The assumption that our desires are our own is what French social scientist René Girard calls “The Romantic Lie.” We rarely question why we want the things we want, so it is easy to believe our wants are rooted only within ourselves. In reality, the value we place on objects is subjective - it is based on our relationships with others and the value they put on things.
Author, educator and entrepreneur Luke Burgis is passionate about the impact of mimetic desire. He furthers Girard’s musings by attesting that value is intersubjective, meaning we assign value to things based on what we perceive the ”models” in our lives want. Models are external signposts to help us make choices and steer us toward pursuing certain people, places, things, and lifestyles.
Mimetic desire is different from basic needs like warmth and sustenance which are guided by biological mechanisms. We don’t have internal instincts that tell us what kind of car to buy, what clothes are in fashion, or what to major in at college. The more abstract the concept is, the more mimetic desire is at play. No matter how independent we believe our thinking is, as soon as mimetic desire becomes detached from one model, it immediately attaches itself to another.
So having a good level of self-awareness around who and what influences our choices will lead to more thoughtful community building and ultimately, stronger life outcomes.