We find every single occasion to buy, every excuse to go shopping. To the point, the term “retail therapy” is actually legitimate term. Urban Dictionary defines “retail therapy” as the act of shopping as an outlet for frustration and a reliever of stress. The entire calendar year is a continuous buying streak from one holiday and festivity to the next: starting with new year, running into Valentine, than Easter, mother’s day, father’s day, labor day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, then the ultimate shop till you drop holiday, Christmas, then it’s all over again.
After a very hard final in medical school, one of my friends said, “I did so poorly on that test, I need to go to the mall and feel better about myself.”
As much as I tried I couldn’t understand what she meant… how does buying things at the mall with student loans that cost us 4% to originate and 7% interest rate the day we started medical school, make us feel better? Was that fancy purse the answer to our financial burden and to our performing better academically, and most importantly, how was that purse the answer to our sense of self-worth or happiness?
As Americans, we’ve all bought into the idea that happiness could be bought, and we tend to buy happiness from outside in. We buy expensive clothes, try to keep up with the fashion, cars, accessories, adorning ourselves and our belongings on the outside. We measure our self-worth from the outside, by how well we did in school, how much we make, how much we could afford to spend and to show and tell. If you ask an average American, he would probably opt to pay his car loan over a membership to the gym; she would probably spend her personal care budget on clothes rather than yoga classes or buying “expensive” organic, pesticide-free wholesome foods.
Maybe that’s why we shop so much, yet we are so depressed, sick, fat, and nearly dead in both spiritual and physical sense. US spends twice the amount the money but with the worst health outcome compared to the other top 7 developed countries in the world. Something is seriously wrong with the way we approach health and happiness as a nation.
Why don’t we try something different?
You are about to buy yet another dress, which may bring you happiness for the first 3 minutes after you buy it.
Think “What if I start exercising 30 minutes a day instead? Won’t I look amazing in anything if my curves are kicking?”
You are about to buy another pair of earrings, which you will likely wear once since you have more than 50 pairs at home right now.
Think “What if I read a book and learn something new?” “What if I go call up a friend that I’ve been missing but have yet had a chance to do so?”
You are about to buy a fancy purse for your mother as Christmas gift, who has been wearing the same purse for the past 5 years, regardless of the lines of purses you have bought her in the same period of time.
Think “What if I do a YouTube Yoga class for the 5 days with Mom while I’m visiting home? Both of us will be healthier for it and we can bond over doing yoga!”
This dress was bought at clearance for $30 when I was a college freshmen. I wore it a few times over the last 14 years… Rule of 72, if I invested that $30 bucks 14 years ago, I could have $120 today. Considering this dress has come in handy for several “formal” dinners and I have not purchased another formal dress over the last decade, I could live with $120 less in my nest egg today.
Before you make a purchase, ask yourself “What do I need this for? Does this bring me happiness? If so, how much and how long? Is there something else deeper, more fundamental that I’m neglecting? How’s my physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual health doing? Am I just numbing some pain temporarily with this purchase?”
You know yourself best, or perhaps due to stress and longtime neglect of who you are and what you truly need, you may be a little lost, then ask as close friend or family members. “Why do you think I go shopping?” “What do you think is missing in my life?”
Let’s find our happiness from inside out, rather than outside in.
You just might find true happiness and realize that it is not bought with money,
but with the most precious and irrecoverable asset you’ve got,
the presence of your mind, your attention, your time.