Materialism. It´s all around us. It a product of the society we are living in, of what we consider a normal life. It´s what keeps this society going, growing, producing. By buying, wanting and demanding. We drive, the steering wheel firmly in our hands, directly to consuming and demanding, leading to producing more and more. Trapped in this faster and faster spinning circle it´s easy to forget to pose a very important question: Will this constant consumption make us happy in the end?
Our consumerist world is growing. Fast. Production is booming, every day we are confronted with new inventions, every day new products are placed on the marked, screaming and demanding to be bought. Thousands of dollars are spent on advertising to convince us to buy products we don´t really need or even want. Just to keep the game going like a well-oiled machine. And we fall for it. We want the things we see on TV, on billboards or in the newspaper. If it is advertised properly we want to have it and we cannot get enough. All of this wanting and consuming already starts with a very young age. So, I will now share my own story with you and how I feel about it now.
High school times
When I was still in high school, I was very concerned about what others thought of me. Like every teenager I was mostly concerned about my other appearance and popularity. Well, the second one was almost non-existent. I was just a tall skinny shy girl wanting to fit in. I wanted to be cool, wear more expensive clothes, have a newer and cooler phone. Things with which I could show off. Materialistic things.
My best example to this day is my old phone. I was 16 at the time and still owner of one of the very few, ancient last Nokias. I was ashamed of not being the proud owner of a new smart phone, of not even having internet on my phone. Particularly because I was surrounded by friends who already had a smartphone. This phone alone made me self-conscious. When I look back I should have owned it. After all, it was just a phone. But that´s not how you think as a teenager. It´s just a phone but it becomes more. It becomes a status symbol, a symbol of coolness. Which I didn´t have. Which made me different.
When I look back to these days, I can only smile at myself. Little did I know that only a few years later nothing of these things would have mattered anymore. It took me living abroad and learning more about myself to change this way of thinking.
What meditation thought me
I believe a lot of people don´t fully know themselves. I for sure don´t. But it´s getting there. I learned how to listen and pay closer attention to myself practicing meditation and yoga. Listening to yourself is crucial as you yourself know best what´s good for you. But, by the age of an adult, most of us have long forgotten how to listen. Instead, we cover ourselves in work and studies. Constantly distracting ourselves but not taking the time necessary to think what we really want and what´s important to us. Sitting down, closing your eyes you will soon see that not the latest phone or the newest bag is of any significant importance. What truly will matter in the end are our connections, our relationships with our loved ones.
What travelling thought me
My point of view on materialistic things also took a great shift when I discovered my passion for travelling. If you like to travel you need to think carefully how you want to spend your money if you intend to travel more on a regular basis. Travelling is now more important to me than any designer clothes or brands could ever be. It´s also more beneficial than giving into the desire of nice things. So, quitting to buy a lot of clothes was quite easy for me. If you think about on what else you could spend your money on, endless possibilities open up. For me, it was the possibility to see the world, to travel to countless new places. That´s something that will truly make me happy – and will produce memories lasting way longer than the short happiness you get from buying a nice pair of shoes.
I feel so good since I decided I prefer to buy comfortable, second hand clothes than expensive ones. Not constantly chasing the latest trend feels truly liberating. Travelling and living abroad helped me a lot to understand that materialistic things will not make you happy in the long run. Once I moved I couldn´t take a lot of my stuff with me, so I had to leave a lot of my things at home. The things I carry with me now I am no longer attached to. I realized that when I thought about a single item I would be devastated to lose – I couldn´t think about anything. Except of my laptop, because all my texts and ideas are on it – but that´s a different story.
The concept of mine
This concept of “my things”, “my car”, “my phone” is something that didn´t always exist. In earlier cultures. This separation in mine and yours didn´t exist. The earth, the ground was there for everyone. People shared it peacefully. They believed there was enough space for everyone. And they are right. How come we forgot how to share and started to cling onto things, making them ours and being unwilling to share them? Wouldn´t it be better to go back to this old concept of sharing and living together peacefully?
Letting go of attachment
When I started to work abroad and had to get by with not a lot of money my attachment to my things got less and less. I was more concerned to buy delicious food to eat than I wanted to buy the newest clothes. Food is a really important choice after all. You are what you eat and nothing could be more true. That´s why I personally follow a plant-based diet, mostly also trying to avoid sugar. Good food that nourishes not only your body but your soul is one of the most important things you could invest in. Your body will thank you years later for your investment. One day, your health might be the most important thing to you.
The story of the old lady
When you grow older, attachment also becomes less and less. I recently read a very good book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, in which he told the story of an old lady. She was old and laying in the hospital. Everybody knew she was about to die soon. She just had a few more weeks left to live. One day, her diamond ring she always had by her side disappeared. The lady got angry, accused her nurse of stealing it and could not get over this loss. Then, when her psychiatrist asked her why she was holding onto this ring so much she started to explain “You see, my mother gave it to me. It´s of sentimental value.” The psychiatrist wasn´t satisfied with her answer, asked her to think about why she really clung onto this ring so much and left.
She was upset a lot of days. Every day her psychiatrist came by and asked her another time why she was so upset about her loss. One day, when he entered the room she looked differently, more peacefully. A smile emerged on her face when she told him she finally figured out that her ring didn´t matter anymore. She was about to die, she might as well let go of it. It was almost like a huge, heavy weight was taken off her shoulders. She felt so free and liberated. She felt free. Then she started to give away even more of her possessions and with everything she gave away she felt a bit lighter, happier, more at peace. This lady finally figured out that materialistic things don´t make you happy in the end. And we can all learn from her story.
You don´t necessarily have to figure it out that late. Giving away everything you have has transformed the lives of many people. Giving away your things to live a simple life or to go around to travel. This doesn´t mean that everyone should abandon all their things. Do what you feel good about. But always remember to not let things posses you. Otherwise you might hold onto grief and grudge like the old lady in the story once your precious possession disappears, breaks or gets stolen. Without this weight on your shoulders you will soon feel more liberated, freer, happier. Without the weight of materialism. Without the constant urge to consume. And without spending a lot of money on things you neither need nor want.