Can we unlearn ‘wanting’ while it’s still a choice?

A question that has been playing on my mind – on loop – for some time now is can we unlearn ‘wanting’ before it’s no longer a choice? Before we are forced to do and be without because we wanted for things that didn’t truly serve us? Wanting for things that filled emotional voids? Wanting for things that fuelled our self-entitlement to a belief that we are ‘better’ than others with less?

When I chose to walk away from my hair and makeup profession after two decades, it was precisely that…a choice. Choice, I have learned, is not a thing. It’s something we do. Choice is an action. Every choice comes with consequences and compromises. That is their nature. I think we know this innately, but we forget this fact, and in forgetting, we make bad choices – for our long-term capacity to flourish. Timing is another factor. 

Choice is also entwined with emotion, and I’m beginning to understand that we cannot – truthfully – separate that fact. When something we ‘want’ is taken from us abruptly, it’s not just a thing that becomes absent from our lives – regardless of how superficial it may be in the greater scheme of things. It’s the way that item/object made you feel. It’s the void it filled. It’s the belief that it contributed to you believing you are of more value to society. Perhaps it’s a memory. Of course, when your ability to make a choice is taken from you, it is a whole other story. And one for another time.

A woman holds up an Amazon box, but the Amazon smile is upside down
A recycled image from my beloved UNTAINTED Magazine. The shoot was titled "Think Outside the Box' and it explored themes of beauty packaging waste and creative ways to use products for purposes other than their intended use. Photo: Aks Huckleberry, Muse: Rebecca Pearson, Hair, Makeup & Creative Direction by me.

Conscious Consumerism: A red-herring?

I want to be clear here, in case my ramblings are too diluted in detail. I am questioning our superficial wants (irrespective of how these objects of desire are produced) not our genuine needs. I’m also keeping this musing devoid of specific examples to not confuse those who cannot see past the ‘singular’ nor understand that the concept of this thought can be applied to all and any.

I’m complicit. I, like you, am only human. I desire beautiful things made with care. I buy things to ‘fill space’. And then I blink, and I feel suffocated by things that I didn’t truly need.

If I am honest, I don’t know that we can as a society. Not before it’s our wanting is ripped away because of biodiversity collapse and climate breakdown put a hard stop on natural resource availability. That’s the pessimist in me. We are so conditioned to misuse ‘want’ and ‘need’. We will never solve overconsumption if we are only ever looking at the symptoms. Not considering the emotional tangibility of desire for ‘stuff’. Stuff that fills but never truly fulfils.

Of course, I am not the only one who thinks these things. There are many before me (this is, after all, what minimalism is rooted in. Gandhi, of course, a Master in this way of life, as too are the Buddhists who have sought spiritual enlightenment for centuries) and many will follow.

The optimist in me, however, hopes that we can unlearn wanting, like those who have come before and proven it possible. It is hope that drives me to help contribute to solutions that drive change. A change in how we think, see and feel about the world we want to live in and work for (in the flawless words of Donella Meadows). A change in how we value the beauty that nature has to offer, in how time with loved ones is what we strive for, in how doing things over owning things can make our world a richer, more vibrant place to exist. 

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