride through gardening and decoration and whatnot make a lot of sense.

As to more psychology-based suggestions... maybe you could try volunteering with less fortunate folks? That might be a way to bring home the abstract truth that you already know, that your life is materially better than 99.5% of all humans who have ever existed. And it would be a good thing in its own right.

You may also consider mindfulness meditation. Part of the idea of it is to recognize your emotions without getting swept up in them. You need not buy into any theological claims.

On preview, I like mckenney's answer quite a lot, too.
posted by ibmcginty at 12:41 PM on January 9, 2007

The great and horrid thing about houses is there's no end of room to finesse them. When you start thinking that way why not grab a pen and paper and note down every thought that crosses your mind? As you've discovered, there's little advantage in trying to deny thoughts - they keep coming back. The key is not letting them control you. So perhaps you should indulge them a bit.

Make every note that crosses your mind, no matter how impractical and impossible. You'll get a chance to look at them on paper and ask yourself "why would I want this?" Others might be completely doable to your existing home and perhaps simply having projects that make the place more like your Dream Home will be all you need to feel better about it.
posted by phearlez at 12:42 PM on January 9, 2007

I think part of the problem is that you live in FL. I live in Miami, so it may be a little different, but I feel like FL (generalizing wildly here, I know) brings out that sort of envy more than some other places. People seem to own flashy houses, cars, boats, toys, etc. than in other places I've lived, and so there seems to be more to envy.

As for solution, I think congratulating yourself on your sound fiscal choices should help. Just focus on all the positives that those choices have enabled in your life. And remember that so many of those people living in those beautiful houses/neighborhoods are on the verge of bankruptcy because they miscalculated/misallocated.
posted by Amizu at 12:47 PM on January 9, 2007

A second vacation home they can afford, because of their prudence in choosing their primary abode, is a time tested remedy for this problem, for many people. Others living in Florida enjoy their outlandishly lavish boats, as second homes, and trade up to still bigger vessels whenever feelings of inadequacy trouble their slumbers.
posted by paulsc at 12:50 PM on January 9, 2007

Gardening is a fun way to make your house more attractive and gain an interesting hobby.

I looked at your location, and the University of Florida has a Master Gardener handbook on the county website with some links to articles about gardening in your region. They may have meetings you could attend to learn more about gardening and certainly all the Master Gardeners I know are very eager to help people learn about their passion.
posted by winna at 12:50 PM on January 9, 2007

I'm going to suggest that instead of working on figuring out *why* you feel this way, you make a concerted effort to focus on the many wonderful things about your home and neighborhood.

Make a list. I know, I know, it sounds very Pollyanna and kind of silly, but this technique has worked for me in some really tough-to-shift areas where I had some extreme grumpiness about things.

You already have some great list items! You're halfway through paying off your home! You have so much freedom because of choosing to live here! It's a safe, clean neighborhood. Maybe there are some neighbors you really like!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:51 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You just answered your own question:

We bought within our means, and in less than eight years it will be ours outright.

Owning your house free and clear in your thirties? Your situation could be a lot worse. When that little self-critical voice pops up, imagine yourself spending long hours at a job you hate but can't leave because you're stuck with an onerous mortgage payment.

You don't owe anyone an apology for making a prudent financial decision. You didn't "settle." You bought a nice house in a nice, quiet neighborhood.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:54 PM on January 9, 2007

I'm not trying to be mean, but I want to put a thought out here bluntly- maybe you have an ego problem, as in too big of an ego. Nobody really cares how big or small your house is or what neighborhood you live in, and most people wouldn't spend/waste their time forming judgments about your laziness or gumption values based on the size of your home. Everyone has better things to do than think about your home and what that means about you. It's pretty silly and vain to believe otherwise.

"Get over yourself" is what I tell myself whenever I worry what othes might think.
posted by LadyBonita at 12:54 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Putting aside the fix-your-self-image aspect, which is important, but already being discussed, let's say nothing changes in that department and run with it.

The house is only one part of the image of "success". If you have bought the bigger house, you would be on AskMefi right now talking about how your car/home theatre/landscaping wasn't allowing the house to shine to its full potential, but you didn't have the money to really address those things.

In other words, you've got a house that you're not leaving, so up-value it to something that better fits your ideal by using some of the money you saved to put some attention in the neglected rest of the equation.

Would a solar-electric installation be the height of swank in your area? What about some landscaping? Or a fountain installation? You can also always make some improvements to yourself (classes, wardrobe, etc), because how people see you is going to be more influenced by you than by your house.

Or you could just pretend that you didn't get in on the house when you did, you bought it recently. In which case I imagine you paid an impressive fortune and got a more upmarket house than you thought you would be able to buy. But not only did you get such an upmarket house, you can still afford a lot of financial freedom. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:10 PM on January 9, 2007

Incidentally, I believe that my suggestion above should only be followed alongside a heavy dose of the materalism reality checks being presented in other answers, else you can waste your life chasing "success" that no-matter how far you get, your ego will never consider that you have reached it. This is a great way to ruin your life, and hopping off that train is the very best thing you can do. But when ego and insecurity are under control, we are allowed indulgences. We can enjoy them, the important thing is that we don't find them necessary or unduly important :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:16 PM on January 9, 2007

One of my yoga teachers talked about her trick for quieting her doubts. The mind, she said, likes to keep up a constant stream of chatter about what we can't do, why we're inadequate, how we'll fail. We tend to rely on this critical thinking, and to believe that it's somehow our "true selves."

But that chatter is just one of the things that our bodies does, and it shouldn't automatically trump the feelings that arise from our hearts (or elsewhere). You know in your heart that you're blessed to have this house, right? It sounds like a great place that affords you a lot of freedom for pursuing things that are important to you.

But sometimes your mind gets bored and fidgety and acts like a three-year-old who wants attention by whining. "We neeeeeeeeeeeeeed something new! I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaant something shiny! Gimme gimme gimme! I'm boooooooooooored!" Treat it like you would a whiny child. Say to yourself, "I hear what you're saying, and I thank you for your input, but we're not doing that right now. Why don't you amuse yourself with something else instead right now? Let's go plant flowers/talk a walk/make dinner/etc."

The key, I think, is recognizing what's going on in your mind, and realizing you don't have to submit to it. Those unwelcome thoughts are not your true nature, they're just your mind being bored and causing trouble.

(I've also found that when I stopped reading fashion and lifestyle magazines, and stopped doing a lot of window shopping, my feelings of inadequacy and materialism dropped considerably. If that's something you do, it might be interesting to experiment with.)
posted by occhiblu at 1:29 PM on January 9, 2007 [12 favorites]

How about using some of your spare time to volunteer at the homeless shelter or in some other way which puts you in more awareness of people who have nothing and live in poverty. Maybe that will help you realize just how lucky you are.
posted by RoseovSharon at 1:31 PM on January 9, 2007

as is often the case, occhiblu says exactly what's on my mind. listen to her.
posted by scody at 1:34 PM on January 9, 2007

I find that when I get into these mindsets, a few minutes of thinking about what could have gone wrong along the way usually cures me.

If you don't know how things could be worse than living in a functional house that's 8 years away from free and clear, let me know. I'll spell it out for you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

i agree that it shouldn't matter so much, but it matters anyway. you should obviously change your entire personality, but in the meantime, you can probably do a few things to increase the amount of like you have for your house. maybe you could apply the principles of getting things done.

first: mind-sweep.
tidy up and turn on all the lights in the house. then grab a video camera and walk down the street. turn the camera on, then walk back to your house, videotaping your POV. open the door. walk through the house, shooting each room. shoot a slow 360' of each room. (the camera shows you the mess and clutter better than your eyes do). when you're done, turn off all the lights (wasting fossil fuels makes baby jebus cry). grab a notebook and pen and watch the tape. make notes of all the things you dislike about the house.

make a projects list:
review these notes. most of the dislikes are probably things that are easy to change; piles of clutter can and should be sorted and donated. maybe brighter light bulbs (energy-efficient ones, of course). maybe some new artwork on the walls. get rid of some furniture; open up some space. fresh flowers or a plant or two would be good, too. repaint a room, rearrange some furniture.

tackle your actions:
you can probably do most of these improvements on a shoestring budget and in a few weekends. if you donate your old crap you're even helping the community. having more space, light, air, colour, and plants in your home will help you love it more. don't go spending an asslolad of cash. just make your house feel clean, airy, and comfortable. when you're done, look around- don't you love it more?

i suggest this because i just used this system to re-do my bedroom, and the amount of new love i have for this room amazes me. it's like a boutique hotel with a well-organized office. i love it. sometimes doing a mind-sweep and a getting things done approach is the best way to clean house, literally.
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2007 [4 favorites]

What occhiblu just said - dump the lifestyle magazines. And the dumb TV shows and, if your friends are toxic, dump them. I mean, really, why hang out with people who care about the size of your house or, sheesh, anything like that? Eww.

Ask yourself who, exactly, do you think is looking at you & your house with disdain? Your mother? Your neighbors? Your coworkers? Once you narrow that down you may be able to figure out why you care and then, the steps to stop caring are usually pretty obvious, as in, I think my mother thinks my house sucks but actually I have always felt like my mother never took me seriously and this is nothing to do with the house at all. This is obviously just a quick example, but still. It seems to me that the relationships are the problem here.

Also, it's tough to stay home with little kids all day. You get bored. You want to do other stuff - I remember this well - and fixating on your house is normal. Painting & redecorating can work wonders with this urge. Make a list of what you like & don't like about your house that have NOTHING to do with status or money or any of that weird crap and figure out if it's aesthetic or space based, do you need more cabinets, another bedroom, what? Than you have a project to work on. Do it yourself - Sponge paint your living room! Build some furniture! Refinish your floors! - and you'll have a real, tangible connection to your house and from that comes love, and once you love your house, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Oh yeah, and if that doesn't work, close your eyes and imagine moving. Imagine packing everything up with kids underfoot and then unpacking it. Aaaaauuuugghhhh!!
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:47 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

What you should be focusing on is the fact that you and your husband made very sensible and wise decisions re your purchase-a lot of people in those fancy houses are in financial chaos that will take years-if ever-to escape.

I third the suggestion re watching your media intake. It's designed to make us discontented.

Also, why not take a vacation overseas to some place like Thailand-it will open your eyes, as it did to mine, to just how rich most of us Americans really are.
posted by konolia at 2:01 PM on January 9, 2007

I can tell you from personal experience that your feelings are quite normal/ My wife and I bought our 1st house over 30 years ago and we got a $20,000 home when our friends were all buying places in the $50-60,000 range. We went through the same feelings you're feeling now but thiings worked out well in the end.

Thanks to our low payment, she was able to be a full-time student, get her MBA and we were able to make investments in other real estate that really paid off in the end. We're both 53 years old now, I've been retired for nearly 8 years, she works when she finds something she really wants to do and our 3 kids that chose college don't have student loans hanging over their heads. And that $20,000 house is now worth $650k (after a little rehab and some additions) and brings in $1600/month in rental income.

There's a lot to be said for living frugally and within your means, but you need to decide whether it is right for you.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:02 PM on January 9, 2007

My husband and I don't own a house at present, but when it comes to friends and aquaintances who do, I can tell you this much: We have neither of us ever looked at a person who bought a modest house and thought, "Christ, what a piker." We are much more likely to look at someone who's just bought a showplace and think, "Don't have much to prove, do you?" or "Ouch, that's gonna hurt." And with all the current discussion of the housing bubble, expoitative mortgage practices, and house-poverty, I don't think we're alone.

I've known plenty of people who had dinky, superficially dorky houses who did nifty things with them, and became the envy of all. Think about staining your floor purple, or putting cool fabric treatments on the walls. Hit some estate sales. Not having a giant mortgage and HELOC means that you can probably afford to splash out a little on your interior. Maybe buying a piece of furniture or two that originated in the countries you've visited on your vacations will help remind you of why you've chosen to live in the house you have, instead of hemorrhaging cash on a status object.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:05 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

People often judged my parents for buying a nice house in a lower middle class neighbourhood. People often still question why they live there. But the fact is that my dad was able to retire at age 55 and my parents go on lots of trips. He plays sports with other 55-60-year-old retirees...and the other guys are retired millionaires and near millionaires. The people who bought more expensive homes are still paying for them. Even though some of them have a lot of equity on paper, they can't really do much else than live in their home. Meanwhile, my parents are free from financial obligations and can do the things that please them.

Every time my parents have thought of selling, they ask themselves what else they could do with the money. If it costs even $10k to sell your home, what is your reason for trading up? You could put the same money into your home and increase the value...for a lot less stress.

However, I must say that I know how anxiety-inducing it is to surf MLS, watch home renovation shows and look at newspaper articles. Stop consuming that information and you'll feel better.
posted by acoutu at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2007

If you have doubts about your neighborhood but moving is not an option, then join or start a local neighborhood committee.

Form a mission to improve your neighborhood by volunteering at the local schools, attending city planning meetings, and getting to know your local elected representatives. Publish a neighborhood listserv, blog, or newsletter. Get outside and meet your neighbors, make friends and contacts.

Do this, and you'll be putting the energy you would have spend fretting (which is 100% wasted time/energy) into positive change for not only your own benefit but that of your neighbors, both today and for the future.
posted by jamaro at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2007

It's kinda been mentioned above but I wanted to get more specific: the home organization/remodeling industry is HUGE and insidious these days. I get sucked into all those home shows and they do little but make me feel awful about my house and yard. So do all the design blogs I read. If you consume any of those media, STOP. Or cut back and realize how badly it makes you feel about your own surroundings when most of you is grateful.
posted by kmel at 2:18 PM on January 9, 2007

About the neighborhood, are you friends with anyone who lives nearby? Even the lousiest neighborhood can be great to live in if you have good neighbors.
If you don't know many people, maybe getting involved in some local group or organization could be a nice thing to try?

Also, I don't know if you have kids or plan on having any, but if so they'll probably grow up really loving that house. At least, that's how it was for me. It don't know, it might be a something nice to think about.

On preview, I agree with what jamaro said.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 2:34 PM on January 9, 2007

Count your money. Lie down on the couch until the feeling passes.
posted by fixedgear at 3:10 PM on January 9, 2007

A lot of the advice above seems sensible to me. If you're feeling bad, you should try to understand and deal with those feelings. Check for affluenza. Stop watching the feel-bad TV shows. But nothing could be more natural than wanting a nicer home -- and if that's all it is, there's no need to feel bad about it. You can "logically" blame your husband for not wanting to move, if both of you really would be happier elsewhere. (Do you "lack gumption"?)

I do agree that you will remain unsatisfied if the focus of your life is the acquisition of stuff. Still, a lot of the answers here seem weirdly eager to convince you that it's somehow wrong to seek out a home that's materially better than the one you've got. What is this, an ashram? Maybe you would in fact be happier with a nicer house, a slightly bigger mortgage, and less-expensive vacations. Sounds like a perfectly fair trade-off, if that reflects your interests. Good luck with your decision.
posted by Dave 9 at 3:18 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have a party. Every time I have a party, somebody says something nice about my house, and I love my house all over again.

Every time you feel envious of a better/nicer/spiffer house, remind yourself that you have a great debt ratio and are able to enjoy life with minimal debt.

Comparatively speaking, $2,200 makes you rich.

Gardening/landscaping is a great idea; volunteering and giving money to people who are needy will help you remember how fortunate you are.
posted by theora55 at 3:37 PM on January 9, 2007

Every time you get the feelings of inadequacy, try a little thought experiment about what life would be like if you were stressed financially to make the payments on a larger house in a 'better' neighborhood, where the neighbors all have 'better' stuff that you have to go out and buy for yourself too.
posted by yohko at 3:53 PM on January 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you so much everybody for these intelligent and thoughtful answers, advice, and suggestions.

I wholeheartedly agree with getting rid of the fashion mags, home improvement shows, etc. They do nothing but make me feel sub par.

I think I may have a small case of affluenza.

I volunteer weekly and garden. Thank you for these suggestions. Gardening is a big hobby of mine, it's like therapy really. I have had a minor bump in the road health wise so December had been spent indoors. Too much time to sit around and wallow in self-pity.

I have lived in this area my entire life, and have no shortage of great friends. I think that is why I have so much angst over my house. I know where the best neighborhoods are. I knew where I should set my sights. But that is really unimportant and not worth worrying over now. The reality is we chose this house because it was what we wanted at the time.

Like Trevyn said, I am not my house. I need to focus on improving myself, indulging in my hobbies, and sprucing the place up a bit more.

I don't feel completely hopeless, but obviously I have feelings of inadequacy. I worry too much of how I am perceived.

Since I have found AskMe I feel like I have grown a little, if that isn't corny enough for you. Thank you.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:27 PM on January 9, 2007

In line with what occhiblu was saying, there is a long tradition of Vipassana meditation in India whose purpose is to cultivate "mental culture" - a quieting of this incessant chatter. A very practical, mysticism free, well respect book on the subject is available free online. YMMV.
posted by phrontist at 5:56 PM on January 9, 2007

Lori, when I started reading the question I wondered if it was you -- and then it was.

Many good suggestions are here, but please don't forget what mamaquita said. More than that, remember that you, your husband, your children, family, loved ones and friends are the ones whose opinions matter the most. As you say, you worry too much about how you are perceived. Live life. Love. Be happy.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:03 PM on January 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so much phrontist for posting that link. Can you believe I have read a few titles by Thich Nhat Hanh? He is the mindfullness guru. :) I don't think I am a good practioner at the moment.

Robert Angelo, you are so nice. Thanks for your kind words.

Live life. Love. Be happy.

You give great advice.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:14 PM on January 9, 2007

Sell the bloody thing then. Get yourself a lumping huge mortgage on a new three story McMansion you've had built in place of some insignificant black family's rented hovel and all its hundread year old trees, and live in slavery to it. While you're at it, max out all your credit cards so you can buy a yacht and a berth in the marina and put on a bigger Christmas light display than the neighbors this year. Hell, buy the marina.

Happy now?
posted by flabdablet at 9:17 PM on January 9, 2007

I usually feel this way when I’m not satisfied with myself, and I try to compensate it by imagining living in a different house—a better house, in a better neihbourhood. Also, as a teenager I remember being at my best friend’s house a lot, and even though it was a rented upper-portion of the house that was owned by the people living down-stairs—I always remember loving that space.
No matter what the weather was like outside, I’d always feel nice and warm in that apartment like setting. There was nothing special about it, but it always seemed like a nice place to hang out.

I recently realized that my liking that place was not so much because of the interiors (although it was a nice place—sparsely decorated—open, and extremely well ventilated—they had these huge windows which would allow gushes of wind to enter on those autumn evenings), but with the people living inside of them.
My friend’s family communicated much better than mine, so it was always a very friendly atmosphere over there. He was also very open with his dad, and they both talked like equals, at least intellectually, which I really admired, and I now think that played a huge part in my liking his home that much.

In short—it’s not where you live that counts, I guess—it’s how you’re living there that matters:)
posted by hadjiboy at 9:17 PM on January 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

This may sound totally crazy, but if possible I recommend doing a little bit of travel overseas. Take a vacation & clear your head. Once you see how people live in other countries, your horizons open up to life outside of your own neighborhood and the minutae of your daily life... and things can get put into sharp perspective. Stepping outside of your world for a bit might just help you realize how little you actually need to be happy, or how lucky you truly are.

Just a thought.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:26 PM on January 9, 2007

Hi LoriFLA. I thought this was a good question and I wanted to give you sort of an offbeat suggestion. Which is, if you have not already, read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I'm not suggestion you become a devout follower or anything, but that book more than anything else in my life, from books to experiences, taught me about how we feed off of one another's desires and belongings instead of looking inwards for what we really want. I think everyone else here has also given you lots of great, practical advice, too.

Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:46 AM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks onlyconnect. I can't believe I haven't read The Fountainhead. Atlas Shrugged, yes, but not Fountainhead. Thanks for the reminder and suggestion, I will put this on my 2007 to-read list.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:50 PM on January 10, 2007

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