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What Impact Does Materialism Have on the World?

[Podcast Interview of Natalie Viglione]

Interview of Natalie Viglione: In this segment of the podcast, I discuss materialism and greed with the hosts of the Drive Time Podcast in the UK which is run by the Voice of Islam station.

Our Materialistic Society: Is there an ultimate destination? The unrest and constant desire that drives our materialism is an evolutionary mechanism, but should we always give in to it? What can be the harm of following a materialistic lifestyle?

Guests include:

  • Dr. Muddassar Ahmed (Doctor in UK)
  • Dr. Sabrina Strings (Writer for New York Times)
  • Iram Woolley (Activist)
  • Natalie Viglione (Creator & Teacher of Team Gu & Disrupt Now)
  • Durre-Ajam Ahmad (Teacher of French and Spanish)
  • Aqeel Kang Shahid (Imam from West Birmingham)

Produced by: Prevish Huma & Samina Zaheer

And, no, while I am not religious at all, this is a topic that transcends any religion as it gets to the core of humanity.

This is a great conversation and I admire the topics that the Drive Time Podcast brings up.
Also, I've personally done a lot of research around materialism and greed because it causes a lot of stress in our world and keeps people in a negative cycle.

Striving for “things” has caused me strife because I thought that in my 20's this is how you achieve success. After achieving outward success while living in New York City, becoming a Vice President before I was 35, getting large six-figure paychecks, you could think that I "had it all" but the truth was that I did not. I was NOT living my truth. I was living for the large six-figure paychecks, but not living for MY PURPOSE. Those are two very different things.

In my segment with the hosts, we address:

  • What does it mean to be materialistic and why is it generally viewed in a negative light? 
  • Is it egotistical to buy things that we don't really need or use? And if we do need them, but we only use them for a little bit and then we don't really use them or throw them away? 
  • Why are some people materialistic and other people not? Some people may even have the same amount of wealth, they might have the same amount of money? 
  • The million-dollar question, does wealth and material goods buy happiness? 
  • How has media, especially social media, influenced this in the past decade? 
  • Is there a way in which materialism and free will could co-exist? 
  • How do you advise people if somebody tells you that I'm getting too involved in materialism and I’m still not satisfied? 


Hosts: What does it mean to be materialistic and why is it generally viewed in a negative light?

Natalie Viglione: You know, I think that greed and materialism go hand in hand. I think an easy definition of being “materialistic” is being preoccupied with possessions and the social image that they project. Having a focus on material things and trying to explain, love, for example, keeps people in a negative cycle.

Hosts: Is it egotistical to buy things that we don't really need or use?

And if we do need them, but we only use them for a little bit and then we don't really use them or throw them away?

Natalie Viglione: Yes, you know I think ego is definitely a driver in this desire and I've done a lot of personal development work on myself and I've actually done a lot of research on psychology around materialism and greed. It’s important that we enjoy the fruits of our labor but I think what can happen is many people are really buying things for the sake of saying “hey look at me owning [insert object here]” so other people can “see them being successful.”

Hosts: Why are some people materialistic and other people not? Some people may even have the same amount of wealth, they might have the same amount of money. And, the million-dollar question, does wealth and material goods buy happiness?

Natalie Viglione: Well, I mean there's a lot of people, as that old saying goes, that want to keep up with the Jones’ right? So, it means they always want to look like they're being successful and really need to ensure that other people see them buying bigger things, the new things, in order to level up the person down the block.

It is a status thing and it really is a way to make themselves LOOK good on the outside despite what may be happening on the inside, or what’s actually going on behind closed doors.

I think that having nice things is important, and being comfortable is one thing, but you know there's a whole other side to this that is about a darker path. I don't think, honestly, that money and buying things are positive or negative energy inherently. I think it is the behavior attached to these actions that are the drivers.

In my research, I found there are so many studies that show that materialism actually does drive people down a dark path, and I've been there in my life. No matter what new car, a new purse, or new shoes were purchased, it was a momentary fleeting of a “feel good” emotion. Then it’s just whatever because now it’s in the closet and what difference did it REALLY make?

There are a lot of studies published in the journal of Motivation and Emotion and the studies show as people became more materialistic their overall well-being diminishes, so you know their relationships, well-being, sense of purpose, those all diminish. But, as they became less materialistic, their well-being rises. So, there's a direct correlation there for sure and we’ve seen a lot of “successful” people that commit suicide so we do know that material things do NOT buy happiness.

Hosts: People talk about material items and whether they buy happiness and there are both sides of that, but from evidence, you know as you just said it, I've seen the studies as well that the most unhappiest of people in the world are the billionaires because they are competing with each other.

And, one more thing, how has media, especially social media influenced this in the past decade?

Natalie Viglione: Well, social media is the worst. In my space, I live in the social creative content and things that I create for clients wrap around social. What I know is that there are so many false and inauthentic people on social media.

The life that they tout is not real, and the fake pictures of their picture-perfect life are not real. Like, they all wear khaki colors every single day. How is that possible? [laughing] It's not real!

You know, what the camera doesn't capture is the real truth behind it and I think that there's a huge difference between how a person that handles their life and how they show up in the world can be very different than the person who wants to gloat. The gloaters - they’re the kind of human that are seeking attention and glory and this really keeps people in the stress mode wrapped around materialism.

Some people are looking at that on a daily basis and psychology around that shows that people are more depressed because of what they're seeing on social media asking “why doesn't my life look like that?” but the truth behind all of it is that what they see is not the truth and people aren't reminded of that frequently enough.

I mean people can get totally obsessed and maybe even possessed by thinking that “If I just have that car, THEN I will be successful like that person.” That's a very dark path that keeps us in a negative cycle.

Hosts: Right, as you mentioned, you might see some celebrities with nice cars and looking like they’re in good relationships but in fact, we don't know what's going on behind the camera.

So, Natalie, is there a way in which materialism and free will could co-exist? Essentially, no one is obligated to be materialistic, it is free will to want a different choice. So what do you think, is there any way in which material items/wealth and free will can exist?

Natalie Viglione: You know, I’ve thought a lot about that, and I think so but the truth of the matter is that it's not going to happen until people wake up. And, everyone has to wake up individually and it really will require healing and it will require deep-diving into personal development.

They've got to get to the core of why I am driven by what other people think of me for what I own. I can even use my own journey. I've done some work around stripping materialism and that greedy bone out of my body, and this is something I have to check myself on all of the time so it's an ongoing process.

You know, I think that if humans would really focus on experiences instead of owning that material item, think of how the world could change? Because free will IS choice - it’s all about our choices. Experiencing a new culture, a new city, a new way of life -- now the current times are a little crazy -- but if we can focus on experiences versus the 19 house mortgages and stop living one paycheck away from financial ruin then we’d be better off. Focus on creating experiences, then things would absolutely change. It wouldn’t just change the person that's making the change, but also it would reflect in the world because the world is really a mirror of our individual choices.

So I think we can but it's going to take a lot of individual hard work on each of our parts to change the way we look at material items and wealth.

Hosts: I think you’re right, you have a lot of experience with people in the field so how do you advise people if somebody tells you that I'm getting too involved in materialism and I’m still not satisfied?

Natalie Viglione: The first question is to ask why and to find out where this desire is coming from. The interesting thing is when you do deep-dive into the soul, we’ve got to think back to our childhood. When we think back, we have to ask what did I learn, because oftentimes these behaviors are learned by seeing what our parents did. How did they act?

I can bring my experience into the conversation. When I look back at my parents, I saw people who often struggled and so I had a very negative relationship with what money meant so when I went on my materialistic, greedy journey for money climbing that corporate ladder to get those bigger paychecks, I had to smack myself in the face and say “Wow, where is this coming from? What and who are you trying to appease? Why are you buying that expensive bottle of champagne, who are you trying to impress? The people around you or yourself?”

It was me, it was my problem, and it was my inability to be able to have a healthy relationship with my surroundings and money, in general, and let go of that materialistic energy to want to just consume so that other people could look at me and be like wow she's so successful. It’s about the deep dive inside yourself to really look at that learned pattern and that behavior, that program that's running in the background because it usually is 100% in the subconscious!

Hosts: And, when you realize that, then you change your behavior, right? Then you know it’s not going to give me this satisfaction and once you accept that, your attitude changes, doesn’t it?

Natalie Viglione: Yes, and you know it's also this energetic shift because you start to realize you can see the truth. I love quotes to see how other people think about these things and I really like Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his quote that I keep it close to me, he said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy, it is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

I love that because that also helps you shift your perspective and ask yourself why do I really want this thing? Is it a purpose-driven, intentional purchase, or am I just trying to have this thing because you know my friend got it, or I saw some fancy thing on social media that got caught in my brain and I want it because that person got it?

It's really all about checking yourself at the door every single time.

Hosts: Natalie's been a pleasure speaking to you this afternoon and we would love to say thank you so much once again!

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