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Our Little Selves vs. Our Unlimited Self.

There comes a time when changes - monumental, era-defining, life-changing changes - just have to come. Let’s start by looking at 21st-century consumerism - a model that’s been extended to its outer limits.


The consumer society models us as sovereign individuals. It has encouraged us to develop elaborate preferences to be understood and served.


This model is underpinned by a particular vision of human freedom. One that tells us that every human should be 'free to choose' and that when we have this freedom we are 'Living Our Best Lives. Believing in this form of freedom – that is, freedom to live out our preferences to the extent that we are able – is the fundamental value on which market-based liberal democracies are built.


There’s no denying the advancements in our human wellbeing. So what’s the problem?


The problem is that this vision of freedom is limited. Over time, it becomes a kind of a trap. That’s because we humans are more than only the total of our preferences. We’re also ethical beings, capable of psychological investment in values that run beyond – or even contrary to – our everyday desires. 


Our 21st-century techno consumerism has little to say to those values. Instead, it serves us endless, algorithmically-generated slices of our past. You played this song; now listen to this one. You bought this product; now buy this one. The result? We become trapped inside an endless loop of our own preferences which limits us personally and results in the destruction of our planet. Consumerism wants dominion over 'our little selves, but the consequences are both spiritual and environmental annihilation. We know deep down there is more to each of us. An 'unlimited self'. And yet it almost feels just out of reach.


We are, by most measures, the luckiest we have ever been. But there’s also very real evidence that materialism of the kind encouraged by the consumer society makes us unhappy. We all sense that the version of life offered by 21st-century consumerism is incomplete. We feel empty. Searching for more. Always in need of a top-up. 


During the pandemic, we talked a lot about the collective ‘great reset’ but failed to delve further into the idea of a personal reset. As lockdowns begin to melt away, will we continue to question old assumptions? If we’re all seeking a new form of life, we need new ways of thinking. 


The idea that what we need most now is 'freedom from ourselves' – from the tyranny of our own preferences – might be the most revolutionary thought possible inside 21st Century consumerism. However, evidence of this thought is slowly becoming a reality. At the beginning of the 2020s, we saw millions embrace their personal version of the ‘great reset’, with the great resignation. We see millions seeking new forms of freedom from both our societal pressures and ourselves.  This becomes a huge, untapped opportunity for a new wave of brands. Although these kinds of organisations and brands - ones best able to serve the unlimited self - will need to be a vastly different kind of animal.


What is the way out of the trap of consumerism? It’s to reinvest in a vision of the Unlimited Self: an ideal that runs beyond our own preferences and desires. This vision is based on a different way of thinking about the concept of freedom. Not freedom from external barriers, but an internal freedom. A freedom to be all that we can. 


It means believing that a life spent in service of our everyday preferences is limited, diminishing and destructive to our planet; that it does not represent the highest form of human life and environmental wellbeing. When you believe that, then you can believe that some internal agent – our core being – can encourage us, or even force us, to be truly free, by freeing us from ourselves. 


While we are currently inhabitants of consumer societies, we are suspicious of this idea. Our system encourages that suspicion, while it whispers to us: 'follow your preferences.'


The hunger for something more, however, is still very much a thing, though. Look, for example, at the vast, profitable and mostly useless self-help industry, which is worth $13 billion a year in the US alone.


In 2022, our algorithmically-fuelled consumerism continues to double-down on what it does best. That is, serving our little selves. It makes sense, then, that the big opportunity offered by the 2020s is to tap into, commune with, and serve the other side of ourselves - that part of us that’s determined to reach beyond everyday life, to some higher vision of what we can be. Serving the 'unlimited self'. 


We might ask: where is the Patagonia of this great project? A brand that brings together content, community, inspiration and environmentally friendly product around a vision of the Human Good Life? This would mean a brand bold enough to say: 'here is a way of being that’s better than the one you currently live inside. We challenge you to be more. To know more.' 


In reality, this organisation wouldn’t be a business, but something entirely different. A hybrid creature: part brand, part new business model, part movement. 

AuraVera is such a creature. A vehicle to help take you home to your unlimited self. Sure, it’s perfume. But it’s more than aromatics in a bottle. It’s onto the scent of a future that’s helping the individual to to get home base, for real. 




Founder of AuraVera.