Confessions of a (former) Shopaholic
Do you want to know something? A used to be a shopaholic.
You know how after you graduate from high school and everyone gives you money? Well I spent most of mine. Very much like the prodigal son, I was ready to be on my own and to experience all that life had to offer. Whenever money would come my way whether it was through a graduation card or through my weekly pay-check, I would immediately go out and spend it. It was a compulsion, also known as “compulsive buying disorder”.
I was trying to portray that I had my life together - that I was sexy, confident and financially secure - but inside I was ashamed, depressed, and alone. While I would experience an incredible high at the cash register, I was in the end, left feeling empty. The years that I dealt with this disorder were pretty hard. I knew that I had a problem and yet I couldn’t stop shopping. During this time I also experienced depression and anxiety which I tried to cope with by more shopping. Whenever I would feel lonely or crippled with anxiety, I would hit the store. It wasn’t really until I became married that this disorder began to go away. While we had been dating, my then-boyfriend-now-husband had been aware of my love for shopping but he hadn’t realized the extent of it until the bills came rolling in. With his help, I began to pull back and shed this habit. During that process, I did a lot of reflection and came to some conclusions, shared below:
Confessions of a (former) Shopaholic:
Money Can’t Buy You Happiness
For a long time, I truly believed that money could buy happiness. Even more so, I thought that with money would inevitably come success, security and confidence. Growing up in one of the wealthiest cities in America, I was constantly surrounded by people of wealth. On the outside, these people appeared to have all of those things that I was chasing - they seemed like they were at the top of this ladder and I believed that if I could just “fake it” till I made it, I would soon be up there with them. However no matter how many compliments I received on my outfits or how I cool I felt carrying my $5.00 iced coffee into class each morning, none of it truly made me feel happy. It is said that what makes people happy is not more money but living a meaningful life; one that is moral and filled with love and service to the community. It’s not so much about the stuff as it is about our relationships, and how we are using our skills and resources to serve the world.
*I should note that there are studies that say that happiness levels do increase with income but level off after reaching an annual income of $75,000. After that, there tends to be little correlation between money and happiness.
Having More Options Does Not Ensure Peace
It took me a long time to realize that having more options does not ensure peace but more often than not, stress! Take our closets for example. Most of us would believe that having a closet filled with clothing would bring us peace of mind because we are “free” from having to worry about finding something to wear. But then, how often do we walk into our closets and complain, “I have nothing to wear!” Why do we react this way? Generally it’s because we are feeling overwhelmed. Instead of walking into a closet that provides a clear view of what we have and a knowledge that it all looks good and fits, we are walking into closets that are over flowing and packed. Outfits are squished together (causing them to become wrinkled and possibly lost or damaged), there are piles of shoes on the floor and sweaters falling off the shelves, our jewelry is tangled, and because we are so desperate for “options” there is clothing mixed into our closets that in fact doesn’t reflect our personal style or our lifestyle - and it’s all taking up valuable space (physical and mental)!
Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also
During my shopaholic days there was a movie that came out that was hilarious and yet painfully close to home, called Confessions of a Shopaholic. In the movie, Isla Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a college grad with dreams of working for a fashion magazine but who ends up landing a job as a financial journalist in New York City to support here shopping addiction. In one scene, Rebecca is working on an article for her job and writes how the pieces that we buy are “investments”. For so long - so long, I used this word as an excuse when shopping.
Now while I do believe that the items that we buy should be investments (that they be quality and made to last) these “investments” should be made sparingly. When we think of the word “investment”, what comes to mind is something that is a considerably expensive purchase such as a car or a home. These are not things that we go out and buy every day. They took a lot of thought, planning and saving. They are of quality and made to last.
It took me years to grasp this concept of investment; as well as to consider where I was making mine. I had begun to realize that my monetary “investments” weren’t satisfying me or making me happy. Matthew 6:21, 24 says that, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… you cannot serve both God and Money.” Money in itself is not bad - it is a tool that we use and need in society. The problem is when money begins to dictate our life and focus only on what it can do for us. In Matthew 6, it discusses how instead of storing up for ourselves treasure on earth (where the stock market can tank, our house broken into and our possessions stolen, etc.), we should be storing up for ourselves treasure in Heaven (where nothing can be destroyed). We need to be aware of what we are investing in because that is what is going to dictate our focus in life.
Be Grateful for Where You Have Been Placed
While we should have an eternal mindset we should simultaneously be focused on the here and now, where God has placed us. In our excitement and discontentment, we can become so focused on our next phase in life (i.e. having a baby, purchasing a house, retiring, etc.) that we begin living as if we were there and not enjoying where we are now. This was something that I greatly struggled with as I would purchase items for my future home and children. I knew that I was going to get married to my then-boyfriend-now-husband and figured that I was just getting a head-start on our future. However in my frustration of where I was in that season of waiting, I made some really foolish choices... Looking back, I spent so much money on home decor, clothing and even some baby stuff, all of which I ended up selling or giving away when we started to declutter our home, years later.
You Are Not Entitled to a Comfortable Life
Let me repeat that: you are not entitled to a comfortable life. It’s something that I have to remind myself of often, as growing up in middle class home I lived quite comfortably. Not that I’m complaining! I am so grateful for my childhood and all of the hard work that my parents did in order to provide above and beyond for us kids but something that I have to remind myself of now, that I am out of my parent’s house, married to a grad student, and running my own business is that I am not entitled to this comfort. I have to remind myself of this truth so regularly because for so long I believed that I truly did deserve to live comfortably. After all, advertised all around me were/are images of men and women with well-off lifestyles - nice cars, homes, families, security. It appeared to be the norm - what life was supposed to look like (beautiful, safe and comfortable).
While I do believe that we deserve basic necessities such as clean water, fresh air, affordable food, and reasonably-priced housing, I don’t believe that we deserve to be comfortable. In fact as Believers, Jesus Christ promised the exact opposite! We are to appreciate this life that we’ve been given with all of it’s beauty and gifts but this is not our true home, so why do we keep trying to set up kingdom here?
Lisa Chan recently shared that we as Believers should think of our life as if we are on a camping trip. When we go camping, we take only the necessities with us. How foolish would we look if we brought all of our luxuries to the campsite (i.e. our expensive suede boots, mac notebooks, expensive car, etc.)? What about if we brought all of the stuff that is sitting up in our attics or off in a storage unit? We would be completely weighed down and distracted for fear that our stuff might be stolen or damaged at the campsite. No, when we camp we roll up our sleeves and get a little dirty, we experience wonder and awe as we are surrounded by God’s creation. Not having access to showers, we also might get a little smelly and gross, and after awhile long to be “home”. When we finally do get home it’s the best feeling ever!
That is what our lives are supposed to be like. We were not created to find satisfaction and comfort here on this earth, but to find those things in God and in our true home (Heaven).