The Pursuit of Happiness in Intentional Consumption
How do we make meaning in a life filled with consumption?
Retail therapy is heralded as an acceptable form of self care. Modern life has become an immersive advertising experience. This year, I embrace intentional consumption and I invite you to do the same.
Consumption, in all of its forms, should be done mindfully. This isn’t a blog post about consumer activism. I won’t jump you into the cult of minimalism. This is inviting you to join me on my journey in self reflection. Do it for yourself.
In my late teen years I spent far too much time and money stalking fashion boutiques in Shibuya & Harajuku. When I first began my shopping adventures, I’d delay buying a new dress—only to be told that it was no longer in season a mere weeks later. I learned my lesson, if you have the funds: buy it.
Every other month I gifted myself a “splurge” day. This consisted of what I considered to be a Michelin-level 5,000 yen steak ($35), a glass of wine and a few new dresses. If I really needed a dopamine hit, I’d buy a gadget(typically an interesting Japanese digital camera or new computer), some form of cosmetic procedure or anime figurines. This spree would set me back an average 30,000-100,000 yen. ($240~$800). This didn’t make my me more friends. Nor did it fix my miserable romantic life or make me feel more adjusted to a foreign country. I couldn’t help but still feel awful.
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Some of it was culture. Japanese society, which I lived and assimilated in. Black American culture(and American culture) from where I was raised. The sex work community, I dabbled in. They all had something in common. The worship of consumerism. Your shitty job and unpleasant life is all worth it because you can buy a car better than your neighbor’s. Humans desire the ire of our peers. In a life without much pre-determined meaning, the trinkets we can collect can make us feel just a bit more in control.
Yet—I no longer desire the ire of my peers. I’m tired of seasonal thrift store drop offs of clothes I only wore once. A car sounds like a burden. I’m tired of consuming outrage headlines designed to make my blood boil. Digital junk food in the form of a fifteen second short has rotted my brain. I know,
I don’t think a bunch of vacations would teach me much either besides novelty seeking. Then what?
This year, I’m embracing mindful/intentional/conscious consumption. I invite you to do the same. This is about more than retail but rather a reflection on your own behaviors. Consider what you eat, who you have in your life, the media you watch, the thoughts you allow to live in your mind. Don’t beat yourself up. Give grace.
Some key steps that have helped me are:
Set a limit or budget for yourself based on your own lifestyle, needs and finances.
Allow yourself small luxuries, even if just a piece of chocolate. 🍫
If you consume something outside of your intentions, consider the emotional state you were in.
Consider your sense of self. Without handbags, clothes, hair, tasting menus, gadgets, cars—who are you? What brings you joy?
Trust me, everyone loves a new toy some time. I’ll definitely get myself a few toys in Tokyo the next month or so. It’s fine to treat yourself. Just be intentional :)