Self-Branding – The Ultimate Narcissism!

Has anyone else noticed this pervasive trend for self-branding? It makes me sick! People think that they can package up who they are and often try to make this meaningless mash of skills into their career, with the end of marketing themselves as brand. Now, I have no problem with this if you actually have a legitimate career – we all know that, for example; painters and decorators, builders, plumbers and so on often like to use their name as their brand. To me, this makes perfect sense. I do it myself because I am a sole trader and have a state registered profession that is my career. People in these kinds of jobs will also have many years of training behind them, at recognised institutions like colleges and universities.

What irks me is people who have a blog and think that blogging is a legitimate self-promotion path which qualifies them to market themselves as a writer, editor, copy-writer, personal and/or life coach, some kind of entrepreneur and God knows what else! The reality is that they have qualifications for none of these things and often, no paid experience to back it up. Fromm suggested that narcissists objectify partial aspects of their personality they identify themselves with, such as intelligence, reputation and wealth etc.

It just makes me want to vomit. You are not a brand, you are a person – yes, you are unique – yes and you certainly may have some skills. But please don’t use your blog and your social media accounts to promote yourself as something you are not. Actually, the people most likely to be using social media etc are those with narcissistic tendencies. Their pages are all about strategic self-promotion and and self-presentation. Social media presents a large opportunity to show off and users identify themselves with their displayable qualifications.

This kind of self-promotion is at best mis-leading and I bet these people don’t realise that, at worst – it could lead to legal action against them if something goes wrong. Do you know that you need to hold public liability insurance if you are going to act as a life coach? You need professional indemnity cover and you need legal cover, to protect you from libel and slander? Usually a condition of all these types of insurance is that you are working within the scope of your skills, in your field of practice. It would not hold up in a court of law to say that felt you had skills in life coaching because you’d written about how you changed your own life, on your blog.

Ultimately, I want to get across the message to be careful – both if you are looking for something on the web and if you are thinking of promoting yourself as providing some kind of service. If you are contemplating life-coaching, for example; make certain that whoever you are considering has some professional training and qualifications. For goodness sake, don’t just find someone and go with them because they make themselves sound good on their blog. Just because they managed to change their own life and influence some people digitally, it does not mean that they have a single ounce of skill that would allow them to coach someone else to do this! They probably count the number of comments on their blog as valid indicators of change/success.

Check out their qualifications, make sure they’ve not been purchased from some phoney online University or cheap correspondence course. Make sure they actually have some qualifications! The same applies if you are thinking of hiring someone to write some content for you, or an on-line article perhaps. For goodness sake, find someone with real experience at an actual newspaper or similar. Make sure they have a degree in journalism or the English language. If you want someone to speak at an event, make sure they have plenty of relevant experience doing so before. A lot of people ‘could’ get up in-front of an audience, but it doesn’t mean that they would be engaging, funny or worthwhile listening to.

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What Impact Does Our Consumer Culture Have On Our State Of Mind?

It’s the New Year, a time when many of us make resolutions to stick to good habits. Many people will be committing to buy less and spend less this year for all manner of reasons, be they thrifty, green, minimalist, zero waste and or just plain skint! Today I’m going to explore the impact of our consumer culture. Some people even choose to enforce a ‘No Spend Year’. This often comes after people have been pursuing the Minimalist lifestyle for a while and they start to realise how meaningless all their stuff is. Some people have triggers for this, such as; having to box up all their possessions to move which really forces you to evaluate absolutely everything that you have.

The ‘No Spend Year’ concept is simply an extension of ‘Buy Nothing Day’ which falls on Black Friday each year. An academic from The University of Sussex, Dr Helga Dittmar has been exploring the effect of our consumer culture on our well-being and identity. She has been examining what she has termed as ‘a materialistic value orientation’ or ‘MVO’ where people pursue and strive to spend money on expensive possessions to gain status. Alongside this, people who do so also have beliefs that these things will lead to a better life and make us happy.

She and her team have conducted a meta-analysis of over 200 research studies, where they have looked at all the existing studies that link MVO to personal well-being. This is a very robust study of the evidence and in the case of the aforementioned, means that the results are conclusive. MVO is linked to lower personal well-being, lower subjective well-being, increased negative self-appraisal such as low self-esteem, mental health problems (in-particular depression and anxiety) and also poorer physical health. As you can see, the more MVO a person is, the worse they are affected and interestingly, there are no positive attributes according to this study!

The advantages of spending less are that you are more organised with your time, organising free or low cost activities to replace your previous expensive habits. Your health may benefit as you spend less on eating out, junk food and alcohol. It may even force you to find new things, that you may never have considered before.Buying things can easily become addictive behaviour, bringing along with it a pressure to spend more and more due to our consumer culture. We are constantly bombarded by advertising which tries to persuade us to buy yet more. Advertising has become totally pervasive in our culture, it’s literally everywhere these days – on TV, on radio, on the internet, on billboards, in magazines and newspapers and more! It partly plays to our fear of not wanting to miss out on something that everyone else has. But they also ply us with subtle messages – ‘buy this and you will be happy’, ‘buy this and your relationship will be better’, ‘buy this and you will achieve the perfect body’ and so on. Consumer culture will try to sell us everything. However, the research shows that buying all this stuff has actually made us less happy. Psycho-pathologies have increased since the 1930s.

Ultimately, stripping away all this stuff will expose the real you and what matters is that you are a good person, happy and positive in yourself. Having stuff won’t necessarily make people like you. The research demonstrated that the most crucial aspect in getting the balance right in your life, is getting the right orientation towards money and material things. Having things is not inherently bad, but you do not need to have certain things in life. You can use the MVO in either a positive or a negative way, for example- if you seek status, you might become depressed which leads you self-medicate and this is a bad use of MVO which leads to lower well-being. Conversely, highly treasured personal possessions, are a record of your history and tell a very personal story of who you are and who you’ve been over time, who you’re connected with, they are symbols of your personal relationships and are a form of self-expression – these can have a positive effect. The study particularly looked at life transitions, such as going into a nursing home in older age. In this situation, if you are allowed to take your treasured personal possessions, you are not only happier – you actually live longer!

So, in the light of all this you might want to consider taking up a musical instrument, singing in a choir, learning a new art or craft. I also think this research shows that we should make time for small items that can make a big difference to our well-being; like flowers, perfume or a good moisturiser. Of course, what brings joy to one person will be completely different for another but try to keep it simple – so no purchasing of a Ferrari! Consider purchasing items that allow you to spend time with others; like a meal out, or travelling together, or to see someone important.

This blog post was inspired by today’s episode of Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. If you are in the UK, you should be able to catch up on iPlayer. If you are interested in the work of Dr Helga Dittmar, then you can look here for more information or read her book on the topic. The author of this book was also featured in the podcast – Michelle McGagh – The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More. I have added that book to my reading list!

 

Minimalism and social media

If you’re going to be successful and stay on track as a Minimalist, then it pays to be very aware of how social media can influence you. Not only is it a way to keep in contact with friends, it can be a real emotional drain, financial nightmare and a massive time sink. My tops tips for keeping social media within healthy limits are to minimise everything! That way you can keep it manageable. (This post will be primarily Facebook related, since that is the main site I use).

  1. First of all, cull your friends list as much as possible. I used to have hundreds of ‘friends’. Then you realise you’re sharing your life with people who you only met once or who you knew 20 years ago, when you were at school. You have no idea who they are now or what they could be doing with your information. So get rid of them! I now have 9 friends on social media, I cut it down to all but my closest friends who I see regularly. It might mean that you offend some people, but just have a gentle chat with them or send them an email to explain that it’s nothing personal and you’d actually rather see them in person. It’s actually much nicer when you meet up with someone and they don’t know everything that’s happened to you recently, that way you actually have something to talk about! I used to see so many photos from friends that made me feel bad about my life – surely unintentional on their part. But if you can’t afford or aren’t able to take world trips, seeing that kind of thing can send you down. Seeing other people’s posts of their partner, family or children can actually be really hurtful if that’s not a part of your life right now. I am a lot less depressed now that I choose not to compare myself with others through this media.
  2. Limit the audience for your posts, photos etc and keep everything really close to your chest. Nothing I share on social media is in the public domain because I don’t want total strangers finding pictures of me via Google. This is also helpful when it comes to employment as well, as most employers apparently now Google their employees to check up on them. I have been horrified at how little some parents seem to know about this. I have seen really personal information about people’s children or hospital treatment via ‘friends of friends’. When I have contacted them to let them know, they have been surprisingly off-hand about it! People who share that level of personal information about you are not true friends! Remember, you have no control over your information once you put it into the public domain, or even into that of your friends.
  3. Unlike every brand and page you can, keeping only what is really relevant, edifying and interesting to you. Most brands will use their page to promote stuff they want to sell you. You really don’t need to opt into that kind of subtle advertising on a voluntary basis! Cut it out of your life and you’ll find yourself wanting a lot less. You’ll also find your feed is much less cluttered.
  4. Be wary of pages that people create, or selling groups. A lot of the time they just want to sell you something. Whether it’s craft items they’ve made, deals they post about, or second hand items. You’re opening yourself up to a feed of stuff you don’t want or need, but they’ll try to make you think that you do. A lot of people now actively target social media users and when they post about an item their child, or they really want – they reply with a link to that item, a supposed great deal. Talk about temptation! All you’ll be doing is handing them a big chunk of affiliate cash, along with the company. I just don’t think people need this kind of thing in their lives. Bloggers and other personalities like this are the new form of advertising. The trouble is that this side of advertising isn’t regulated at all.
  5. Every day, Facebook pops up with ‘memories’ for me nowadays. They choose things from your timeline that they think you’d like to see. Sometimes you don’t want to be reminded or certain events, so I take this opportunity to review and edit my past (as it were!) That way, I won’t be reminded of it again next year.
  6. If you’ve created pages that you no longer need or use, then delete them. This takes a little time, perhaps a week or so but that tidies up your homepage.
  7. Check your profile page and remove all your personal information – your friends already know where you live, what your phone number is, how old you are, when your Birthday is or your relationship status etc. Don’t put this kind of information into the public domain. Click the tabs for ‘about’ and get rid of your work history, education and so on. I mean really, it’s all just a way for people to show of and your real friends don’t care about this! Get rid of links to your personal websites and pages on other social media. You’re just creating a trail that anyone could try to follow. I know that sounds sinister, but my other half had a talk at his school from the Police and what they shared was enough to make you want to get rid of social media altogether. I don’t think many Police use it!
  8. Try as I might, I can’t delete the ‘people you may know’ section – it’s another example of a nasty way that Facebook tries to lure you in, to friending people you don’t really know.
  9. Consider whether you really need Facebook at all. This applies equally to other social media. I got rid of LinkedIn that so many people told me I needed to have, as a professional. All it did for me was generate spam friend requests from desperate people. I didn’t need to spend all my time deleting and blocking randoms! My life has never been calmer since getting rid of it. I’d actually love to get rid of Facebook, but from time to time find it useful- for staying in touch with friends on the other side of the world, or because it makes it easy and quick to contact brands with complaints or compliments!
  10. Check boxes to make sure that friends can’t post photos or other statuses about you, before you get to review them. That way you act as your own editor. You may not want photos of your children at someone else’s house being posted.
  11. Remember to check all of this regularly, it’s easy for time to slip by and you forget what you put up there! As I was writing this, I edited my profile down a bit more too. It’s a good reminder.
  12. Stay safe online – don’t message people you don’t know and be especially careful in public groups, where all your posts are automatically public. Delete the Facebook app from your phone if you have it and turn off your chat feature, so you don’t get distracted. You’ll find your life a lot calmer if you don’t have constant notifications in real time. They will all still be there later and they probably aren’t that important!
  13. Consider unliking brands etc and only liking them again if you need to, like say you want to contact them to complain. That way they won’t clog up your newsfeed.
  14. You can use different settings for each of your friends, so if you have someone who’s overly political on Facebook- set it do they don’t appear in your newsfeed and infuriate you on a daily basis 😉
  15. I’m not sure if you can do this now, but you might consider using a nickname for Facebook. This is quite important if you are in a profession such as teaching or healthcare, where you don’t want pupils, patients or clients trying to ‘friend’ you.
  16. Consider setting a time limit for social media, so that you don’t spend so much time on it. Some people even give it up for Lent, you could try a self-imposed ban – perhaps at weekends or on Sundays? Spend some quality face-to-face time with people or pets you love instead.

I hope these tips help you to simplify your online life. If you implement them all you’ll find you’re spending a lot less time on social media, since there’s nothing much to read. Some more tips will be coming soon. Thanks for reading 🙂

 

False Advertising

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What’s with all the Christmas advertising this year regarding having your best Christmas ever?! It seems worse than usual to me, it’s the mainstay of several UK stores campaigns. Wilko’s tagline is “Bring home your best Christmas”. Asda’s tagline is “Christmas made better”. Swarovski are saying that you must ‘give brilliant’. Since when did stores get so arrogant? I’m all for retailers helping you to achieve ‘Christmas’, after all we all want to buy a little special food to celebrate the day. We may wish to buy a few gifts, or experiences. That’s what makes Christmas different from every other day of the year. But it’s this year I’ve really noticed them piling on the pressure for people to buy more and more. Maybe it’s just that I’ve got fresh eyes now I’m further down the road on my minimalist journey.

In fact the only retailer I’ve seen peddling a different message is Sainsbury’s, who are pioneering an advertising campaign centred on a harassed dad who’s trying to find his family ‘the greatest gifts’. It ends when he discovers the greatest gift he could give anyone is his time. It’s refreshingly different, even if I find the song that accompanies it rather irritating. At the end of the day, a huge part of Christmas is meeting up with people you love and sharing a meal. I think that is a truly great thing – sharing conversation, food, laughter, a few silly hats and a walk in the afternoon.

But, Christmas IS just another day – albeit a special day – but it doesn’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to keep ‘besting’ last year and no amount of stuff, including food is going to stop the odd family argument. After all, you’re probably going to be couped up with these people for a few days! So relax, enjoy it for what it is and take it as it comes. Happy Christmas Everyone!

Minimalist bloggers pushing the same old consumerist culture

I’m always keen to follow bloggers whose content I enjoy reading and find helpful. However, I’ve recently become really disillusioned with a whole bunch of them. It seems like every single post they make is all about self-promotion and pushing their latest wares- be it book, film, DVD or e-book. It all amounts to the same for me- namely visual and mental clutter!

I think I feel disheartened because the whole idea of being Minimalist or Zero Waste, to me- is about being counter-cultural. That means going against the flow, the norms and what society expects of us. It’s one thing getting the message out there and it’s quite another pushing product, that ultimately has one purpose- to make people money. I understand that everyone has to make a living, but I’ve always thought that the most humble and honest way to do that is through living out that lifestyle whilst living a ‘normal’ life, holding down a ‘normal’ job.

The internet has brought about the rise of blogging, social media and things like Facebook or Instagram. Whilst these can be useful tools, they are also now pillars of Western consumerist culture. Tonnes of brands use them to make more money and we have witnessed the rise of bloggers and vloggers as celebrities. As I write this, I am preparing to go and ‘unlike’ a bunch of formerly helpful and informative bloggers. Sadly they have succumbed to the lure of cash and our consumerist culture. I will be a lot less irritated without these surreptitious adverts creeping into my inbox or newsfeed.

I hope this blog is an honest and personal exploration of the concepts of Minimalism and Zero Waste- advert free! I sincerely wish never to go down that consumerist path.