We’ve talked about how you are not your possessions and how having more things doesn’t help or define you. But our world is set up to tell you who you are in order to get you to buy things. They want you to feel a certain way because they know that nobody buys a thing for the sake of the thing, they buy it to solve a problem or give them a feeling. So if they want to sell more stuff, they have to make you feel like you need it.

To do that, they have to point out problems you never knew you had and suggest feelings you’re missing out on. If they can make you feel bad about yourself, they can sell you the remedy. They’ll make you feel like you’re not pretty enough, not cool enough, behind the times. They’ll tell you that you smell, or that you need to treat yourself (you do, but not always the way they want you to). They’ll suggest that you can only be happy if you have a boyfriend/holiday/vodka/Xbox/diamond/facelift/lottery win/iPad/car.

What if we actually bought everything that they told us? Treat yourself, have a cake. Oh, you’re too fat, go on our diet plan. Dieting makes you miserable, have a bottle of wine. Wine isn’t helping, maybe you need a boyfriend. Use our dating service. Nobody will like you with clothes like that, buy more. You’re finding it hard to pay for all this, get a credit card. Now you can’t pay your bills, go for a short term loan. Bankrupt? Choose our lawyers and consider a lottery ticket or personal injury claim. This is what they want. For you to see yourself not as a person who needs a few things to live, but as a consumer of stuff. It’s not enough to have a car. You have to want to consume it – buy it, use it, stop caring about it, and want a new one long before you really need one. And for this to be how you view every purchase you make. That way you’ll buy more. They don’t care if this harms you or your relationships, how you see the world, or how much you have to work to buy crap you don’t care about. By then they’ve already sold it.

Life is not measured in the quantity of material items you grind through. The advertising companies want you to see yourself as a consumer because they want your money. You don’t have to see yourself this way. In fact, it hurts you to accept this view of yourself. You have to see your life as empty without stuff to fill it.

You also start to treat everything as disposable, and to see every experience or occurrence as having to deliver something to you. You start to feel entitlement, which is the opposite of gratitude. And it’s gratitude that connects you to your life, allowing you to fully appreciate it. Entitlement does the opposite. It convinces you that everything is owed to you, and then when you get it, you have already had any joy you might get from it, in the form of feeling superior. All that’s left is to move on to the next thing you deserve, because you’re still empty.

You are not a consumer. You’re a human being that occasionally needs to buy something. Even if you don’t change how much you buy, the change of mindset will help you get more life and joy out of what you do buy. Which must be worth a try.