Consumerism is a blanket. One that we throw over the insecurities of our lives with the hope that we’ll never have to deal with them again. We love how soft the blanket feels against our skin, we admire the embroidery, the patterns and the colours. We show off the blanket to our friends, family and followers with every chance we get.
For a while, it feels good. It works. The distraction is perfect because we forget what lies underneath the blanket. Why did we even buy the blanket in the first place? It doesn’t matter, let’s admire the blanket again one more time.
But sooner or later, the uncertainties start to peek out from the corners of the blanket. The threading comes undone, unravelling everything that we were trying so hard to hide. But it’s okay, don’t worry. We can throw another blanket on top of it. Maybe two blankets… or three. Perhaps we should buy a more expensive one, just in case.
Uncertainty Drives Our Consumerism
We buy things because we feel uncertain. The uncertainties may arise from insecurities within ourselves or it may stem from past experiences where things were shaky and uncontrollable. An unforeseeable future is what causes many of us to have that feeling of uncertainty and it brings about other emotions of fear, anxiety, frustration and possibly anger.
Confronting these uncertainties is the path less travelled. Whether it is acknowledging our insecurities, coming to terms with our past experiences or accepting that the future will always be unpredictable – they’re all difficult things to do.
The easier path is to consume and bury ourselves with distractions. Rather than focus on ourselves or exploring that feeling of uneasiness, we’d rather divert the attention to something else. Buying things can help us feel more secure and in control. It’s the easier way because it takes less effort, tears and emotional anguish.
Under My Blanket
In the first few years of my adult life, I had a lot of blankets. My life was constantly in the motion of consuming. It was only a few years when I finally gathered the courage to look underneath the blankets. Now, while blankets do appear here and there, they are quickly taken away and replaced with nothing but a desire for self-discovery and exploration.
When I was younger, my family didn’t have a lot of money. My home life wasn’t a pleasant place to be while school lunch consisted of never ending jam sandwiches. I couldn’t play school sport because that meant extra fees on the school invoice. Social life was a bit of a faze as I didn’t have money to go out with friends or to buy them birthday presents. Money was always on the forefront of my mind growing up. So when I graduated year 12, became independent and was able to work part-time, I was finally able to do and buy all the things I couldn’t back then. This undoubtedly instigated my desire for constant consumerism.
Like many young girls, I grew up with insecurities about my appearance and body. Severe acne meant I wanted to also draw the attention away from my face. Even though it was treated, years of low confidence and self-esteem issues are hard to undo. I bought unnecessary amounts of clothes to make me feel more secure and sure about myself. Rather than trying to overcome the anxiety internally, I sourced it from external factors. To me, branded clothes alluded money which ticked off my first insecurity and calmed the uneasiness I had about my appearance.
Folding the Blankets Away
Fortunately with time and maturity, I’ve managed to uncover the blankets and clearly see what I was trying to hide. I consume less materialistic things and when I do, I ponder really really hard at it for a while. My self-awareness has also flourished as I try to explore any feelings of uncertainty I have, rather than trying to bury it with some retail therapy. While I’m far from being a minimalist, I’m very much content with the things I have and the things I do not have. It brings me joy to be able to accept that I don’t need anymore things and that my happiness comes from more important things in my life, resolving my insecurities and from within myself.
How You Can Also Consume Less
Learning how to live with the feeling of uncertainty is the first step in consuming less. The ability to be comfortable with the shaky ground beneath us can allow us to explore why we might be feeling uneasy.
When we go on a trip, we might feel nervous so we buy things to compensate. If we have a party on the weekend, we might worry about people’s judging us so we feel like we need to buy a new outfit. Embracing these concerns is important, rather than choosing the easier path of which money can buy.
When I finally embraced the fact that yes, I did grow up poor but no, it doesn’t define me as who I am, it was easier to let go of that need to constantly buy things. When I finally understood that I didn’t need to buy expensive things to show off to people, it was easier to finally care less.
Although these things are difficult to do, the rewards for my mental health, my happiness and contentment (as well as my wallet and the environment!) are phenomenal.