Photo: Avis Cardella, photographed by Timothy Gurney
At first, this newfound awareness felt more like a burden than a rebirth. In fact, there were periods in which I felt paralyzed by being so "present' in the shopping experience. A trip to buy a new pair of Nikes left me standing before the display wall, unable to make a choice that wouldn't be a dreadful mistake.
But this phase quickly passed, and what took its place was unburdened and joyful shopping that I could last remember having experienced as a teenager.
What I quickly discovered in my mindful shopping was this:
- I was now aware of the difference between my wants and my needs and could determine when each was appropriate.
- By stopping to evaluate the meaning of a purchase before making it, I could be more discerning about purchases. I could avoid buying things that have no real place or purpose in my life.
- I can give meaning and definition to the things I buy; those things don't define me.
- Advertising and fashion magazine images can advise and inform me but not dictate to me.
- Mindfulness also meant no longer using shopping as an escape hatch, an easy out whenever I was confronted with difficult emotions. I realized that in sidelining grief with shopping for all those years, I had ended up trapped in that emotion, like a fossil trapped in amber. I was unable to be fully present in my relationships and unable to move forward in my emotional life.
- Instant gratification is another easy out for compulsive shoppers. Credit cards usually provide this kind of impulse satisfaction. But in becoming a more mindful shopper, I rediscovered the great pleasure from really wanting an item before purchasing it, considering how it will function in my home or fit in with my existing wardrobe. The long-lasting delights of buying something I truly want and will use far surpass that of giving in to an impulse purchase that will be thrown in the back of the closet!
Overall, my mindful shopping has given me insight into other areas of my life. I can see when I'm neglecting to be mindful in my marriage and can see when I'm not being mindful with my health: overindulging in food or not listening when my body screams for some exercise.
Yes, I am more aware, but still not perfect.
And that's okay, because the biggest lesson of my new consumer behavior is that I don't need to be. There is such a thing as being enough and having enough. There is such as thing as being happy with what you have! Avis Cardella is the author of
Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict. She found her calling writing about photography, fashion and culture after spending her formative years voraciously reading fashion magazines. She has written for
American Photo and
Surface,among other publications, and lives in Paris with her husband.Keep Reading:How meditation can help free you from addictionUnderstand your shopping habits and why you buyWhy is it so damn hard to change?