Once upon a time people were proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and sense of purpose. Once upon a time people looked for happiness in experiences, relationships and achievements. Some would even find it. Then consumerism happened.
The sad truth is that consumerism has influenced us more than we think. Our consumer-self has become so powerful that it took over our human-self. ‘Uh-uh. No way. Sorry but I’m smarter than them, I don’t let advertising trick me into becoming a consumption-addict. I am a conscious buyer”.
Then why is that whenever we’re faced with important social and political issues (like climate change, mental health, and the economy), we don’t think about what to do as individuals, but rather we think about what to do as consumers: ‘I should buy this instead of this’.
Suddenly, buying green frees us from that feeling of guilt: ‘I’m buying better, therefore I’m good’… But is compromising the way to happiness? I don’t think so.
Besides, seeing ourselves as consumers leads us to see consumption as the ultimate solution to problems we may face, as we no longer purchase things to fulfil our basic needs, but rather to fill voids in our lives and make social statements about ourselves.
In our throw-away culture, replacing items is no longer a necessity, but rather a will to always move with the times and never be left behind. Needless to say this system feeds our fear of not being enough, in a time when everything changes so fast. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.
We are brought to believe that what we have is not enough. We spend hours staring at our closets thinking “I’ve got nothing to wear”, while, ironically, we’ve just spent the last two hours looking through rails of clothes. We do have something to wear. We are just not pleased with the options, for there’s nothing new there. Suddenly we feel like we are left behind and we are lacking something. That’s when we use ‘retail therapy’.
Ironically, extreme consumerism breeds only more unhappiness, anxiety and depression. The more you have, the more you’ll want. The more you want, the less likely you are to see the worth of what you have. The less you appreciate what you have, the more likely you are to lose it.
We think we are doing a great bargain buy buying cheap items, but we eventually end up paying the ultimate price for our consumerist tendencies with the downward trend we are seeing in the forming of close friendships, neighbourly support and strong communities. There’s good news, though. At the end of the day, consumerism is just a habit that we have the power to replace with better habits that bring us the genuine happiness we seek.
So the next time you catch yourself thinking “I don’t have anything to wear”, just remind yourself that you do in fact have a lot to be thankful for. Things which are way more important than a new outfit.