I used to be a compulsive shopper. I was raised in the time of credit cards and didn’t really understand that we had to pay them back. I thought shopping was just about my love for clothes and all things having to do with fashion. It took me years and plenty of credit card debt to realize that I was buying things to feel better about myself. To fill a whole inside that just got bigger the more I tried to stuff inside it.
I remember that feeling of walking through the mall with my arms full of bags. I felt successful, happy, loved.
Until I got home and looked at the receipts.
Then the buyer’s remorse started to kick in and I felt guilty about all the money I had spent. Which just made the whole inside even bigger.
As I started working on myself, I stopped shopping. At first, I just quit cold turkey. I had a closet full of clothes and more shoes than I could count. So, I didn’t actually need to go to the mall.
Eventually I became proud of my resistance to shopping. As if I was somehow better than people who shopped because I didn’t need anything to feel good about myself.
Yup, I had gone too far the other way. It seems like that happens a lot as we navigate through life. Kind of like California and the public education system. From one extreme to the other. At least I wasn’t hurting any children along the way.
But eventually I got to the point where I wanted to be able to go to the mall and not buy everything in sight. I wanted to know that how I felt about myself had nothing to do with how much money I had, how many pairs of shoes I owned, or if I was wearing the latest trend.
I wanted to love me for me, and still take me shopping. I never lost my love of fashion.
I started going back in small steps. Putting money for particular pieces into my budget and sticking to it. I planned ahead for what I was going to buy and didn’t get things I didn’t really want or need. I even went to the mall and window shopped. Just to get ideas for dressing and have a good time. Sometimes I didn’t feel like buying more than a latte.
It felt good.
Then I realized that the part I loved most about shopping was something I didn’t need to spend money on. Putting an outfit together for a certain event got me excited. Even an event I wasn’t really looking forward to became fun when I got to dress up for it. I could go to the mall and get ideas, or I could stand in my closet and look at what I already had with new eyes. I could put different pieces together and make a whole new look.
This past month I had my dad’s 60th birthday party and the auction my step-mom organized. I had to go to both events alone. I knew my brother would be the only one my age at our dad’s party. And at the auction? Just me and a bunch of parents of high school students. Good times ahead.
But both events were important to people I love, so I was determined to have a good time. I didn’t want to be a burden. I wanted to enjoy myself, genuinely.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I planned what to wear.
As I spent time putting together my outfit, from dress to shoes to jewelry, I got more excited to go. I decided to have a good time and put in the effort. And the fun followed on its own.
It’s true what they say: When you look good, you feel good. And when you decide to put in the effort for something that is important to someone else, you really can end up having just as much fun yourself.
Fashion may not save lives, but it can sure save my night.
How do you feel when you decide to dress up for something? Do you feel better when you put in the effort to dress up? Can we decide to be happy?