Being an advert for your way of life

Here’s a question – would people look at you and be persuaded that your way of life is a good sort of life? Out there in the mainstream, this has everything to do with conforming to the standards laid out in adverts and in media representations. It’s simply a case of whether you look as affluent and successful and fashionable as you can. For those of us who have adopted alternative lifestyles, it’s worth wondering now and then how other people see us.

How we look tends to be a direct consequence of how we live, plus the choices we make around appearance. For the purposes of this piece I’m not talking about any inbuilt differences not subject to influence by lifestyle.

Do we want to be taken seriously? And by whom? And does that mean we need to conform to their expectations around appearance? Do we want to be seen as different, or as drop outs, social rejects, hippies, weirdoes… do we want to be accepted and respected in our differences, or do we want to be camouflaged when dealing with people who are not like us?

If we genuinely want to change things in the world, we need to persuade people that the alternatives are good and the conventions less good. We need to function as adverts for our beliefs, because we are competing with the vast advertising budgets of capitalist consumerism. If we look persuasive, we may persuade others that it isn’t all bean curd and hair shirts, and that you can live a low impact life without being miserable. If we took away the commercial advertising and judged conventional living on its consequences, people would be a good deal less persuaded by it.

When I’m walking for transport, I make a point of smiling cheerfully at the long queues of traffic I frequently pass. I generally am happy when I’m walking, I look like someone who is having a good time, and I see the faces in the slow moving cars and know that they are not. I’m the one with the freedom of the open road. However, all some people will see is that I go everywhere in walking boots and that there’s often mud around my ankles. A person for whom shiny shoes trumps everything is never going to be persuaded by me as an advert for walking everywhere.

I’m not an advert for being an author. I have no problem with this. I’m fairly representative of the 95% of authors who do not earn anything like enough to live on. We could do with a lot more realism about how the industry works, and the odds of even earning a minimum wage by writing.

We’re all of us in a constant process of expressing our values and the consequences of our way of life to everyone else – through our actions and how we look and seem. It’s worth taking a step back and wondering how you look to other people, if you’re interested in making change. Are you persuasive? Are other people going to wish they were more like you?

And if the conclusion you come to is that from the outside your way of living is not attractive or persuasive, or that no one would want the kind of life you have, there may be other questions to ask.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Being an advert for your way of life

  • Carla

    My outward appearance says zero about my way of life. Too a passer by I am just another office worker on the subway. I don’t really feel the need to persuade people that my way is better or makes me happier than they are it probably wouldn’t, everyone is quite different. What fulfills me and brings me joy isn’t for everyone and that is ok, why should I try to show I am super happy thanks to the choices I made?

    • Nimue Brown

      You are of course entirely welcome to that opinion. The point of my post (in my mind at least) was that for those of us who want to change humanity’s relationship with the plant to reduce or end extinctions and avoid climate change need to find ways to persuade people who do not think they can do without massive and unsustainable consumption. Big business spends a fortune on advertising unsustainable lifestyles, there is no budget for the alternatives, little voice for it – so I would encourage people who really want to make a difference not just to live the difference, but become an advert for it. If you don’t have anything you feel you need to persuade other people to take onboard that’s fine, and I guess this post wasn’t for you – which is also fine really.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I would imagine many people would be horrified by the way that I live. Imagine no hot water, bare adobe walls and a rough concrete floor, functional but not stylish furniture, no kitchen, and living inside one’s shop. Horrors!

    Now imagine the flip side. First everything is paid for and always has been, neither the furniture nor the building ever will need to be replaced in my lifetime. My home as a shop, finances itself, taxes, maintenance, utilities, even internet service. It even produces most of my electricity though solar panels. There is no travel time between work and home My physical work level is very low and I spend most of my time looking up things that I enjoy looking up, but it gives me something to do, and allows me to constantly meet people, from often far away without going anywhere, while giving my the hours of personal alone time that is necessary for my own happiness. I am not one to socialize, nor am I ever going to invite people over to party. I have no one that I desire to impress. Therefore, it matters not to me what others might think about my lifestyle. I believe that is a facet of being free

    • Nimue Brown

      Get beneath the surface just a little bit and your way of life has so much to recommend it – that you have a rich and fulfilling life, and more material security than people who have more stuff comes through loud and clear in what you say. I find what you share massively inspiring.

  • Heather Awen

    Because of the value system most people have, not much I do would appeal to them. Plus due to MCS I can’t use shampoo or lotion (ALL are toxic) and there are no organic bras for larger breasts, so I’ll never look like what people with mainstream values or fashionista hipsters would want.

    There’s no way to package how hard my lifestyle is in a way someone would want it. People applaud it but they don’t change at all.

    I think what is fundamentally wrong is people have a bizarre new idea that happiness is a norm at all times and if you falter you have problems. The Happiness Trap really helped me. Chasing happiness doesn’t work. Living a life you value does. My ancestors never would have expected to be happy a lot. We even call some emotions “negative!” I want people to feel safe to express all emotions. Activism can be heartbreaking. This is reality.

    I want the premise that constant happiness is the norm and goal to stop. If people do a different way of life because it looks happy, they’ll leave it like everything else they dispose when they see it’s still them with the same emotions. They’ll consume religions, cultures, diets, clothing, cars, etc and all ends up in a landfill in the end.

    I’d rather say It IS hard but it’s worth it, life’s not easy, so since you’ll struggle and suffer, what values are the ones you’ll follow regardless of how you feel that day? You can’t control emotions but you can control how you live.

    It’s a paradigm shift.

  • CindyW

    Nimue – I get the point you’re making and would have to agree. I know a younger woman who is mostly vegan, a medical intuitive, and permaculture gardener. She lives in what was a decrepit neighborhood until she moved in – she’s attractive, her partner/husband is attractive, their home space is attractive, and she is an excellent ad for her lifestyle. I on the other hand am not, and to some degree don’t care, though I love beauty more than my constrained life (by lack of money & perhaps imagination) shows. This young woman, also a blogger, isn’t so limited. I do believe she’s swung people over to interest in gardening/reiki/etc because of how pretty/happy/fulfilled her life appears. plus she did some hard physical work to make that lovely garden and add to her world.

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