The other day, I saw something written on a forum that really made me think:
Seriously, it’s just clothes. How empty must your life be if your only hobby is shopping?”
In fact, that quote didn’t just make me think – it actually made me cringe and almost cry. It hit just a little too close to home for me. I haven’t written about the “full life” issue for a while, so I think it’s high time for another one of my open, honest, and emotionally raw posts. These posts aren’t easy for me to write, but they do help me explore important issues, and I also think they strike a chord with many readers.
For years, shopping was my only hobby. Sure, I did some other things, like going to the movies, taking walks, working out, and reading, but none of those pastimes occupied nearly as much of my time and attention as shopping. Shopping was my go-to activity. If I had some extra time, I shopped. If I wanted to avoid doing something – or thinking about something, I shopped. If I needed an emotional boost, I shopped. The list goes on and on… Shopping was it for me, the be-all, do-all activity.
I deluded myself that shopping was actually fulfilling for me. Sure, it brought some excitement to my life. There was a certain thrill in the new and in finding good “deals.” I also enjoyed being out and about and interacting with salespeople and other shoppers. I was very lonely and deluded myself into thinking those interactions had more depth than they actually did. I wanted to believe that the salespeople who recognized me and asked me questions about my life were actually friends of a sort. It was easier to believe that than to face the intense loneliness I felt inside.
Not Just the Past Tense
I wrote the last two paragraphs in the past tense, but the truth is that not much has really changed. Sure, I don’t shop as much as I used to and I’ve been able to adhere to a clothing budget for two years. And my closet is less than half as full as it was when I started this blog. But what was broken inside of me is still broken and I actually feel worse than I used to without the emotional salve that shopping provided for me. I’m still wrestling with a multitude of health problems, I have very few personal connections, and I haven’t developed new interests to replace shopping in my life.
I can see how shopping became such a default hobby for me, especially in recent years. My health has steadily declined and I haven’t been able to get that trajectory to turn around. It’s tough for me to make commitments to people or activities because I never know if I will feel well enough to keep them. So most of my interactions are confined to the virtual world and while that is fulfilling on some level, it’s just not the same as being face to face.
And while I do my best to make a difference in the world through this blog, I long to be able to do much more. I even long to be able to do more with this blog and this community, but I just don’t have the physical and mental energy most of the time. It’s often all I can do to get two posts up a week and interact with those who comment and email me.
I’ve been increasingly challenged on both a physical and emotional level in recent months. The past few weeks have been especially hard. I’ve struggled to cope and haven’t known what to do, so I have turned back to my default activity – shopping. It didn’t give me the rush it used to, but it provided the diversion I really felt I needed.
I bought too many things and will likely return at least some of them to mitigate the damage done. I don’t feel that I’m at risk of blowing my budget at this point or slipping fully back into my old ways. I’ve come too far to let that happen, but I do know that something needs to change.
“How Empty Must Your Life Be…”
When I saw the quote that began this post, it hit me on a visceral level. The hardest part to take was, “How empty must your life be…?” I have to admit that my life is pretty empty – still. In many ways, I feel like life is passing me by. I feel so lonely and disconnected and a bit like a rudderless ship. I have no idea what the future holds for me. I’m not even sure what I want it to hold, but I do know that I want to feel more a part of the world and more connected to other people. I’m not sure how or where to start, though.
If I try to fix the whole empty life problem all at once, I will surely feel overwhelmed and drive myself crazy. So I need to tackle things one little step at a time. I think a good first step to take for me – and for any of you who likewise struggle – is to find other interesting and compelling pastimes besides shopping. In my case, they need to be things that I can do when I’m feeling well, that don’t necessarily need to be tied to a particular time.
Part of why shopping fit the bill for me was that it could be done pretty much anytime. As long as the stores were open, I could go to them. And with online shopping, I could shop any time of the day or night. I often preferred to go to the brick-and-mortar stores because it got me out of the house. When I found myself feeling better physically, I would view going shopping as a sort of celebration of that fact. I loved being able to fix myself up, put on nice clothes, and get out and about among people. It didn’t take any advance planning and could be done at the spur of the moment.
Good Shopping vs. Bad Shopping
Of course, shopping for the sake of shopping is never a good thing to do. Shopping is best done when there is a specific wardrobe need we have identified that needs to be fulfilled. If we shop as a hobby, we’re far less likely to make smart choices and there’s a good chance we’ll end up buying things we don’t need or even really want.
Plus, shopping isn’t even a particularly fulfilling hobby. After all, we’re not broadening our minds, exercising our bodies, doing anything creative, or helping other people. We’re just buying clothes – and accessories, shoes, beauty products, and whatever else strikes our fancy. Those things don’t feed our souls and they usually don’t even lead us to feel better for more than just a brief period.
I’m tired of beating myself up for overshopping for so many years. I know it wasn’t the right thing to do for my wardrobe, wallet, or spirit. However, I was coping as best as I could at the time. I did it because it worked on some level. But it doesn’t work for me anymore. It doesn’t make my health problems go away and it doesn’t make me feel any less lonely or any clearer about my future path in life.
In the end, the commenter is right – they’re just clothes. Yes, clothes matter and can help us feel more attractive and confident. But they can’t cure what makes us ache deep down inside. They just don’t have that power.
Where to Go From Here
So, where do I go from here? Well, as I mentioned above, I’m going to find some new hobbies. None of them will probably be ground-breaking, at least not in the beginning. I’m simply going to identify a few activities that seem like they might be fun and I’m going to do them – when I’m feeling up to it. I’ve already taken on the first one and will write about it in an upcoming post.
I’m open to suggestions for hobbies that don’t have to be time-based and can be done at a moment’s notice, just like shopping. If you know of any pastimes or activities that I might enjoy, feel free to mention them. I will give each suggestion thoughtful consideration and may feature some of your ideas in future posts.
Still a Recovering Shopaholic…
I know that my struggles may be foreign to some of you, but I would imagine that at least a few of you found resonance in my words today. Of course, I write this blog for all of you, but if I touched the souls of those who walk a path similar to mine, then my work today is done.
Many of you praise me for my honesty, but in truth, it isn’t easy for me to bare my soul in these types of posts. I do it both to unburden myself and to touch the hearts and minds of others who can identify with my experience. I’m tired of hiding who I am from the world, so I’d rather risk ridicule and derision than stay inside of my self-imposed shell quaking with fear over the opinions of others.
I am a flawed human being – just like everyone else. I don’t have it all figured out, not by a longshot. In many respects, I’m making it up as I go along. I’ve been writing this blog for almost two and a half years, but I’m still a recovering shopaholic. And you know what? I may always be in the process of recovery. I’m okay with that as long as I keep learning new things and making progress. As I’ve said before, I’m all about progress over perfection. I’ve tried to be perfect for too long and look where it’s got me. I’m not happy and I’m still not perfect.
In January 2013, I set out to trade my full closet for a full life. I’ve made excellent progress on the first part of the equation and I know I will continue to cultivate a wardrobe that works better for my life. But the full life part is where the magic truly lies. I need to devote more of my time and attention to this part of the equation.
I need to determine what a full life is for me and then forge my path for how to get there. Yes, I have chronic health issues that really put a damper on my quality of life. Yes, I am beaten down, but I am not beaten. I want to squeeze more “juice” out of my life and I believe I can, even though I so often feel simply lousy.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I’m tired of putting my life on hold so much of the time. I need to steal more moments of joy and pleasure wherever I can find them. And one thing I know for sure is that those moments won’t be found at the mall and most of them cannot be bought. It’s time for me to set out to find them.
Before You Go… This May Be of Interest
Before I sign off for today, I want to mention a new low-cost offering that is available for those who want to overcome their overshopping habit. April Benson, PhD, the author of “To Buy or Not to Buy,” has created a new text-messaging program geared toward shopaholics.
This innovative program sends daily text messages—tailored to your individual overshopping profile—directly to your cell phone. You’re also encouraged to text the system anywhere, anytime, for immediate, personalized support.
If you’d like to learn more about this program, you can visit this page for a full overview. There’s also a free webinar happening tomorrow (April 22nd) at 9 p.m. Eastern Time that you may want to sign up for. A full overview of the program will be presented during the webinar and you’ll have a chance to ask any questions you may have about it.
If you’d like to register for the free webinar, click here.