You want to do good in the world, but when you try be a conscious consumer or find the best way to give back, you're hit with industry lingo, confusing certifications, conflicting opinions, and - oh wait - *loudspeaker voice* that's all the time we have folks because dinner isn't going to make itself.
According to the Harvard Business Review article, How to Deal with Constantly Feeling Overwhelmed, "The cognitive impact of feeling perpetually overwhelmed can range from mental slowness, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating or thinking logically, to a racing mind or an impaired ability to problem solve. When we have too many demands on our thinking over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue can also happen, making us more prone to distractions and our thinking less agile. "
We're overwhelmed with what to buy, where to go, how to live kindly and impactfully. Most people don't have an excess of time and energy to do the research, and there is a lot of information out there, which makes it difficult to know what to believe. I call this ethical overwhelm, and man, does it suck.
it shouldn't be so overwhelming and complicated to make lifestyle choices that are good for the world. If you can relate to any of the following statements, you've most likely experienced ethical overwhelm.
- I live in auto-pilot or survival mode.
- I miss experiencing joy every day.
- Getting ahead feels impossible.
- Many of my daily tasks, I don't enjoy.
- I'm overwhelmed with ethical research.
- My self-worth is tied to my productivity.
- I wish my lifestyle reflected my values.
- I long for time/energy to give back.
- I want to make a difference, but how?
Ethical overwhelm can make us feel not good enough, unworthy, as if we should be doing more to help the world. Some people feel buried under responsibilities while others feel a deep sense of misalignment with their innate desire to give back and a lack of time, energy, and resources. It's different for everyone, but one commonality is that it makes us feel very isolated and alone.
We all know the plot (eh-em, Lion King, Matrix, King Pin, Hamlet, etc.); villain isolates hero, manipulates hero into thinking hero is at fault for something terrible, hero proceeds with heroing until, in their friends/family/kingdom's time of need their inner conflict of "i'm not good enough" holds them back, only for a mentor or guide to encourage/inspire hero to remember who they are and what they stand for, hero poceeds with winning the day.
Make no mistake, ethical overwhelm is a villain, and no matter how alone or overwhelmed you feel, remember that this is your story. Which means you are the hero, and whether or not you have the ability to do anything about it, you stand for good. And most importantly, you are very much not alone. This is our advantage over ethical overwhelm.
Welcome to a community that understands. Now, the question is, together, what can we do about it?
Ethical overwhelm can manifest in many forms, and can make you feel like you're living in a hamster wheel. For some it feels like stress, for others hopelessness. To me, it generates an enormous amount of inner conflict as my will to do the right thing clashes with my desire to not overload myself. It is a constant battle between things like, "we are making way too much plastic, and I feel terrible about hurting the planet. We should stop using toiletries with plastic bottles," and "I am physically and mentally maxed out right now. I don't think I can add anything new to my plate."
It's easy to get caught up perfectionistic tendencies, feeling guilty for not doing enough, and comparing ourselves to others. Dr. Connie Ulrich, professor of nursing and bioethics at Penn State's Perelman School of Medicine, defines ethics-related stress as, "knowing the morally right course of action but (being) constrained to carry out (an unmoral) action."* In our personal lives, the "constraint" is our time, money, energy, and patience.
On the conscious consumerism part, things have literally never been more confusing. There used to be one plastic-free toothbrush company, a handful of clean eating blogs, and very few organic cotton t-shirt companies. Now, googling "organic cotton t-shirt," yields over 67 million results, you can buy beautiful workout clothes made from recycled bottles, and get whole foods delivered to your door the same day you order them.
Outside of celebrities, people's realities don't typically include the time to Marie Kondo their home, switch to eco-friendly everything, grow all of their own food, and fact check every single thing. Great intentions are only half the battle, you also need action. Without it, you're just dreaming, and right now, the world desperately needs doers.
I don't think my life will ever be completely without the ethical overwhelm - that's just the kind of person I am, but I have learned to overcome it ona case by case basis. Believe me when I say, life has been easier, clearer, and it has allowed me to be more present that I ever have in the past. With apps like Forest, I am able to concentrate on a single task at a time rather than getting distracted with the million other things I have to do. Everyday, I'm learning how to live more intentionally from people like you.
The decision to transition your lifestyle over to a more intentional one or to become a more conscious consumer is an easy one. The tough part is overcoming the ethical overwhelm.
It helps to remember that you aren't alone combatting this silent villain in your story. Myself and the Joon + Co. community is here, and we're all in the same boat. Are you ready to take the first step towards a modern, intentional life? If so, sign up to get the guide sent straight to your inbox.