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Consumerism And Self Worth: Part Two

Part Two: The Need To Acquire More

When we examine the products we consume the most as a society, it becomes clear that the way the system must be designed in order to keep consumers coming back is to provide a constant turn over and progression of products. The heaviest consumption is that of food products, followed by clothing, beauty products, the latest technological advances, and other services.

This progression of products can be seen very clearly when we examine the fashion industries as we did in Part One: Media & Beauty Trends last week. For women in particular, the beauty industry has constructed an amazing scheme to keep us reaching for our wallets.

Think of all the various types of clothing there are for women, each only acceptable in their context of usage. There’s the semi-formal daily office attire, cocktail attire, evening wear, intimate wear, casual wear for lounging, athleisure wear for working out in public, and of course the ever morphing styles that change with every season.

dressed to kill by arielaot
Image Credit: dressed to kill by arielaot is licensed under CC by SA 2.0; Source: link

We can see how the industry drives the need to fit into acceptable (dare I say even coveted?) social guidelines for fashion via the media and how we in turn flock to buy the latest trends and drive up profits.

Some of us (myself included) detest this social dictate for women to have a plethora of different looks throughout the day and consequently, an outrageously expansive wardrobe. I know I personally have bought clothing that I’ve worn once and never touched again. Conversely, there are several items of clothing I’ve had for close to a decade and still treasure. Many of us enjoy the freedom of self expression that is found in how we style and present ourselves.

I’m not saying consumerism is inherently bad or good. I am simply asking that we mindfully purchase company’s products. The point is not to sway anyone into changing their consumer behavior, but rather to make us all aware of what drives our behavior and why we consume these products.

Rather than seeing the next hot thing in an advertisement and immediately rushing out to buy it, let’s try asking ourselves why do I want this particular thing? Is it because I’d feel inferior without it? Is it because it’ll make me feel beautiful? Is it to cure my boredom? Is it so I can feel good when others compliment me on this new thing? Or is it because it is adding value to my happiness and fulfillment?

How Media Fuels The Need To Acquire More

Advertising targets our weaknesses on a subconscious level. Often we don’t even realize why we feel insecure and dissatisfied after watching these commercials.

For the next example, let’s take your typical car commercial. A car that looks much more powerful than your current vehicle is shown cruising through the great outdoors or a slick city and you’re either driving alone if you’re male, or with family if you’re female.

nice place nice car by Ben
Image Credit: nice place nice car by Ben is licensed under CC by SA 2.0; Source: link

Women this car is going to solve all your soccer mom transport problems and make you feel like a more productive, younger version of yourself! Don’t you want to be the perfect wife and mother with effortless ease like this actress we have paid? With this car, you can do it all!

MenThe road. The hunt. The adventure. You and your car. Feel the power. Don’t you want to feel free and in control of your life again? With this luxury vehicle, you can.  

These kinds of commercials, whether they be for cars or other products, target the human desire to grow and improve. This very natural quality in and of itself is a wonderful thing.

However, it’s when this kind of mind-manipulating advertising leads to the endless pursuit of product consumption that this part of our nature is being used detrimentally against us.

How Media Feeds Food Addiction

Whole Foods Plant Based Disclaimer: For the duration of this post, I will be staying away from all vegan agendas where possible (as much as it pains me to do so) for the purpose of better universal understanding of how the advertising cog of the food industry machine works. Additionally, the word “food” will be used fast and loose like your grandma in her prime to incorporate food-like substances that are questionably edible at best.  (For a deeper understanding of food, check out 7 Tips For How To Start Eating Healthy)

Food. Oh, how we love it.

One of the things that surprised me most along my food journey is that cheese is one of the most addictive substances we’ve created. Not just one of the most addictive foods, but substances. Casomorphins (morphine-like compounds) found in cheese have the same effect on our brains as opiates do. Combine that with the high levels of fat and salt in the cheese and you’ve got one dangerously irresistible food.

Cheese Pizza by Joseph Nicolia.jpg
Image Credit: Cheese Pizza by Joseph Nicolia is licensed under CC by SA 2.0; Source: link

Considering one of my favorite foods of my pre-vegan days was pizza, I can personally testify to this phenomenon. In every elementary school assignment asking what our favorite foods were, pizza was always at the top of my list. (For more on cheese.)

It’s mind-obliterating how many food advertisements appear in a five minute commercial break. In the same way advertising targets our inherent psychological nature, let’s next examine how the giant food corp marketing geniuses manipulate our human psyche.

First let’s look at what tastes our bodies have evolved to seek out and crave. We are biologically driven to eat foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. For our ancestors, this subconscious mechanism was very advantageous to our survival in that these are the foods highest in calories, or energy. During times of food scarcity, this instinct was crucial to the perpetuation of our species.

In this modern day and age, there is actually an abundance of food, contrary to what some may believe (just take into account all the crop we feed our slaughter animals). The problem with this is the absurd caloric richness of our foods, namely convenience foods, is combined with virtually no nutritional value – leading to epidemics like obesity and cardiovascular disease while simultaneously starving nutritionally.

Our relationship with food goes even deeper than love, however. It is our sustenance and vital energy source. Nourishment is one of our basic primary needs. Our biology is wired so that food, or even just seeing images of it, lights up the reward centers of our brain.

The elements that drives our base instincts are food, sex, connection, and shelter. These seemingly primitive aspects of our humanity are still very much present in our day to day, even if we are not consciously aware of the role it plays.

Food advertising very strategically combines the aspects of sustenance and sex, believe it or not. Add that to the fact that food is so closely linked with memory and the feeling of comfort and we start to understand what a powerful advantage strategic marketing has over us.

Tian of Poundcake with Strawberries by dollen
Image Credit: Tian of Poundcake with Strawberries by dollen is licensed under CC by ND 2.0; Source: link

That sizzling burger being erotically eaten by a barely underweight model is what will make you feel better about the state of your life. That decadent dessert will scratch all those itches sex just can’t seem to reach. Those sodas being consumed by a group of absurdly hot young whippersnappers will make your day worth living. Who knew food could look so sexy?

Conscious Consumerism

The way consumerism is driven today makes it appear as if we are powerless to resist the products being programmed into our minds on a daily basis. Advertising markets in such a way that drives our need to acquire more because of a fear that we are missing out, envy of what others have, the notion that we only live once, and the desire to emulate the happiness what we see on television.

In all the psychological programming, we lose sight of the fact that we are in the driver’s seats of our lives. We have a choice in how we choose to respond. If we indeed find that the endless onslaught of buying is not adding any meaningful value to our lives, we can choose to change our behavior.

We can choose to buy things that we know with add meaning to our lives, rather than impulsively buying what’s deemed hot for the moment. When we become aware that our behaviors have been driven by a lifetime of programming, we can start to claim responsibility for our own part in this consumer frenzy.

Awareness is the first step into consciousness. By becoming aware, we reclaim our power, we actively choose to behave and consume in a more thoughtful, conscious manner. We remind ourselves of the people, places, and things that truly add value and happiness to our lives.

happy_shopping by Peter_Christoph_Ross
Image Credit: happy_shopping by Peter_Christoph_Ross is licensed under CC by ND 2.0; Source: link

Hey friends! This is the second part of my series, Consumerism And Self Worth. Stay tuned for Part Three next week! 

Interested in this topic? Read Part One here. Share this post with a friend. Thoughts, questions, comments? Start a discussion in the comments section below!

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