Are you “happy?” How do you know? Is it the refrigerator full of food or the garage full of unused stuff that makes you believe that you’re happy? Is the latest electronic in your possession the source of that perception of happiness? How do material objects outweigh meaningful human contact, deep conversations, or basic interaction?
From the moment we’re old enough to begin understanding our respective native languages, we’re bombarded with information clamoring that we’ll never be good enough unless we shop here, have this, buy that, own one of those, or look like so-and-so. Our television programming, radio advertisements, billboards, banner ads…all trying desperately to convince us that we are unhappy unless we purchase their product or idea.
Why have we come to believe that we’re not good enough as we are and must supplement and accessorize our lives with meaningless junk?
When you stop to think about it, the answer is really quite obvious.
Many, many years ago, someone figured out that they could sell people on a concept, and then exploit that concept to part them from their money. That concept was: we must be better than the next guy. We were inundated with that concept. As are our children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. The whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. If they purchased a new car, we had to purchase TWO cars. We were indoctrinated in believing that it’s always “us vs. them.”
That concept has permeated every aspect of our current culture. Now we feel we must be better, have more, be happier than other countries, other cultures, other ideals. And we must always defend our right to that happiness. It’s even in our Declaration of Independence:
“…among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These are our inalienable rights. Then we were told exactly what “Happiness” was defined as. And we’ve come to believe that definition. I call it the “bigger better faster more” delusion. We’ve learned to be dissatisfied unless we have the latest edition of the iPad, or phone, or car, or gadget, or… The list is pretty much endless. Which means that we’re looking beyond and outside of ourselves for happiness. In that pursuit, we will never, ever achieve true happiness.
When we perceive that our lives, thoughts, and ideals are compared to others’ and found lacking, we embark on an endless journey, always grasping at the brass ring that hovers just beyond our reach. We’re continually dissatisfied with the status quo, which, to us, has come to mean owning things. Why are people continuing to drive themselves deeper into debt? Why is it we spend millions of dollars a year on storage space rental for material possessions we don’t use? Why has hoarding become an issue? Because we never truly feel that we have enough. And so, we continue to search for that elusive happiness, which is like a beautiful butterfly that flits through our reality, but can never be caught.
When do we wake up and realize that our pursuit could really stop right now? Today.
If we can stop spending unconsciously, stop before every purchase and ask ourselves: Do I want this or need it? we take the first step toward being happier. Consumerism is becoming a disorder of the most destructive kind. In this way, we’re much more easily controlled and led. Blind us with stuff, and we’ll do whatever you say, as long as you don’t threaten to take away our stuff. Because stuff=happiness. Little “h” happiness. In order to achieve big “H” Happiness, we must go within. We must change our perception of what Happiness truly means to us. We must strip away the lies we’ve been sold and focus on our own well-being, not lining the pockets of the 1%, who couldn’t care less if you were happy or not. When we’re satisfied with ourselves, we become more satisfied with our lives, and don’t feel the need to clutter it up with stuff. We begin to focus on the things that truly bring meaning and fulfillment into our world and leave behind the meaningless things that no longer serve us. But as long as we continue to stay focused on that elusive brass ring, we remand ourselves to forever being unHappy.