History of a Shopaholic

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

path to where I am todayI 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…

4 thoughts on “History of a Shopaholic

  1. Love your honesty! I know the ’emotional mind’ doesn’t always keep up with reality, but I just want to say that many many women would Love to look like you and have your physique. I like following your blog, because I’m 5′ 10″ (although heavier than you) – so, I know you understand the frustrations of finding clothes to fit a tall woman.

    So, I’ve taken up sewing again just for that reason. I have plenty of failed sewing projects, but I’ve made some clothes that fit me great & I wear them All the time! I’m having a blast sewing and now I’m addicted to the wonderful world of sewing blogs, too!

    Keep up the good work – you blog is fun and much appreciated!
    🙂 Chris

    • Chris, Thank you for your kind words! I’ve appreciated all of the comments and suggestions you’ve offered me in recent weeks. I’m glad to have a reader (there are probably others, too) who understands the struggles of tall women in finding clothes. I often hear, “You’re so lucky to be tall!” While that’s true in some respects, there are also challenges to deal with. The pants one is the most difficult, as I feel like I only have about 10% of the pants choices that women of average height have. I know you get that…

      Good for you in taking up sewing! I’ve thought about it, but I’m not sure I have the patience. I do get lots of tailoring done on my clothes and still might pursue the custom made pants idea. It depends on if I have luck with the leads given to me by my wonderful readers. During May and June, I will follow up on the suggestions offered and will hopefully be able to find a few pairs of pants. If not, I will bite the bullet and get some pants made to fit me!

      I would love to see photos of the garments you’ve made. I’m sure you receive a lot of compliments, as your clothes are probably better made than most and unique as well!

  2. Isn’t it amazing how childhood can still have a strong effect, many years later? For myself, I was the only child in school at the time, with divorced parents. Living in a household with one income, I never had the latest and greatest clothes, which made me stand out like a sore thumb. Add to that mix a shy personality and I was the target to pick on, all the time. When I started earning an income, I started shopping like a fiend. I didn’t want to be the ‘out of style kid’ anymore. And I could finally afford to purchase the items I could never have (maybe not all of them but the point is the same). Unfortunately that behavior opened the door to other bad reinforcement behaviors from shopping. Shopping when emotional is never a good state of mind to be in, yet it is very difficult to overcome. I don’t go to the grocery store to browse, make me feel better, or without a list, yet when it comes to clothing, it’s a different ball game.

    • Yes, our childhoods really form the foundation for our lives, Lisa. It sounds like we had some similarities in how we grew up. So many people have behaviors in adulthood that serve to compensate for childhood lacks or as attempts to heal wounds from our early lives. We are not alone, that’s for sure! Awareness is a big part of the battle, as many people never understand why they do what they do. Yes, overshopping is very hard to overcome, but it IS possible. I’m getting there and so can you!

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