Why do we buy designer brands? Do they actually make us look and feel better or is it because they make us look better in the eyes of our peers?
I have been pondering over this question and yet often have succumbed to the advertisers and marketers strategy to make me part with unjustifiably large amounts of money with the promise of making me feel and look better.
Last Saturday was one of those days!
I decided to go for some shopping in a swanky mall in Delhi. Had no intention of making a major purchase, but a wonderful marketing strategy (50% -70% discount on all women’s wear accompanied by cheese and wine )by a store called Collective seemed too tempting an offer to just let slip by.
Jostling my way amongst the throngs of women who could not wait long enough to part with cash and in many cases –husbands credit cards, I too managed to find myself right in front of the queue with my husband’s credit card getting hotter with every swipe.
I walked away much heavier in weight and debt. Smile across my face at the huge savings that I had so proudly made. It was totally irrelevant that I had actually spent many zeros on a couple of dresses and a pair of sunglasses. What I was focusing on was the great deal that I had been privy to.
As soon as I got into the car, it hit me that I had recklessly spent a huge amount on things I really did not need.
I was still thinking about my insane purchase when suddenly I heard knocking and saw tiny hands on my car window. Standing outside was a tiny (barely 4 or 5) boy with his front tooth missing gesturing towards his mouth and his belly in a sign that I understood very well. I ignored him at first but the persistence of his gesturing and the inability of the car to move a few centimeters in the traffic made me press down my window and speak with him. He told me he was very hungry as he had not eaten the whole day! A part of me knew this was not true and that this was HIS marketing strategy to make me part with yet some more money. I was enjoying our little conversation and I think he was a step ahead of me as he kept playing along with me and being impertinent yet funny. He kept looking at the traffic light and started to get a bit impatient when he did not see my hand going into my purse. Eventually I gave him a 50 rupee note (just over 1 USD) and he scuttled away with a huge smile on his face and a massive thank you.
With the guilt factor having gone up a few notches , I got back to my reverie and now felt really miserable for having spent an obscene amount of money on dresses and eye wear. How could I spend so much money when 75% of my country was living in extreme poverty? How could I ever justify wearing a garment that could have probably fed a family of 4 for an entire month?
These thoughts led me to analyze my impulsive purchase followed by intense remorse.
Why do we really buy expensive designer wear or any of the status symbols for that matter? What is it that we really crave for?
I think it all boils down to attention and approval. It’s simply a matter of wanting to get noticed and admired. Unfortunately our self-esteem is not really SELF-esteem; it is more a case of peer opinion. If our peer group gives us their stamp of approval we feel good about ourselves. If we manage to incite any kind of envy, that too is a feather in our cap.
Our self-worth is very often related to our net worth and our confidence in ourselves moves with our bank balance. We judge others by the clothes they wear, the car they drive, and the house they live in and so on. By default we judge ourselves by the very same criterion.
I am often conflicted in my thoughts. Part of me hates this attitude of over indulgence and consumption beyond basic necessities and yet at the same time I am pained when I cannot satisfy my hedonistic desires.
Our comforts and incomes have gone up drastically but so have our demands and desires. There is always that gap which never seems to get filled however much we try.
Overconsumption is no more a disease of the west. So called third world countries are fast catching up with the notion that more is better and many of us are guilty of living up to that maxim.
Why, when once I would just dream of buying a small car and being able to travel at least once to a faraway land, do I today I scoff when I have to travel at the back of the plane or my ‘nice’ car is out of action?
What is it about us humans that never gets satisfied?
What do we really crave for?
Why do we always want more?
Is it wrong to aspire for more?
Should we all just become desire less?
But then if there was no desire, would there still be growth? Is it not desire that prompts drive which then leads to growth?
My question has not yet been answered and am still looking for that eureka moment when it will come to me.
Till then I leave you to ponder and share what you think??
Shveitta Sethi Sharma
Chief Happiness Officer
School of Happiness