Do you feel self-conscious about what you have compared to your friends, family or neighbors?
Are you worried about your growing debt but can’t seem to manage your spending?
Do you feel like your kids are always asking for more stuff?
You may have heard the term consumer culture, but what does that mean exactly?! Consumer culture is a societal attitude that promotes the purchase of goods for personal satisfaction and economic stimulation. It’s a system where our status and values are based around acquiring things and it relies on creating desire for products which may not have any real need.
This model of consumerism is just one way the economy can work, and as many are beginning to realise, the habits of consumerism are taking a toll on our life-sustaining natural systems. Plain and simple – humans consume more resources and produce more waste than the earth can sustain.
Did you know that consumerism can actually reduce self-esteem and lead to despair and depression?!
Think about it, if you are convinced you need to buy something, it’s often implying you are deficient and need a certain product in order to be good enough. Studies show when people’s self-worth goes up, their consumptive behaviors go down! So although consuming may give you a rush that you are relevant and accepted, this behavior could actually be perpetuating isolation and creating a vicious circle of loneliness and consumerism.
So where exactly does the desire for consumption come from?
Brené Brown says:
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
So as social beings who are driven to belong, but possibly equipped with a misunderstanding of where true belonging comes from, can you ask yourself… How many of my behaviors are motivated by a desire to belong, and what am I doing to just fit in?
Perhaps you feel you need new clothes, but deep down you are actually quite lonely and crave connection and attention.
Maybe you’re convinced you need a new truck, but you actually have been questioning your self-worth and how you are needed or useful to your community.
Or you’ve decided you need a home-gym, but your true fear is not having people in your life to support you in the future.
Possibly you’ve thought you need new makeup or hair products, but your true concern is your lack of self-worth.
Maybe what you really need is the same thing we all do, to connect, to be loved, to be accepted, to feel like you are enough. To belong.
Where does the desire to belong come from?
What if I told you that human connection is possibly the most influential force in our lives?! The key is in validation, when you see aspects of your authentic self, reflected in someone else, you are reassured. Humans need social relationships that foster feelings of love and acceptance.
- Evolutionarily: being part of a community is vital for health and safety – the community can typically provide more protection and sustenance than going it alone.
- Physiologically: social support governs hormonal responses – deep connections increase the body’s ability to handle stress.
- Psychologically: supportive, compassionate connections can improve both physical and emotional health.
We, as humans, are reliant on the knowledge, skills and support of others to live well!
Moving toward belonging
How can you create a sense of belonging? It starts by understanding consumerism through a compassionate lens. We consumer in order to fit in and feel accepted; desires with primal origins and important outcomes. So next time you are driven to consume, ask yourself if there is an underlying desire to belong.
And remember, belonging can come from many different sources: people (many or a few), an institution or organization, or even social media networks. Doesn’t matter who or where you make connections but it’s important to:
- Focus on similarities: this gives a sense of validation and reassurance.
- Practice acceptance of others: you can accept someone without agreeing with them!
- Limit judgement: say yes to new opportunities.
Climate change deals with foreboding issues. Without strong community support, facing these issues can trigger or worsen feelings of despair, isolation, and even depression. Moving forward we have a choice to make, do we perpetuate materialism by acquiring hollow substitutes for belonging or do we suspend judgment, focus on commonalities, and seek to truly connect?
How can I get help?
We at Family TLC believe that in order to heal the world, we need to start with healing ourselves and our close relationships. Addressing consumer-culture and over-consumption can begin by building a strong sense of belonging and self-worth. Contact us to find out how you can foster meaningful relationships and create a sense of belonging in your life!