It’s the same dance every year: At the end of November, my email inbox fills with every newsletter I’ve ever subscribed to, screaming at me about “Black Friday” offers. A few weeks later, it’s the after-Christmas sale. Marketing seems to be in overdrive at this time of the year.
I’ve always made a point of not offering anything special in November and December. There’s a reason I say my newsletter is 100% spam free! I love selling my offers – they change lives, after all – but I want to make sure they benefit people, and I refuse to take part in the rampant blind consumerism around Black Friday.
Why? Because I myself never buy anything on Black Friday. It’s a day I spend at home. I have an aversion to it because it makes people overspend and it produces a lot of unnecessary waste. But there’s another, deeper reason as well, one that I’d like to draw your attention to.
This reason could be summed up as “covering up what we’re missing” with our drug of choice. Allow me to explain.
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Consumerism as a drug
Humans are competitive and love to compare themselves to others. But have you ever wondered why that is so? Why do people feel inferior if their neighbour has a bigger house or a faster car? Why do they love showing off their slim, well-trained figure and expensive clothes?
Let me give you a hint: Imagine someone who’s so happy, they’re fit to burst. They want to shout it off the rooftops. They overflow with joy. What else they feel, does depend a little on their personality, but for the vast majority of people, it’s a variation of: “I wish everyone could be as happy as I am now” (or at least: “I wish [XY person] could be as happy as I am”, XY being someone they love).
People who are filled with joy – not enjoying a brief moment of success or accomplishment, but a lasting, substantial happiness – couldn’t care less about what their neighbour has or does. If anything, they want to share their joy; mostly, they’re simply too happy to care whether someone else is better or richer.
The opposite is true, too: If you don’t have something in your life that fulfills you completely, you’re more likely to be tempted by consumerism. It’ll provide that sought-after high of feeling like you measure up, if only for a short time.
What’s your drug of choice?
Once you’ve realised that people subconsciously use consumerism to fill an empty space in themselves, you’ll soon begin to understand that it doesn’t end with shopping or comparing themselves to others. People use all sorts of things to numb what’s missing in their lives. I’ll give you a few examples.
A big one in our society is relationships, especially romance. Look at Hollywood or mainstream romance novels, and it’s hard not to notice that many of them are selling – hard – the idea that falling in love with “the right person” will fulfill you and make your life complete. It’s also a big reason why so many relationships don’t last. We expect our partner to fill that emptiness in us, when really we’re the only ones who are capable of filling it.
Work is another drug of choice. People throw themselves into their careers – or alternatively, into creating the best ever family home – almost to the exclusion of everything else. Of course we all need to make a living, but many people go far beyond the necessary to gain recognition and success. Many regret it later in life.
Look at your own life, and be very honest with yourself. What are your actual priorities, those you spend most time and energy on? It could be being busy and occupying every moment with activity, or shopping, or even your children (of course children are and should be important; but if they’re the main reason for their parents’ existence, it’s not actually good for them. Indeed, research has shown that it’s best for children if their parents are fulfilled in their own lives).
The way to “recovery”
People who recover from addiction to actual drugs, don’t just go cold turkey and leave it at that. The physical addiction is never the main problem, and so addicts use therapy and self-help groups in order to address what made them turn to drugs in the first place. Many struggle with past trauma and an inability to process or even express their emotions. Healing and learning these things lessens the urge to numb the pain.
Similarly, you can overcome your “addiction” to your own drug of choice by filling that emptiness inside you (the one you don’t even realise is there most of the time, because you’re filling it with so much other stuff) with what it’s supposed to contain: Passion, joy, love.
You could argue that passions are just another drug, and there is a danger of using them that way. It’s why my coaching programs don’t just focus on passions and purpose, but on all areas of life, such as money, self care, boundaries, work issues, health and whatever else is important or needs attention in a client’s life.
It all works together, but when it does, what’s missing is often the overflowing joy of passion. That’s what fulfills humans. Passion and the knowledge of a clear purpose is what makes us get up in the morning with joyful anticipation, with a tingling happiness. It lights us up from the inside and fulfills us with the thing we were put on this planet to feel: Joy and love.
Prioritising passion(s) is anything but superficial and hedonistic. It’s the most profound change you can possibly make, and it will lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment, independently of what else happens in your life.
Once you’ve discovered that, Black Friday will leave you cold.