In the materialistic world that we’ve been brought up into, we think that shopping is the answer to everything.
Manipulative advertising has convinced us that buying stuff will satisfy all our emotional needs — it will bring us happiness, love, freedom, and anything else that we long for.
This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth, and the sooner we realize it, the earlier we will be able to escape from the prison of materialism and live a more meaningful life, free from the burden that excessive consumerism places on our psyche.
10 Emotional Needs Shopping Can Never Satisfy
1. Confidence. Because of how much we value products, we sometimes fall under the illusion that the more of them we buy, the better we’ll feel about ourselves — we’ll be more confident and have higher self-esteem. But how simple-minded is it to think that external things will make us feel confident? Products are ephemeral and superficial, and the more attached to them we are, the more vulnerable and weak we’re bound to feel.
2. Security. The main reason why people shop excessively is their emotional insecurities, which are mainly created by the advertising industry. If you don’t feel beautiful, you might want to buy so-called beauty products. If you feel unloved, you might want to buy a shiny car to impress others. But material objects can offer us nothing more than substitutes for what we deep down need, hence they’ll inevitably leave us disappointed.
3. Happiness. We have fallen victims to the idea that happiness can be bought and that everything that can bring us joy is on sale. So we keep on shopping, thinking that this will make us happy, but in the end it only leaves us emotionally thirsty, since what we truly need to be emotionally satisfied is healthy relationships with people, creative work, play, and inner peace — and money can’t buy any of those.
4. Fulfillment. True fulfillment is derived from finding purpose and meaning in life. It comes from doing things that matter to us and which we feel passionate about, as well as from being close to the ones who love us, support us, and help us to grow — again, things that shopping can never provide us with.
5. Significance. Many of us spend most of our hard-earned money on as expensive stuff as we can afford in order to feel proud of ourselves and show to others how significant we are. All the things we buy, however, are short-lived, and sooner or later the market will replace them with more advanced versions of them. Therefore, they’ll never make us feel significant enough, since there will always be people who will have better things than the ones we own.
6. Influence. We humans are inherently social beings, loving to connect and communicate with others, and we desire to influence others with our hearts and minds. Yet, instead of building genuine relationships with people who care about us and are influenced by our ideas and passion for life, we try to superficially persuade others through the acquisition of possessions, thinking that material objects will somehow allow us to exert more influence on our social environment.
7. Connection. In our very competitive society, we feel disconnected from our fellow human beings. In addition, living in big cities of concrete, we have lost touch with with nature. This sense of disconnection from people and nature has made us view the world as separate from us and threatening to our well-being, which makes us experience a constant state of worry and anxiety. In our efforts to deal with our alienation, we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that shopping can help us expand our sense of self and re-connect us with the world. And, although it is true that our ego grows by feeding on possessions, it is also building huge psychological walls all around us that make us feel more alienated than before.
8. Freedom. Most people are under the impression that shopping brings them freedom. Of course, in our economic system, this is true to some extent, since shopping is the means through which we can satisfy our basic physical needs so that we can then have the freedom to pursue our passions and live the way we want to live. When, however, we mistake wants for needs, shopping actually restricts our freedom, turning us into emotional slaves to material objects that we don’t truly need and which fill our lives with worries and distractions.
9. Contentment. To be content means to be emotionally satisfied just the way you are, to enjoy the present moment and savor everything that life brings on your way. However, most of us are in under a continuous state of stress to acquire more material things, always looking at contentment as a future end that we’ll experience once we possess them, and hence we can never relax and enjoy the here and now.
10. Gratitude. When we are always looking for new things to buy, we will always feel that our life is lacking something, and thus we won’t be able to appreciate and enjoy what we already have. Therefore, unless we develop gratitude, we will never be able to live a fulfilled life. Gratitude arises from the understanding that we have more than we need, and that the journey of life is wonder-full, no matter its ups and downs.
As you can see, shopping doesn’t and can’t satisfy our emotional needs. We need to direct our attention elsewhere if we want to find true emotional fulfillment.