It is like having this friend that you have known for years and years. They are interesting, and fun to be around. They always manage to lift your mood. You love how unique and individual they are. They remind you of home.
But deep down you know something is amiss. Maybe their values just don't align with yours. Maybe there are some things they just prefer to keep to themselves.
This doesn’t sit well with you. So you try to relieve the tension and attempt to explain it away. Even respectfully try to spark a conversation with them about it, but to no avail.
But this friend is a brand. Those incongruent values are linked to the environment, and that lack of transparency is related to the supply chain.
You wonder is it OK to be a part of the ethical and sustainable movement (advocate for it even) when you are still friends with this 'not so good' brand?
Cognitive dissonance explained
This internal conflict that I, and maybe you, have been experiencing is known as cognitive dissonance. This theory was proposed by cognitive psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954 to describe the inconsistency that occurs between our thoughts and/or actions, that leads to discomfort (or dissonance).
Like the example above, we find ourselves confronted with two opposing ideas that are inconsistent, and are therefore trying to decide between the two conflicting options. We may try to relieve this tension in one of many ways, for example, explaining away or simply rejecting the presence of the conflict, or by finding a way of reconciling the difference.
A personal example
I really started questioning my lifestyle choices around four years ago when I moved to London. In particular, I became interested in ethical and sustainable practices within the industry, and the impacts these have on the individuals (both worker and consumer) involved, and the environment.
I have come a long way since then. I find myself analysing the wardrobe I own, investigating fibres and questioning who made my clothes. I buy a lot less, and if I do need something I try to either make it myself, or do my research and try to choose better brands.
But I am not perfect and I think that is the key here. It is OK to not be perfect at achieving a socially and environmentally responsible lifestyle, and to admit it.
I am vegetarian, but not yet vegan. I won't hesitate to fly again once travel restrictions ease. I still have plastics in my pantry and bathroom. I am also guilty of loving a brand that is one of those 'friends', and indulging in them recently.
An ethical and sustainable lifestyle isn't always a lot of fun, it can be challenging, and sometimes inaccessible. Especially during a pandemic.
So what is important?
Keeping the conversation going. We need to take on the role of activist as well as citizen and consumer. Fashion is a massive global industry, and it might feel like our choices are small, and insignificant, but our actions can, and are, making a difference.
Choosing the least worst option when we can, and not beating ourselves up if that isn’t possible. We will do better next time. Would you shame someone else for what they buy or wear? Hopefully not. So why do you same to yourself.
Learn to love and care for what is already hanging in your wardrobe. If there are fast fashion pieces that don't conform to your current values, don't dispose of, or ignore them. Disposing of these items is only going to increase their environmental impact.
If you’re like me, and you are still struggling to break free of that one brand, try identifying why you continue indulge in them. Maybe, like me, the brand acts as a connection to your home. In doing so, you will have the potential to change your incongruent habits, and replace them with something more closely aligned with your values.
Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment, and let me know about your (im)perfect journey to a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle. Maybe you even have one of those friends you can’t break free of.