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When Life Gives You a Headache, Shopping is a Temporary Fix

January 8, 2019
Shopping is a temporary fix _ Tiny Ambitions (1)

$1242. That’s the size of the last car repair bill I had to pay over the holidays.

The size of the bill itself was not the problem. I mean, it’s not ideal to spend almost an entire paycheque on my car, but when you need new brakes, you need new brakes. The problem was aftermarket parts, warranty issues and apathetic service managers.

After being on the phone for 20 minutes trying to sort out who ripped me off, I gave myself a massive headache. Bigger than I’d had in months.

I had literally tied myself into knots over a situation that was equal parts frustrating, overwhelming and ultimately, futile.

That’s when the impulse kicked in.

Go buy something. A new pair of boots will make this situation better. What could it hurt to do a little retail therapy? You could definitely use another cute purse. You deserve it.

I hate that inner narrative. It seems so innocent. But it can be very destructive when left unchecked. I’m not opposed to shopping on principle. I’ve said that 10 different ways here.

But, in that moment of frustration, I didn’t actually want or need something new. I wanted something to distract me from my feelings of frustration and a situation I had very little control over.

This triggering feeling is an avoidance technique. I didn’t want to deal with the discomfort of the situation so I wanted something new and shiny to take my mind off it. But here’s the problem, no matter how good we think it’s going to feel (or how much we want it to feel good) – shopping is a temporary fix.

The good news is – I didn’t act on the impulse. In fact, I started writing this post almost immediately after it happened. So, I’m going to give myself points for at least recognizing the pattern in the first place and not falling into old knee-jerk impulse buys.

Beyond the frustration of the situation I found myself in, I’m frustrated that I had this impulse in the first place. I’m within days of the conclusion of my year-long shopping ban and I honestly thought I’d be past these kinds of triggers by now. After all, I do consider myself a reformed shopaholic.

This situation just goes to show that ‘progress’, whatever that means, isn’t always linear. It’s cyclical and surges forwards and fall backwards for a myriad of reasons. It also means I’m not the super robotic, wonder-woman I like to imagine I am in my brain.

The question becomes though if a year-long shopping ban didn’t undo my most instinctual impulses – what is the solution? What are the logical next steps?

Step one: stop throwing myself a pity party. I’ve been stuck in a funk since the fall, and I’ve not really moved forward in any way I can recognize as being productive or positive.

Step two: just observe. This is where my desire to be more mindful becomes a challenge. I need to observe these kinds of impulses and not judge them (oops). I just need to observe them and not go down the “I’m a terrible person rabbit hole” – which is my normal mode of operating.

Step three: no idea. Come on, two out of three isn’t bad.

Do you know what your shopping or compulsive consumption triggers are? What do you do when that impulse rears its head? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. I was quoted in an article by CTV News on why being bored and unplugging is so crucial for our health, click the link below to give it a read! (Shoutout to the journalist, Graham, for making the process so easy and fun).

Why being bored should be your New Year’s resolution – CTV News 

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Shopping is a temporary fix _ Tiny Ambitions (2)

  • Erin | Reaching for FI January 22, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Yikes, that’s such a large bill! (And I’m currently side-eyeing the $1000 I have in my car emergency fund and thinking about adding a few more hundred in there. Which is also frustrating because my car is generously maybe worth a whole $2000 hahaha.) I’ve been noticing lately some regressions/the presence of some thought patterns and knee-jerk reactions I thought maybe I’d gotten over (I’ve been in therapy for two years! Aren’t I done with all this self-improvement stuff/am my own super robotic wonder woman yet?) and it’s super frustrating. But I have to remember that I’ve spent my whole life so far with these thought patterns so obviously a year or two or three won’t completely undo them. I’m glad you’re giving yourself grace even though it’s frustrating!

    • Britt January 22, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Right?! Why can’t we be perfect and fixed in a shorter period of time than it took us to develop these patterns in the first place? Come on now. I’m glad I’m not the only one going through a backslide – we can perfectly imperfect together.

  • Tread Lightly, Retire Early January 8, 2019 at 11:50 am

    It’s SO frustrating that even a year abstaining doesn’t fix those knee jerk tendencies. But then again, we were shopping for a whole heck of a lot longer than that.

    • Britt January 8, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      That’s what I need to keep reminding myself. But I have a habit of falling into self-loathing pretty easily. Thanks for the reminder!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.