Clothes and compulsive shopping

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photo: Deviantart/Anna Marine

Author: Emilia Tsaneva

I guess all of us have heard the common phrase that a woman can have a wardrobe full of clothes, and still be complaining that she has nothing to wear. Furthermore, probably most women have said to themselves at least once: “I deserve to take care of myself!”, in order to justify the purchase of an unnecessary piece of clothing in front of herself or in front of someone else. And there is nothing wrong with the desire of a woman to look beautiful and to buy herself gorgeous clothes – this is part of female nature. However, when this behaviour is motivated not by the female nature itself, but by a void in one’s soul, then the full wardrobe that never seems enough to us, is an important indicator that it is time to look within ourselves and become aware of what is going on and realize what we could do in order to trully take care of ourselves. Because one more beautiful dress won’t fill in this void, and nor will the next 10 dresses do.

And if we start feeling guilty or we get angry at ourselves, because once again we have spent so much money on clothes, which we don’t really need and which we will most probably not wear that much, this won’t help. Further down in this article you will find specific practical suggestions on how to achieve balance between the desire to look beautiful and spending on clothes. But as mentioned above, the compulsive shopping is a symptom. That is why we will first have a look at the possible roots of this problem.

- Deep-rooted beliefs about oneself
Very often people who slip into compulsive shopping of clothes, have a deep-rooted belief that they are not good enough and that they don’t deserve to be loved. They believe they have to be perfect in everything, otherwise no one will ever like them at all. Those people don’t love their bodies, they rarely like how they look, so they use the compulsive shopping of clothes as a way to fix this. The new garment makes them feel good, even though this lasts only for a while. Because when the garment is not that new anymore, and this could mean even a day after we bought it, we don’t like ourselves in it anymore, because we have dressed with it a body that we trully dislike in general… And unless we learn to love our bodies, no matter what kind and number of clothes we buy ourselves, they will never be enough.

- Suppression
Nature requires balance. When we regularly deprive ourselves of something, sooner or later we will start giving ourselves something in excess. The excessive saving is as damaging as the excessive spending. When you save for too long, without buying yourself any of the things you want, then it is very likely that you will lose control at some point and you will start shopping in excess. This way the natural balance gets restored. Furthermore, it is interesting to notice that this happens not only when it comes to excessive spending and saving behaviour, but also when you deprive yourself in another aspect of your life, you might restore the natural balance through excessive spending. For example, if you are constantly on a diet or regularly deprive yourself of food, it is quite normal to start spending compulsively. And if you deprive yourself of intimacy, you could unconsciously restore the balance through excessive eating and/or excessive spending. All aspects of our lives are connected and deprivation in one aspect, inevitably leads to excess in another one. (This part of the article is based on the book Sexual anorexia from Patrick Carnes).

- Heavy feelings and unsatisfied needs
Me personally, I know that I start spending compulsively, when I work way too much. And now is the moment to have a look at the above paragraph once again – when we are too strict with ourselves in one aspect, then we start giving to ourselves too much in another aspect. For me is very typical to take on too many tasks and responsibilities and keep overworking myself, until I get dizzy from tiredness or until I start bursting into uncontrollable tears, because the situation has become a burden for me. But I try not to blame myself about it, I am just doing my best to be conscious not to become extreme workaholic once again. This awareness helps me take precautions on time, before I have started fainting from exhaustion or spending half of my salary on clothes I don’t really need. On the contrary, when I allow myself to go on a walk in nature, to go to the cinema or just to play a bit with our cats at home, I don’t feel the urge to buy clothes. When I spend my time doing things that make me happy, I don’t need the short-lived happiness of buying myself new clothes all the time. That is why I prefer to spend more money on experiences and more time with people I love. Which, of course, also happens moderately, because even those activities could be performed in extreme if a person is not conscious enough of their real needs and difficulties.

- Culture of consumption
Yes, it’s a fact that today’s culture is a culture of consumption. And the more items are being sold, the more profit is made. We see ads everywhere. You have to keep up to date with fashion… There are constantly sales, promotions, clothes imported from India, China, Bangladesh, which are so cheap… And this has influence on us, yes. But let’s be honest – if one of the above reasons weren’t present, then we wouldn’t get into the trap of the culture of consumption. Because there are enough people who live within the same culture, but don’t fall into compulsive spending and don’t need a sale, nor do they buy something only because it is cheap. Today’s culture of consumption influences all of us. However each of us individually has to take responsibility for his/her consumption behaviour. We don’t gain anything if we keep running away from this responsibility, using the excuse that today’s culture is like this and since we are part of it, this is why we act this way…

- Confused idea of what does care of oneself mean
We think that when we buy ourselves a new garment, we take care of ourselves. And this is true to some extent, however buying yourself a garment is more like superficial care of oneself. This doesn’t mean that it is a bad care, however if we just buy ourselves clothes, without taking care of ourselves well enough in another way, then this is in no way self-care, it’s just lying to yourself… We need a rest, physical activity, proper nutrition, time for our hobbies, time with our loved ones, contact with nature, time to re-connect to ourselves and others. If we deprive ourselves from the above self-care and we keep buying ourselves garments instead, then this means we don’t take a good care of ourselves at all.

What to do?
First of all, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that our shopping behaviour has gone to the extreme. And this is not something shameful, it happens. And it is not necessary to beat ourselves up and promise ourselves: “I will never ever do this again!”. Because it can happen again and it is not necessary for you to feel guilty about it. The important thing is to be conscious what you try to fill in with this shopping. Consciousness is a powerful tool. It’s useless to put the techniques below into practice, unless you give yourself time on your own and make an effort to realize where this desire for new clothes all the time comes from…

- Stop “having a walk” around the shops… or at least don’t do it often
When you are aware that you tend to overdo the shopping, just don’t have a look at shops, when you don’t really need something specific. And when you really need something specific, have a look only for this specific item, without grabbing some additional cute stuff on sale… Because if you sit down and do the maths, you will see that in a matter of fact the items that you buy on sale only because their price has been decreased, often turn out to be more expensive for you, because you don’t really wear them that much. It’s better to have 5 shirts of good quality that you love and wear regularly, than 30 that you have bought only because they were on sale and looked good at the time, but in fact you don’t feel good in them and you don’t wear them. In stead of shopping walk plan something different that is of interest for you, for example go for a walk in the park, go roller skating, go dancing, go swimming, go enroll in an interesting course or workshop… Your time is too precious for you to waste it on excessive shopping walks and purchases, which you don’t need. Because when you buy something that you don’t really need and then you don’t use it, you waste not only your money on it, but also the time you needed in order to earn the money for it… So no more purposeless shopping walks!

- Organize your wardrobe frequently
Organizing my wardrobe was always one of my favourite activities, some kind of active meditation for me. It makes me calm down and also helps me realize that I have enough clothes and I don’t need new ones. Furthermore, I regularly donate the clothes I don’t like wearing and the clothes that no longer fit. And I also regularly throw away all the damaged clothes, which can’t be repaired. This way I know that all clothes I have in my wardrobe are clothes I love wearing and clothes that I feel comfortable in. Of course, in organizing your wardrobe awareness and moderation are required as well, because it can happen that you get so enthusiastic about getting rid of all unnecessary items, that you throw away certain clothes and then regret about it – happened to me a couple of times. So don’t overdo it! But also don’t pile up clothes you don’t wear, because then it is normal that you can’t choose what to wear and you think you don’t have enough clothes, when in fact in the whole mess and piles, you just can’t find them!

- Combine your clothes in creative ways
When you learn the art of combining your clothes in various ways and layering your clothes, then with less number of items you can create different outfits, which brings you the feeling of abundance and joy. You don’t really need 20 t-shirts and 20 pairs of jeans, what you really need is less number of items that you can combine easily and a bit of imagination. Me personally, I am not a natural-born talent when it comes to putting outfits together, but this can be learned. All you need is a bit of practice and inspiration. On YouTube you can find a number of fashion channels, which can give you great ideas on how to combine your clothes. However, be careful – many YouTubers have problem with compulsive shopping themselves, so don’t fall into the same trap! Take only what is of real use for you and don’t get caught up in piling up unnecessary amount of clothes! For example, I like a lot Daniela Guido, because she puts emphasis on combining the clothes you have in different ways and on not buying too many clothes.

- Quality over quantity
“I am not rich enough to buy cheap things.” I am sure you have heard this proverb. For many years I couldn’t understand its meaning, however recently I realised that when I buy a more expensive item, I try it on and make sure that it fits properly and I love the way I look in it, so I am sure this item will bring me joy and I will use it a lot. And this is way better than getting yourself clothes so cheap that you don’t even make the effort to try them on before buying them and as a result you end up with a wardrobe full of low quality clothes, which don’t bring you joy and very often even don’t fit you that well. Of course, sometimes the price doesn’t equal the quality, however it is always a good idea to take into consideration whether you really need this item at the moment, whether it really fits you good enough, whether it brings you joy when you try it on and whether its quality is good enough in order for you to invest your money in it.

If you keep buying clothes only because they are cheap, without them bringing you real joy when you wear them, then this will have a bad effect on you. Yes, I know how difficult it is to break the habit of buying cheap clothes, especially when your salary is not one of the highest ones, but in the long run from financial perspective it is better when you open your closet and there you find clothes that fit you well, bring you joy and last longer. And this way you also know that you have contributed to the well-being of humanity – I won’t go into details of how exactly these cheap clothes from Bangladesh, India, China and so on, have been produced, but I definitely don’t feel great if I buy something, for which I assume someone has been exploited in order to produce it… Furthermore, the huge amount of unneeded cheap clothes that piles up on planet Earth is quite threatening. This is why it’s better to have less clothes, but higher quality!

Be conscious! If you slip into your compulsive shopping behavior, don’t blame yourself – it can happen to all! But simply be conscious what your real need is and how to take proper care of it! And remember – clothes are just a beautiful detail. Yes, they are important, but even more important is whether you are happy or not! Because even the most beautiful clothes are nothing more than just a wrap and they can’t cure your soul, if it is bleeding. Don’t focus on accumulating clothes, focus on listening to your soul and taking proper care of yourself!

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