blog, Minimalism

All or nothing: choosing to celebrate first steps

One of the reasons I love social media is because it can offer you the opportunity to be a part of like minded groups which can give you great advice when you want to trouble-shoot problems or achieve goals which you just don’t know how to approach.  An example are the zero waste groups that I’m on.  It is a lofty goal to attempt to be zero waste when you have children, have many demands on your time and budget, and are also pursuing many other endeavors at the same time but these groups can be motivational as well as throw out little tips that bring me closer to losing the garbage bin.

However, the flip side of social media is that it brings to the front the populations’ way of reacting to people motivating change and the reaction I see the most is an “all or nothing” attitude.  If it won’t affect total change, then it’s just not good enough.  Nobody sees any first step as just that, a FIRST step.  A step towards something bigger.

Plastic is bad: let’s really push to get rid of plastic straws!  Starbucks is on board which brings a lot of attention to the issue.
Reaction: straws aren’t good enough!  There are so many other single use plastics out there.  What about cup lids? What about….?
Outcome:  People get too bogged down in feeling like they fail no matter what they try that they just give up on trying at all.  So instead of straws being step one, lids step two, and bags as step three we all just flounder while fighting over what’s good enough.

Loblaws bread scam: Loblaws is giving out gift cards to amend for the mark-ups.  Let’s give them to food banks instead!
Reaction:  well actually food banks could get more if you just gave them cash.  Gift cards really limit them and they can’t buy as much.
Outcome: many people just didn’t bother giving the gift cards to food banks or cash either.  No gift cards and no cash means they lost out entirely.

Vegan, zero-waste, minimalist lifestyles:  People out there trying to do their best to live up to a personal standard that they hope to attain.
Reaction:  You’re not truly “fill in lifestyle choice here” if you eat/wear/use “fill in offending item here”.  Couldn’t possibly allow someone to feel empowered in their own choice, just had to knock them down a peg and show them just how superior you are, didn’t ya?
Outcome: we all feel we aren’t good enough or will never reach our goals.  We become non-starters because we expect failure even before we have begun.

What is truly sad is that any of us feel like we must meet goals at all.  I tell friends who keep trying to quit smoking to just quit every day until it works.  You smoked today, that’s fine, just quit again tomorrow.  It’s hard.  It’s okay that it didn’t stick this time.  Yet I started my zero waste journey and immediately felt like it was overwhelming and I was a complete failure at it because I couldn’t stop making garbage within a month.  Within a month?!  Why did I think that was possible?  Oh because of this.

One young woman is all over the internet as the holy grail of zero waste.  We are nothing alike in any way.  I’m also sure she didn’t flip to her mason jar garbage can in her first 4 weeks of reducing trash.  I’m certain that, just like me, she had a learning curve where she had to figure out how to live without certain waste producing products, or how to source alternative options, or how to raise children/work a full time job/race all over town buying from bulk stores…. oh wait, again, she isn’t me so scratch that last part.  That last part is my journey, not hers.  And that’s okay.  Just as it’s okay if I don’t manage to fit 4 years of garbage in a mason jar.  Right now my family doesn’t usually even fill a garbage bag over the course of a month.  I’m proud of that.

The process does not end here and I do hope to keep reducing; however, I can’t let my motivation be sapped by those who have no room for first steps.  We have to celebrate first steps as much as we do the final giant leaps.



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