So how did I get to where I am today? A bit of history is in order now… I’ll do my best to give the “Cliff’s Notes” version starting with my childhood (after all, I am 46 – a full history would be a book, not a page!).
A Shy and Insecure Childhood
I was a very shy and insecure child who grew up in the affluent community of San Carlos, California, a suburb of San Francisco. I never felt as if I could measure up to my peers in terms of how I looked and how I dressed. My parents were not as wealthy as many in the community and couldn’t afford to purchase a full wardrobe of designer clothes for me every school year.
After my parents divorced when I was 14, the money was even tighter. I also kept gaining weight in my early teen years and had to keep buying new clothes to accommodate my burgeoning proportions. My chubby frame coupled with my tall height (I’m 5’10”) only served to increase my tremendous self-consciousness.
Long Battle With Eating Disorders
The aforementioned facts and a series of interpersonal disappointments led to my developing a full-blown eating disorder at age 16. For the next five years, I was acutely ill and even brought myself to the brink of death several times. I was hospitalized six times and missed half of my senior year of high school due to a lengthy hospitalization for anorexia nervosa.
Compulsive Shopping Begins
While I continued to struggle with eating disorders for close to twenty years, I was out of the danger zone toward the end of college. But my insecurity and self-consciousness persisted and led to other compulsive behaviors, including excessive shopping. Although I had overshopped throughout my teenage years, my shopping behavior intensified during my twenties,thirties, and forties as my disposable income and access to credit increased.
What I know now is that I wasn’t really shopping for new clothes. Instead, I was shopping for a feeling of self-worth that I mistakenly thought I would get from the right clothes and the right look. Much like I thought reaching a state of ultimate thinness would bring me happiness, I also believed that the right wardrobe would ease my anxieties and bring me the inner calm I so desired.
Debt, Clutter, and Lies
Over the years, my compulsive shopping has led to financial problems (I was bailed out of credit card debt three times, twice by my father and once by an ex-boyfriend) and an extremely cluttered closet (much better now than in the past but still probably twice as full as it really should be). It has also led to dishonest behavior toward those I loved the most, including my loving and patient husband of now 11-plus years.
I have hidden clothes, spending, and receipts from my husband and rationalized my addictive behavior to him and to others in my life. What’s more, I haven’t even been truly honest with myself. I tell myself I absolutely need a certain item of clothing or that a deal is just too good to pass up (never mind that I already have three similar garments at home).
Filling the Emptiness Inside
For the past ten years, I’ve tracked my spending on clothing and accessories, and for the past two years, I’ve tracked how often I’m wearing the items in my closet. The ugly truth is that I average $5000 per year on shopping for myself and many of my purchases are only being worn a few times, if at all, each year. More specifics in this post, but suffice it to say that my clothes and accessories are not exactly earning their keep!
Even with how much I spend, I still don’t feel like I dress as well as I should and I still feel as if I need more new things to fill in the (imagined?) gaps in my wardrobe. Yet in my heart of hearts, I know that more new clothes won’t magically make me happy or fill the hole inside my soul. That is a deeper journey that doesn’t involve the local mall or the latest trendy boutique. That is the journey on which this blog is based…