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  • Posted April 9th, 2014
    Materialism: how to let go

    Sally Lever is a coach, writer and facilitator on simple, sustainable life and livelihood. Here is a blog from Sally about four mistaken beliefs about materialism, with sustainable replacement beliefs. It’s a subject close to our hearts. Over to Sally…

    Materialism, or the “joy of ownership” seems to be valued in our society above other, simpler, more wholesome forms of happiness such as that experienced by spending time with loved ones, cooking a nourishing meal or witnessing a glorious sunset. This has become part of our conditioning and we have wound up believing that if we can only attain a particular level of material wealth then that will give us happiness, security and more leisure time.

    This conditioning is composed of a set of beliefs which we live by and which we use to support the choices we make everyday.  This article describes a few of those unhelpful materialistic beliefs and suggests some new sustainable ones with which to replace them.

    Let me give you some examples of how this works in practice:

    Materialist belief number 1: “My own initiative is not good enough and I don’t have the time to think through tasks.”

    When we hold this belief we think that we have to own specialist items and time saving gadgets. As a consequence of this we buy many items for many different tasks. A more sustainable solution is to use one item for many tasks. E.g. in the kitchen, one high quality kitchen knife will replace a lot of specialist cutting and slicing gadgets. This might well involve us spending more time on food preparation, although there will probably be some time saved on washing up!

    Replacement Sustainable Beliefs:

    • I can distinguish between what is a genuine specialist task and what isn’t.
    • I have the initiative to solve problems cost effectively and without being seduced by the latest gadgetry.
    • I know my own strengths and weaknesses.
    • I am discerning and spend money wisely.
    • I am slowing down my life in order to live more sustainably. So, I have more time to spend on tasks that are important to me.

    Materialist Belief number 2:  “I must stay up-to-date in order to gain the approval of others.”

    When we hold this belief we are slaves to fashion and new technology. The idea of fashion as something of importance is constructed by those businesses whose motive, above everything else, is to make money. We are led to believe that making a good impression with others is dependant on us owning the latest model (car, computer, cell-phone, fitted kitchen…).

    Replacement Sustainable Beliefs:

    • I am free to choose when and whether to spend money.
    • I use my financial energy to express my authenticity and to support those businesses that are in alignment with my values.


    Materialistic Belief number 3: “I can only love myself if I look good and own the right things.”

    This, I think, is a misunderstanding of what it is to be authentic.  Genuine authenticity leads to us finding true happiness from within rather than seeking temporary relief from suffering from external items (or indeed other people). For example, fashions in clothing change traditionally with the seasons. It is not necessary for most of us to buy new clothes every season or indeed every year. What is more sustainable is to recycle unwanted or worn out clothes when necessary and replace with the same number or fewer items.  We can celebrate our individuality and style by being creative in how we combine and use the items in our wardrobe rather than continually extending the range of clothes we own.

    Replacement Sustainable Beliefs:

    • I love myself unconditionally and my radiant appearance reflects that.
    • I own what is just enough for me.
    • I know what it is to be authentic and spend my money in alignment with that.
    • I look wonderful when I wear what is right for me, regardless of fashion.
    • Real beauty radiates from within.

    Materialistic Belief number 4: “I need to own certain things in order to feel secure.”

    Perhaps it’s a watch, so you can always keep an eye on the time, or perhaps for you it’s a dog if you live alone or a car if you are not confident in relying on public transport. We are each of us different in how important security is to us and what makes us feel secure.

    What if we didn’t have that item that we believe is so essential?

    I used to own health insurance, mainly because it was given to me as part of my employment package when I was an employee. On reviewing the situation when I became self-employed, I realised that I had been using the health insurance as a prop and an excuse for not paying sufficient attention to maintaining my health and looking after myself. So, I decided to take back the responsibility for my health and instead opted to spend the money on dietary supplements plus guidance and support for my wellbeing through coaching and complementary therapy.

    Replacement Sustainable Beliefs:

    • I take responsibility for my own feelings of security.
    • I am aware of my fears.
    • I can distinguish between what I really need to feel secure and what I want to own as a substitute for taking responsibility for myself.

    We can learn a great deal from examining our intentions behind what we spend our money on. When we are at peace with that, it becomes easy to let go of materialism.

    © Sally Lever 2014  www.sallylever.co.uk

    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


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