Our culture is damaging our well-being

Alan White New

Alan White

We are living in a time where we have a lot to be grateful for. Modern consumer culture has greatly improved our way of life. Many of us now have access to products and services that only a short few years ago would not have been possible. Over the last few decades the things that are available for us to consume have grown exponentially, to the point where I believe we are now saturated and defined by consuming, possessions and our purchasing power or status.

Have you ever waited and waited for something, only to finally get it and still not feel a sense of satisfaction? Instead your mind immediately moves on to the next thing that we want, not allowing us to take the time to appreciate what we have just gotten or achieved! Our minds are constantly looking for the next thing, the next hit of temporary satisfaction that keeps us distracted for moments until we decide we want more.

This culture that we are living in makes us feel like we never have enough, and when we constantly feel like we don’t have enough, even when in reality we probably have more than enough, our minds tell us that we are somehow inferior and we need to go out and buy more. This vicious circle of buying, consuming, discarding and buying again is to me simply distracting our psyche and preventing us from ever being satisfied with what we have. When we then cannot get all the things we want, our sense of self-worth is affected negatively as we have learned from our culture that to be whole, we need to have all the things that we believe we should have.

We have developed a disposable attitude to things. This I believe has also created a disposable attitude to many other areas of our lives. We are more likely to dispose of our relationships, friendships, beliefs and morals, all in an attempt to get the temporary adrenaline rush that is given to us by the new!

Sitting at home in the evenings I often hear my fiancée listening to fashion bloggers on snapchat. Every day they are talking about the next big thing that everyone must have. This constant bombardment of advertising is having a very destructive effect on our overall well-being. When we are young, most of us had to learn the value of turn taking, sharing and delayed gratification. When we wanted something, it didn’t come straight away. I personally never wanted for anything when I was young and for that I am thankful, but I did learn that things didn’t just come straight away. They had to be earned, saved for and I had to be patient.

These days when listening to young people talk about the things they have and the things they want, there is a sense of expectation and entitlement to the tone of the conversations. This can be difficult for many young people, who are watching celebrities and advertising, telling them that to be worth anything they need to have their product, and if they don’t, they are somehow less.

It’s not surprising that mental health difficulties are increasing in young people, who are trying to fit into an impossibly materialistic and perfectionist world. No human being could possibly live up to the expectations that today’s popular culture portrays. Young people need to be helped to see the value of sometimes not having certain things. The value of friendships, and relationships. That it’s ok to not have everything we think we should have and that our self-worth is not measured by the clothes hanging in our wardrobes or gadgets in our homes.

Young people will not learn this if we simply tell them; we need to model this to the young people in our lives. We need to show them, not tell them, that shared experiences with the people closest to us are more important than new things. That sharing is more important than having everything for yourself and that working to get something is more satisfying than simply having something handed to you ever will be.

On that note I need a break. For all of us it’s good sometimes to stop for a while and recharge the batteries. It’s been a very busy time for me over the past year and writing these articles has been very enjoyable and a great way to share my thoughts on how we can improve the well-being of our children. It’s great to see that education is becoming more open to the idea of teaching well-being in schools. As always though it’s important that this topic is approached in the right way. I am looking forward to beginning again refreshed next September and to help keep the importance of well-being in our schools on the agenda.

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