This post was inspired by a reader question in response to one of my Project 333 updates. I love how my readers challenge me and lead me to think more deeply about my behavior and thought processes! I’m so happy I started this blog, as it’s already exceeded my initial expectations. I’m delighted that it’s helping others deal with their wardrobes and shopping, as well as accelerating my own awareness and growth.
Here is the reader question I’ve been pondering over the past couple of weeks:
Why do you continue to buy clothing when you have so much already that you haven’t made decisions about?”
I decided to answer this question in a post, as I’m guessing other “shopaholics” will be able to relate to my answers. As I wrote about in “The Reasons We Shop Too Much,” there are many motives behind compulsive shopping behavior. Just as a compulsive overeater doesn’t overindulge because she’s hungry or loves food, the frantic buying behavior of shopaholics can rarely be attributed to a love of fashion or genuine wardrobe needs.
Shopping as a Coping Mechanism
Virtually all compulsive behavior serves as a coping mechanism for dealing with unpleasant emotions. Instead of experiencing our pain, we shop, eat, drink, gamble, or engage in some other form of behavior that allows us to escape our feelings. Of course, such escape is only temporary and the difficult emotions soon return, only to be intensified by guilt and shame for engaging in self-destructive behavior.
I want to shop because it makes me feel good in the moment. While I’m in a store surrounded by beautiful clothing, shoes, and accessories, I experience a powerful high that temporarily anesthetizes the depression and anxiety with which I’ve suffered for years. Not only do I get a rush from shopping, I also feel a sense of success that often evades me in other life pursuits. I embark on a “treasure hunt” in a store or mall and virtually always find at least one treasure to accompany me home. Contrast this to other expeditions in life. How often are we successful pretty much every time we enter another life arena?
Dealing with Failure and Disappointment
I’ve experienced a great deal of failure and disappointment in my life, particularly in the areas of career and relationships. While I consider myself infinitely fortunate to have my wonderful husband, my other relationships haven’t generally been as successful. My family interactions are either superficial or strained and I can count the number of true friends I have on one hand. And when it comes to career, I’ve dwelled in the sphere of mediocrity – or worse – for as long as I can remember. I have high hopes and I try very hard, but I’m nowhere near where I hoped to be in life by the ripe old (well, middle…) age of 46.
There are no easy fixes to most problems in life. I’ve had more problems than some and a lot fewer than others, but the bottom line is that I don’t have the answers to my current life predicaments. When I think about how I can fix my broken relationships, cultivate deep and lasting friendships, or foster a career that will be both fulfilling and lucrative, my brain literally hurts. I just can’t figure out how to make some areas of my life work.
I’m a “Champion Shopper” – or Am I?
In contrast to most of life, shopping is easy – and it’s fun. And I’m good at it, or so I thought until recently. I always found “great deals” and came home with “fabulous pieces,” so I had to be a champion shopper, right? Well, no… as I’ve suspected for months but only recently confirmed. I’m not all that great at shopping after all, at least not when I shop for myself. I do far better when shopping for others, as I can be completely objective and rational. When shopping for myself, there are far too many emotions muddying the proverbial waters.
I haven’t shopped for a couple of weeks now. I know that’s not a very long time and it would be a complete “cake walk” for most people to stay out of the stores for such a short duration. But I feel sad and numb, like a dark cloud is following me around day and night. To add insult to injury, I’m also addressing my intense caffeine addiction, so my two primary “drugs of choice” are no longer at my immediate disposal. I know I’m doing the right thing, but it definitely isn’t easy.
My Wardrobe Isn’t as Great as I Thought…
Through preparing for and doing Project 333, I’ve learned that my wardrobe isn’t as great as I thought it was. I’ve discovered that even in a wardrobe as large as mine, functional and aesthetic “holes” can still exist. I now see that I frequently bought new items that were incredibly similar to what was already in my closet. While I’ve varied my purchases in terms of colors and patterns, the shape and fabrication of a majority of my garments is much the same. In addition to my psychological “need” for shopping, I think I was also motivated to shop as a result of a functional lack that I felt but couldn’t pinpoint.
I still can’t articulate exactly what that lack is and I know the void exists more inside my soul than in my closet. While there may be closet pieces I really do need to buy, I don’t believe this is the time to do it. I don’t trust myself to make the proper choices right now.
Accepting a Dare from a Reader
Another reader dared me not to shop this month. I told her I would think about it, as I was not yet ready to commit. Well, I’ve thought about it and I’ve decided to accept the dare. I commit to not buying anything new during the month of May. I will continue to do Project 333 and experience the feelings which come up for me as a result of the challenge. I will write about how I feel and make note of any items that I feel compelled to buy. At the end of May, I will evaluate whether or not any real needs exist and if I should continue my shopping hiatus or allow myself to purchase a new item or two.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my goal is to cultivate a minimalist wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear regularly. An important step toward this goal is to evaluate the pieces already in my closet, as my reader so astutely observed. If I continue to focus on what’s “out there” instead of what’s in here (both in my closet and in my psyche), I’ll never reach my goal. I believe that a brief shopping hiatus, coupled with my Project 333 experience, will help move me in the right direction.
Have You Taken a Shopping Hiatus?
I’d love to get your feedback! Have you ever taken a break from shopping? Did it help you to shop more wisely? What did you learn about yourself and your wardrobe from shopping your closet instead of the mall? If you’ve done Project 333 or a similar challenge, what did it teach you about yourself, your style, and how much you really need? I truly value your input and I thank you all for reading and following along on my journey.