For most Batswana, net worth is a denomination for self – worth. A growing number measure their value by the figure on their bank balance.
Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks in Gaborone stops short of dismissing this as a warped sense of personal worth: “Unfortunately, in today’s society, we evaluate a person through the lens of his achievement. We live in a world that is great at measuring and comparing externals. People who base their self-worth on their financial success feel pressure to focus most of their efforts in making more money rather than in building relationships with family and friends, and, as a result, often end up feeling isolated and lonely. Basically, when you see your self-worth as contingent on money, you view financial success as the core of who you are as a person. We tie self-worth to net-worth. The painful result is that we begin to make judgements about our own lives value by the possessions that we own. But, in reality, our life is far more valuable than the things that we own.”
The anonymous quip that ‘those who say money can’t buy happiness don’t know where to shop” seem to resonate with a lot of Batswana. This has spawned a legion of Batswana ‘money worshippers’ who believe that an increase in income will make everything better. This belief lands people in debt because they use whatever money they have to buy things that will impress others.
Money has become one of those crutches that many of us latch onto for a sense of validation. And money can interact with our self-esteem in a variety of ways. Most Batswana boost their self confidence by opening their wallets. Those who lack a sense of power, influence or status believe they only have to flash their wad and wallah! They would have it all.
Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, Social Work senior lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “Often times, people base their self-worth on money because they lack contentment in their lives. If you are not content in your life then your worth and value will always be attached to other things mostly material things which is very unhealthy. For some people to think they are worthy they use money to prove that which in turn makes them what to gain more and more because they are hardly satisfied. Sometimes these people don’t even get to enjoy their money. Money is used to fill in gaps in people’s lives to make themselves happy. “
Tying your self -esteem to money however has its down sides. This leads to financially-based social comparisons. It can be quite tempting to compare yourself to friends, acquaintances, siblings, or other family members. Most end up putting themselves down because they earn lease even though they are pursuing careers which would otherwise lead to self-fulfilment and self-actualisation.
As a result, they put themselves down if they’re earning less than them. Regardless of whether you are passionate about what you do and it brings out your best abilities and qualities, the fact that you earn less compared to others doing what you’re doing – or compared to close friends – can make you doubt yourself.