Lifestyle Envy

What on earth is a ‘lifestyle’? And where do I get one?

From tea-bags to wall-paper, if the advertising’s true, then none of our choices are neutral.   Whether it’s a nubile twenty-something parachuting to the strain of ‘Woooah Bodyfoorm’ or a hunky exec practically vomiting with excitement over his 714-blade razor, even the wrong choice of toothpaste can brand us ‘Losers’ in the lifestyle stakes.

It’s essentially a grown-up version of the playground cliques.  And as someone who’s naturally four steps behind the pack, this taps into a strong current of insecurity.  I want to fit in and belong – but also to  be an individual and stand out. And this is an interior crisis of sorts. But as John Lewis reminds me, it’s not existential. The problem is not with me, but my kitchen units. Nothing a strip of (Farrow and Ball) wallpaper can’t fix.

Surely we don’t take this sort of thing seriously.  Well,  unless you’re like Judy Rumbold, author of ‘Reasons Not to Move to the Country’. As the title suggests, she bought the lure of the glossy mags and sold up to live the dream – and repent at leisure. Now, says Rumbold,

“At least I know that, just out of shot, a dog is being sick and there are cupboards full of crap. People look at these pictures and imagine themselves living there, just as they look at Nigella on telly and imagine cooking something. Then what happens is, they stay where they are, in the same way as they get up after the programme and slam something in the microwave.”

But even if we don’t leap out of bed and buy a new conservatory, at the heart level these pressures have an impact.  Not only are we being sold a lie, we’re encouraged to view each other through warped comparisons. I rarely compare myself to my peers in third-world countries, or even the women of my grandparent’s generation, but I do wonder why I don’t look like Elle MacPherson or have the impact of Michelle Obama.

Those sun-drenched images of perfect people in perfect homes seem to offer freedom and  acceptance, but instead fuel envy and discontent. As a consumer, all too often, I’m the one being consumed.

4 thoughts on “Lifestyle Envy

  1. Hi Emma, great post again. I am just getting used to checking myself when I watch adverts, to see to whom is the advert directed( gender, age, class, etc), and what desire are they hoping to install or fan in to flame? The advertisers seem to know better than anyone else that what drives us is our hearts, not our rationality or moral ideals.
    If you have the time I would recommend you watched Adam Curtis’ Century of the Self (, which traces the developments of advertising and the rise of the idea of a “lifestyle” in the seventies.

  2. “As a consumer, all too often, I’m the one being consumed.”

    Truly spoken, Emma. My dad used to be in advertising. He has since repented but has been known to describe advertisement as something like: a deliberate attempt to convince an individual to spend money he cannot actually afford on things he really doesn’t need or want in order to try to impress people he often doesn’t even know or like.

    I’ve come to see our westernized culture as being a particularly fertile ground for cultivating “the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life” that believers are warned to guard against. It can be so easy to buy into the lie that life would be so much better if I just had x or lived in a different location or had more or less or at least an improved y. Unless I keep my eyes focused above the mess,my tendency is to be constantly trying to put out little spot fires every time I turn around.

  3. Hi David

    I’ll check out the link – looks very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to comment and point me to it.

  4. Hi Heather

    Great to hear from you – and fascinating to hear how your dad describes the ad process from the inside. I can really relate too to your experience of putting out ‘spot fires’ (great phrase) when I lose focus and start listening to the lies.

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