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  • Dora Nudelman

Value is Subjective

I went out the other night with an old friend of mine to an upscale restaurant known for its quality and attention to detail. During the evening an interesting topic of conversation arose. My friend put forth the argument that she felt it was obscene for this establishment to charge upwards of $25 or more for a glass of wine. She continued to express her disdain for such establishments that she believed cheat people out of their money by taking advantage of innocent and unassuming folk (I mean that was a bit of a stretch). Now without being rude I tried to explain to her that while I respected her right to have her opinion, in fact, her opinion about value was still quite subjective.

I don't perceive value in the same way that my friend does, and that's okay. I believe that pricing something according to quality is completely acceptable. I understand the business of hospitality and I also understand the need for charging a mark-up. After all, we aren't at someone's house enjoying an intimate dinner party. This is a business.

Anyway, this got me thinking about people in general and their perception of value with respect to their relationship with money. There are basically two main camps of people that I have come across when it comes to views on money and spending (although there are some who fall somewhere in between). There are those who enjoy and share money freely, and then there are those who hoard it and bitch about how prices these days are completely unjustified.

I personally completely respect everyone's right to decide what is valuable to them. What I don't respect, however, is when we all start to judge each other for thinking about money and value differently. We all have free will and thus the ability to choose how and where we spend our money. For me, as an empath and as a life coach I spend a lot of my time thinking about the needs of others. In fact, this is pretty much a staple of my personality in general. So when I decide to indulge in some R&R, lavish experiences, and treats for my senses, I would like to do it without being subjected to criticism or the invitation to justify my choices. Having said that, in reality, I don't feel the need to defend myself anyway because I am completely confident in my decisions. However, I do sometimes think it would be nice if everyone understood that the nature of value is a very personal experience and, therefore, very subjective.

I obviously come from the camp that believes in focusing first on quality and second on price. But. with that said, I also need to perceive the value of something before I choose to spend on it. But my definition of value doesn't need to match anyone else's. For me, I value my right to experience joy. I also value quality, integrity, passion, beauty, splendor, and attention to detail, to name a few. For these reasons if I see something I feel exemplifies these qualities to me, I do not judge them for being unjustified in price because they are justified to me. Life to me is about experience. Even the things we buy, we buy in order to feel something and enjoy something.

However, when I see something high-end that I feel has little to no value for me (from my perspective) I don't get angry at those who produced it, those who are selling it, or those who are buying it. I simply choose not to participate. Everyone has the right to charge what they want, just like everyone has the right to buy what they believe is justified for themselves. There are so many options from which to choose in our consumerist society that it just doesn't make sense to me when people get so angry about how others choose to spend their money. In our free economy with our free will and the different options we have available to us, no matter what our comfortable price range, there really is no excuse to get so mad at other people's personal choices.

People often forget that with quality also comes higher standards and, subsequently, higher overhead. If you go to an upscale hotel restaurant and pay $12 for a glass of juice or $25 for a glass of wine, know that 1) the quality of what you are receiving is likely going to be higher in some way (or at least it should be), and 2) there are a lot of mouths to feed from that establishment. It's not cheap to maintain prime real estate and quality employees as well as providing quality produce and expert skills. When quality is a signature of a product or service, with that also comes perfectionism and attention to detail, especially when you are enjoying a bespoke experience. And I believe signature experiences deserve to be well compensated, especially considering the amount of time, attention, and care that go into them. Just look at Haute Couture for example. It's an art form that comes with a price that reflects that inspiration, creativity, attention to detail, and top tier quality. Not everyone can afford it but it is still certainly something to be admired. Besides, when it comes to choices, we all make our own. If you don't like it, or if you can't justify it, then don't buy it. Buy something else instead. It's really that simple.

For me essence is key. What I value most is the feeling that an experience provides for me and, as such, I like to surround myself with the essence of that feeling as much as I can. So, if I like the vibe of where I am and it aligns with my values, attitude towards life, and passions, I will pay that $25 for a glass of wine. Is it irresponsible of me to do so? No. Not if I don't feel it is. It's my money and my choice. I can also be happy with a fresh squeezed organic juice for $5 from a juice stand on the corner. So for me it is not about the "how much" but rather the "what"and how it makes me feel when it comes to things I enjoy and want to experience more of. And we can all find things to enjoy regardless of how much we have. The options are truly endless.

Some might say that this is a very Utopian way of thinking but, again, this would be an unjustified judgment based solely on appearances and not at all on substance. For instance, those who might judge others for how they spend do not know or understand the motivations or deepest inner thoughts that back those actions; they only see it as spending what they feel is an inordinate amount of money on something they perceive to be "frivolous." But I see such spending as a choice to align with the energy and experiences that one values and enjoys. Plus, those who spend their money on lavish experiences can still also be very philanthropic and compassionate, for the two activities are not mutually exclusive.

I like to think that money doesn't change a person; it only amplifies who they already are. What this means is, judging a person solely based on their external spending habits is not an accurate portrayal of who they are on the inside. They can be highly conscious of their choices and highly compassionate, loving, and generous to a fault. But those who would judge them solely on how they spend their money wouldn't necessarily know that. For instance, to watch me spend my money on luxurious spa experiences and premium products might tell someone that I like to indulge in the finer things, and they would be right. But without knowing me, they wouldn't also know that I pride myself on providing the same level of quality, integrity, and value as I like to receive. They wouldn't know that I value compassion, peace, and love well above anger, aggression, and vanity. They wouldn't know that I am more motivated by a spiritual agenda than I am by my ego. And they wouldn't know how much I go out of my way to try to make others feel good.

So what's the lesson here? Well, if you are on the receiving end of judgment, don't worry so much about how others perceive your choices. Just make sure that you feel good about them for yourself. And if you are the one doing the judging, know that you might simply not know the full picture. I believe we should all judge people by how they make us feel, not by how they choose to spend. And if we can't justify a certain spend to ourselves, instead of griping about it (which places us in a lack mentality), let's find something else that we do value (and can justify to ourselves more) and then go do that with presence, enjoyment, and a higher consciousness.

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