Two years on, and my piece about the differences between needs and wants is still germane. One would think that a global pandemic would put the brakes on our ferocious consumerism, would make us pause and consider another way besides ever-increasing our purchasing possibilities, but as the Ever Given showed us, it’s hard to change the course of big things with momentum. Even if habit leads us to troubled waters.
Those of us with money are buying our wants. Almost all of them, if the increase in consumer spending levels is any indication. Remember moderation? It’s vanished in favour of the next big thing, product placements, and IG endorsements.
Those of us without money are irrelevant. I’ve sufficient credit to make myself at least marginally interesting to the world of the seller, but I’ve been desperately broke and in debt before. I didn’t like it. I check the “want” or “need” designation on most things I buy. I’ve learned that “you can’t buy happiness” is true (although real poverty will make you miserable).
There are still things I obsess over and still things I acquire: facets of this disorder or that I appease with a new, used book or stuffed animal. Mostly, I question all purchases of the non-grocery variety. I question some of those too. I rarely need the new and expensive crackers or the lemon-flavoured humus I won’t eat. Less discretionary income helps; living on fifty-five percent of your income is a struggle. Mostly, I’ve come to like a less acquisitive existence. It’s calmer. I feel less guilt. I worry about the consequences of our race to own stuff.
Besides, I’ve tried to obtain happy from an external before. If I learned nothing else from nearly four decades of an eating disorder, I learned this: you can’t fix an inside problem with an outside solution.
we all have needs. we have wants too, but wants are different. it’s hard to believe that sometimes, but it’s true, though the distinction gets lost. my pocketbook pays the price of the incorrect labelling. it’s hard to call our needs by name in this age of constant marketing.
i think i need things all the time. i need a piece of chocolate and a hot cup of coffee in the morning. i need a stylish house. i need new books. i need more sandals now that summer is almost here. i need expensive moisturizer (i have expensive wrinkles). i need a new car (“need” and “new car” are fundamentally incompatible).
when i analyze the list, i realize it’s full of wants, not necessities. none of these things are vital to my existence. they add to my life, but the effects are transitory. they don’t make me feel wonderful forever:…
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