Everything I Like Is Bad But Is Feeling Guilty About It Helpful?
Top- Charity Shop, Second Hand (similar
Jeans- Vintage YSL, Armstrongs Edinburgh (similar
Coat- Charity Shop, Second Hand (similar
Bag- Zara (old, similar
As a society, and more specifically as a generation, we seem to be becoming more and more aware of how many aspects of our lives are harmful, whether that’s sustainably, ethically, psychologically- the list goes on. Every couple of months there seems to be a new realisation on how a fundamental part of many of our lives is not as innocent as we thought.
Fashion and buying clothes? That’s the second biggest polluter in the world. A mindless scroll through Instagram? The cause of all your insecurities. Reading a book, surely nothing wrong with that? Think again, do you know how many trees are killed to make one book? Eating anima... Oh wait, I’ve got this one down, I’m vegan so we’re all good there. Wait what? Palm oil is destroying rainforests and is in a whole lot of vegan products including... Oreos?? It all feels like too much.
I’m not saying that we should just be ignoring all these facts and statistics and that people are being ‘snowflakes’ (I hate that term) about these things- we shouldn’t and they’re not. Our consumption of fast fashion is excessive and is causing too much harm to our planet; social media can negatively affect people’s mental health (although this one isn’t as straightforward as others in my opinion, read my blog post discussing this here); kindles are much more environmentally friendly than a hard or paperback and palm oil is destroying rainforests. But I love buying and styling new clothes, social media is a HUGE part of my life, palm oil is in a lot of vegan products and is very difficult to avoid and well, to be honest, I just really don’t like kindles... perhaps I’m being a little stubborn with this one.
These justifications all sound a little trivial, I’m aware. But trivial or not, all of these things with negative impacts on our world are big parts of my life that I don’t know how, nor do I necessarily want to, be completely rid of.
(DISCLAIMER:Obviously there are countless more aspects of life that have negative impacts but these are the ones that I think are most relevant to my life, which is why I’ve used them as examples.)
So what I’m saying is, it’s impossible for me, and I’m hoping others too otherwise this post is pointless and I’m seriously weak-willed, to just cut anything with a potentially negative impact totally out of their lives. For me, even reducing my consumption/usage of these thing also proves difficult. So instead, lots of people, me being one of them, are talking about making a ‘conscious effort’ to reduce their intake of something/s that are harmful. But sometimes, at least for me and seemingly for some others, this just seems to be away of saying ‘I’m aware that this is bad and I know I should change my habits but I don’t know how to and therefore I probably won’t or at least not enough to make material change’.
Changing your mindset is one thing but changing your habits is another, much more difficult thing to do. So how do we do it? I honestly have no answer. In fact, I have many questions! And I think raising awareness of all of these things is great but what we really need is solutions that aren’t extreme but are practical, do-able steps that people can follow to try and change the way they live. I’m aware that in writing this blog post just to say this, I’m being a little hypocritical. But I don’t feel qualified to provide any answers and if anything this post is a cry for help and a call to arms to people who might be reading this who have managed to stop buying fast fashion or cut palm oil out of their diet to help us all and provide tips that don’t scare anyone, including me, off (I think I mentioned my weak will earlier?)
It’s also just a post to vocalise how I feel about the current climate being one in which we have to think about the ethical implications of everything we do, which can often make us feel a little bit helpless. And this is how I feel right now. I really want to find ways to deal with all of the problematic things I mentioned earlier and all of the other problematic elements of my life and habits that I haven't mentioned. But I also don’t feel like I can suddenly change pretty much every part of my life, big and small, which comes with a sense of guilt that isn’t really helpful or productive.
For example, I recently set myself a challenge of not buying any new clothes in November and failed a few weeks in (damn you Black Friday). But, for the most part anyway, telling myself I couldn't buy any clothes only made me want to shop more and left me with a list of things I was going to buy when this terrible month (I'm joking, kind of) was over, so it did anything but change this habit of mine and seemingly only made it worse.
I think manageable steps will work better for me and this is what I want to try and focus on but it still feels like I'm failing because I'm not doing enough in doing this. I feel like this despite the fact that manageable steps have proven to be more sustainable long-term for me. For example, every piece of clothing I'm wearing in this photo was bought second-hand, and I didn't even put these pieces together intentionally. So why do I feel guilty about not doing enough?
Changing our habits slowly doesn't bring the same sense of gratification as totally giving them up does, but I think sometimes the latter method is used only to prove yourself; for example, not buying any clothes for a month, posting about it all over social media, and then buying double the amount of clothes you'd usually buy the next month. I'm not writing this method of going cold turkey completely off as I'm sure it has worked for some people. But the narrative that the only way we can keep our conscience clear is by giving up things completely and the sense of guilt that comes with not doing this is unproductive and unsustainable.
Like I said, this post isn't providing answers. It's purely an attempt to vocalise how I feel about the societal guilt surrounding more and more things in our life and to consider how productive this is. Making a 'conscious effort' doesn't feel like enough but going cold turkey isn't a feasible option for many people, so how do we change our habits in a positive, sustainable way without feeling guilty about not doing enough? I'd love to hear your ideas on how we should deal with all the issues society is discovering with its ever-growing ethical, environmental , psychological (etc.) awareness without having to feel a sense of shame about everything we do. Let me know in the comments or on social media, and please share any links to resources you've found helpful on this topic!