For my day job, I work as a Fashion Stylist. I help my clients discover their personal style and bring it to life. One day I was setting up for my appointment at a major department store when a woman walked in to chit chat with the receptionist, I think they were friends. The walls are pretty thin, so I could hear the conversation happening from the change room I was in. It seemed like she was ready for some major shopping. As their conversation progressed, she revealed she had a very rough year. Her words and tone made it seem like it was something along the lines of divorce or heartbreak. She quickly brushed over her pain and started talking about the gifts she wanted to buy herself because of her pain. Here’s what I heard…
“I’ve had such a rough year and so I thought, I deserve a Mercedes! So, I went the other day to buy a new car and found one I liked. I sat down with the sales person to start buying it… And guess what? I got rejected for the car! Apparently my credit card debt was too high and they said I can’t buy it right now.”
I stood in my room in awe. A huge part of me hoped she got the same insight from her story as I did once she said the words out loud.
This woman was in a lot emotional pain. However, she wanted to buy something to make herself feel better. This woman didn’t need a new car, she needed someone to open up and talk to, so she can start the process of healing. She needed love and support.
Unfortunately, this woman was convinced that a dopamine hit from a purchase would solve her pain, rather than doing the work to heal. She’s not alone though, how many of us try to distract ourselves from pain through purchases or other vices? Hello one-click Amazon purchases!
What’s worse? She couldn’t even afford the new car. She was going to go further in debt and create more unhappiness and stress. Instead of buying a $40k+ car for temporary happiness, dealing with her pain would be the more sustainable solution. However, it seemed like she didn’t connect the dots.
The sad thing is, it’s not even her fault for not making the connection. We live in a world where advertisements are created to make us feel like something is missing in our lives. Think of the phrase “retail therapy”, it’s what marketing and the media want us to think will fix our problems. They take our insecurities and tell us to the buy the solution. Do you have a fear of scars on your skin? Buy make up! Society with reject you if you’re overweight, so contribute your money to the multi-billion weight-loss industry! Do you want to feel like you’re better than everyone else? Carry this purse with a logo to show your status. Don’t worry, they won’t even know you can’t afford it, just fake it! And it goes on and on.
Instead of “retail therapy” what if marketing and the media promoted “talk therapy”?
Food for Thought: The “happiest” part of purchasing something is when you are anticipating it to arrive. Meaning, from the time you hit the order button to while it’s being shipped is when you get the biggest dopamine hit, and funny enough, not after you receive it.
You don’t need these things. Material things aren’t the things missing in our lives, these are called junk values. Junk values are things we think will make us feel better, but they don’t. Instead, what are the values that actually make us feel better? Joy, love, connection, vulnerability, gratitude and self-awareness.
How did I come up with this conclusion? Something similar happened to me! I had a falling out with a friend in University and I was pretty sad about the whole thing. Right around this time, I got a new car because my old one was causing problems. I was happy for a week with the new car. However, the new car glow faded quickly and I was sad about my lost connection again. This happened 12 years ago, but I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. That was the day I realized material things can never replace my value of love and connection. No matter what I bought, I was still sad about the friendship I lost, which had so much more weight on my wellbeing than a material possession. That wisdom stayed with me to this day. In fact, that wisdom made me realize why that woman’s pain wasn’t going to be solved with a Mercedes, it was going to solved once she did THE WORK to be vulnerable and heal.
What triggers your pain? Are there painful events in your life that you try to block out in hopes to just forget them one day? Do they keep popping up in your head?
Do you use material purchases to avoid pain? What’s your relationship with spending and money? If it’s not buying things, what’s your vice (I.e. alcohol, drugs, sex, partying, gossiping, a giant “fuck off” written on your forehead etc.)?
What is your pain telling you? Do you have someone you can trust and talk to about your pain?
Be real with yourself. There’s no ego to feed, no one to impress. Just admit what makes you unhappy, no matter how petty or silly it could feel. I have some friends that I share my most random feelings and thoughts with and they share them back. We don’t judge each other, we just ask questions until we can get to the bottom of it.
Your pain is telling you something – It’s telling you what area in your life you need to pay attention to. It’s telling you change needs to happen. It’s telling you you need to deal with it. It tells you where you were wronged and what wronging you did. The latter is very important so you can learn, grow and forgive yourself. If your ego jumps in and tries to protect you, you won’t learn from it because you’ll end up blaming others for your problems.
Material possessions don’t equal authentic happiness. If you don’t have someone in your life you can count on, it’s time to start digging to see why that is. It could be a friend, therapist or a healer. We all need love and support.
Thanks so much for reading this post! Feel free to like, comment and share if you think this would help someone! Follow me on Instagram for a daily dose of rising: @supreetchahal.rising