Directly after I finished my year without clothes shopping challenge, I was heckled by someone who wondered out loud if these kinds of challenges result in real and lasting change. If, after months of being ‘released’ from the challenge, the changes I’d made would stick — was I truly a reformed shopaholic?
Or had my shopping issues just gone underground for a while, and in due course, would resurface? Like Blondie – just when you think they’ve resigned themselves to living in our collective memories circa 1984, they stage a world comeback tour.
At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to thank my heckler for asking such a reasonable question or give them the “oh aren’t we cynical” face.
Since re-entering the Land of the Shopping, I have engaged a number of helpful shopping strategies to keep my shopping in its rightful place in my life. Chief among this is the Power Pause, as well as tools such as tracking my spending, and not using shopping as a buffer between me and my emotions.
All good, right?
When thunder rolls and lightning strikes
Well, yes – when things are going fairly smoothly.
It’s when things get tough that sometimes we can find ourselves reverting to old entrenched habits. And if you are in the midst of developing new habits, those tough times can feel like new shoots ripped out of the soil before the roots have taken firm hold.
So, I now see it as a good thing when I get the opportunity to test whether any real change has happened for me in the shopping dragon slaying department. Is my dragon really dead?
I found myself feeling uncomfortable emotions recently. Lucky, huh?
What better way to test out how I’m doing in the “handling tough emotions” arena than to find myself in the middle of some tough emotional terrain and check out how I handled it/me, right?
Buttons get pushed
So, there I was, having received two emails that had pushed a few buttons on my emotional control panel. There I was, feeling hurt and bruised. There I was, “triggered”.
In times gone by, before my year without clothes shopping challenge, when I was still shopping with my brain in neutral, one of the things I might have done was jump in the car and headed to the stores.
At the stores I would have been able to paste over those uncomfortable feelings with lots of stimulation and distraction.
After all, that’s what malls excel at providing – things to look at, people to chat to, items to buy to provide that little emotional shot in the arm, an opportunity to lower your credit rating — all in one handy location!
But I didn’t do that.
You can’t to back to sleep
This is the thing about starting on a journey of awakening – it’s very hard to go back to sleep once you’ve commenced.
So instead of reacting blindly (and hitting the mall), I was able to stop and assess. I was able to look at my emotional control panel, notice the blinking lights and bleeping alarm indicating a disconnected wire or two.
And I was able to have a quiet moment to breathe and put some space around those feelings, rather than cramming more stimulation over the top of them.
What I really wanted was to feel better about myself – and specifically I wanted to feel appreciated. What I didn’t want was 2 new cami tops, another pair of bootleg jeans in the perfect blue or more animal print accessories (bangles anyone?). Or whatever a trip to the mall would have yielded.
My husband and I went for a drive to the river. We sat and watched the world go by. We took a stroll and bought an ice cream. I window shopped in a shoe store, but didn’t go in. These days, looking does nicely for me. Slowly, those spiky emotions started to soften, and within a couple of hours, I felt better. No shopping required.
And I have recently made a commitment to be kinder to myself – to be less judgemental, less harsh in how I treat myself. Boy, that statement comes off the keyboard so easy, but it’s not so easy to do on a consistent basis.
And I have learned is that shopping as a reaction to uncomfortable feelings is an act of self sabotage – it is most definitely not an act of self kindness.
What you can do
If you find yourself being tripped up and triggered by uncomfortable emotions (and you’d usually point the car in the direction of the mall as your antidote), try this instead:
- Stop for just 10 seconds and acknowledge the feelings. “I am feeling………….. right now” (putting in an actual feeling word where those dots are) is one simple way to do this. Don’t dwell on it – just acknowledge.
- Recognise your usual pattern of triggered emotions — go shopping in attempt to feel better — more uncomfortable feelings, and decide today to make a different choice.
- Ask what you want to feel instead of those uncomfortable feelings. Often the first answer, the one that comes the quickest, is the most accurate.
- Ask yourself how can you step closer to feeling that (more positive) way, without going shopping. If it helps, do a little brainstorm exercise with pen and paper. Quick is often best.
- Pick one of those activities and go do it. Even if you’re not convinced it’ll work – just try it. Go for that short brisk walk. Phone that friend. Make that stew. Read that novel. Watch that TV show. Brush that cat. Sit in that sunny spot and breathe and smile (even if you don’t feel like it). And if you’re short of ideas of what you can do instead of shopping, check out these 365 ideas to inspire your life… instead of shopping.
- Rinse and repeat on future occasions when you are triggered by an uncomfortable feeling state. Start to notice how this new pattern feeds your soul and lifts your spirits.
And if you really want to get to the heart of what trips you up and triggers your unconscious shopping, join us here at Shop Your Wardrobe. That’s what we live for – you joining us here and sharing the journey back to a healthier relationship to shopping, yourself, your wardrobe and your wallet.
You know where to look on the site: the FAQs, what others have experienced as members of the program, what the program is all about and the most generous, gifted and successful-in-their-own-right Faculty I could have ever have wished for.