I have a friend who loves to buy designer handbags like I love to buy Kmart homewares. Unfortunately for her, a Gucci bag starts at about $2000, whereas I got an awesome bowl (that looks like it’s made of glass but is really plastic) for $7 this weekend.
Anyway, my friend, let’s call her Jen, said to me the other day, ‘It’s like I have a shopping addiction’. To which I replied ‘No, it’s not like it, you actually do’.
Now, I’m no psychologist, but I’d argue that anyone who has bought one pair of Manolos and one pair of Jimmy Choo’s in the last few months is not living her best financial life.
The thing is, Jen has a stressful and demanding job, and is well-paid for it. She can actually afford these things and still pay a mortgage (I know, right). She’d no doubt pay it off sooner if she avoided the Fendi store, but overall she ain’t going broke.
Thus, my argument against Jen’s shopping habit isn’t just financial. One person’s Kmart spree is another person’s designer outlet haul – just depends on your income.
My argument is that Jen shops to manage stress. She cruises around online stores in an effort to soothe her frazzled mind, filling her shopping cart in the fond hope of filling her soul.
Does it work? Maybe. A little. For a few moments anyway: the moment you buy something and the moment it arrives.
You see, shopping distracts us from our stress or pain or fear or sadness. Same as wine, drugs, or whatever vice we have.
It doesn’t make us deal with it at a deeper level. It doesn’t help us confront the difficulties of our lives.
Self-care has been co-opted
A short cruise around #selfcare on Insta would have you believe that looking after yourself is all about making green smoothies or buying make-up. That is bullshit.
Self-care, in my opinion, is when you put your mental and physical health first.
It’s when you invest time in doing the inner work that will help you to be happier in your heart. Self-care is writing a journal or going to a counsellor to deal with some thorny issues. It’s when you take time to meditate regularly. It’s sitting down with a friend who wants to listen to you and hear what you’re dealing with.
Or self-care is committing to a physical practice like yoga or running or weightlifting, because it takes you out of yourself and puts you back into yourself, only better.
You know, that feeling when you’ve nailed standing bow pose after weeks of falling over. Or you run 5km without wanting to die (so I hear, never done it). Or seeing your maximum bench press inch up over months. That’s some awesome self-care right there.
Sure, have a facial, open a bottle of vino or buy some new shoes. I’m not arguing against doing any of those things.
But be clear about the state of mind that’s behind it. You’re having a little break from your bullshit, and that’s it. When you walk out of the salon, or finish the bottle, or put the Manolo’s back in the wardrobe, you’re still there.
You … and your work stresses, relationship issues, state of anxiety, sense of insecurity or whatever aspect of the human condition is messing with you at that point.
So unless you make time to deal with the root cause, you’re gonna keep shopping, drinking or chasing the perfect complexion.
Not only does this hurt your credit card, it leaves you unfulfilled. You are your best investment, and always will be, so invest your time and money in productive ways as often as you can.