After hitting a financial rough path, I learned the meaning behind my spending and the toll of chasing an influencer lifestyle.
Like many young women and men, I used to idolize Instagram influencers. Their clothes, hair, style — I wanted it all. What I loved about influencers like Kylie Jenner or Nikita Dragun, is that their look (partially) felt attainable. I believed that as long as I could pay for the upkeep of beauty expenses that I would be just like them. That included $300+ Bellami hair extensions, constantly having a fresh manicure, the latest trending Fashion Nova pieces, and every makeup item on the market.
It's almost embarrassing to look back at how much I let this fantasy take over my life and budget.
Two Christmases ago, I decided to treat myself and spend almost $800 on eye shadow palettes, lipsticks, and other useless things. When I opened the box I did not feel the excitement, but just an overwhelming sense of guilt. My purchases would increasingly make me feel guilty and not the giddy experiences I was so used to having.
When I was a teenager, I grew up very poor. It's almost shocking to know how poor, but I'll spare you the details. In my early 20s, I started making a lot more money than I was used to. It felt great being able to buy everything that I used to turn green over. Buying things like Converse or whitening toothpaste brought me so much joy I could cry. It quickly got out of hand as I tried to catch up with all of my peers. The value of each purchase went up while the value to me went down.
When I still lived in my hometown of Honolulu, I would receive so many boxes from online shopping I would trip walking through my room. It was so overwhelming. When I decided to pursue graduate education in Chicago and move, I was confronted by how meaningless all of my purchases were. None of the clothes, shoes, or makeup felt even worth to ship. I felt like I could leave every last bit behind and not even notice it was gone.
Once I landed in Chicago, I did not have the same job or easy cash flow. I began to really regret all of my silly makeup purchases. I was back to a teenage Hannah that could barely afford dollar menu food items. It was a real blow to the bank — and my ego. I had to unfollow almost every Instagram influencer. I could not bear to know all the makeup and clothes I was missing out on.
I slowly started making enough money to live comfortably again. This time, I decided not to chase a Kardashian lifestyle. The time I spent away made me realize how empty it is. No one ever cared that I had pink chrome nails besides me. My boyfriend never noticed the difference of whether I had my extensions in or not. I also started to feel a lot better about myself. Things that I felt insecure about, like my small lips or short hair, I stopped noticing.
Putting money towards student loans never feels guilty. It may not bring joy but there is not a single student loan repayment that I regret making. Influencers are selling an image or beauty, wealth, and power that feels within reach, but it is more like the Powerball. It feels like if you contribute enough, you'll get your jackpot. Except no one wins but the machine you put your hard earned dollars in.