Here’s how to find happiness, if you believe what society tells you:
Step 1: Go to the mall.
Step 2: Wander aimlessly, looking at all the beautiful things you never knew you needed.
Try clothes on, and buy a new top.
Pick up household goods, and buy a new kitchen gadget that you didn’t even know existed until now.
Check out the latest electronics, and realise you definitely need to update to the latest iPhone, iPad and MacBook.
Buy some toys for the kids at the toystore.
Eat lunch at the food court.
Step 3: Bring all the bags home with all your new belongings in them. Stuff items into already overstuffed, oversized home. Collapse on the sofa. Watch TV. Go to bed.
Step 4: Repeat as needed.
Feel happy now?
The above is what so many of us do every week of our lives. In a recent survey, 93% of US teenage girls listed “shopping” as their favourite activity. Yet teenage depression and suicide statistics are horrific.
I used to do pretty much steps 1 through 4 every week of my life. When we sold our home in Australia and moved to New Zealand eight years ago, our apartment was stuffed to the rafters with things I’d bought. As was the garage (we’d never been able to fit the car into it).
Shopping seemed to fill this void inside me that I couldn’t quite understand. It didn’t make me happy really, but it filled the emptiness for a little while. Eating did the same thing, and all that filled was my waistline!
Why I was a compulsive shopper.
It was only when I stopped to question why I did these things that change began to come. Change was slow, but it did happen.
I realised that
– none of the stuff I had made me happy in the long term.
– In buying things, I was trying to create a better version of myself for the world.
– My shopping habit was an extension of the dissatisfaction I felt about myself and who I was.
All the ads on TV, and in magazines, made me feel unhappy about myself precisely so that I would go and shop. They made me feel bad on purpose. Those perfect skinny women, those amazing cars, those beautiful houses that looked like nobody ever lived there – all those things were designed to make my life look like it needed fixing.
Seeing through the charade.
Once I understood this, it was like someone had opened a window for me. I could see through the charade in a visceral way. I’m not saying there weren’t lapses and mistakes from then on, because there have been (plenty of them!), but I was on the path to healing.
Here’s the truth, and it might seem obvious but so many of us miss it: You can’t buy happiness. Happiness comes from accepting who you are, exactly as you are.
I’m not saying we all don’t have faults that can’t be worked on. I sure do! I’m too opinionated and I can be hurtful with my words. But these are not things money can change.
If we want to be happy, truly happy, we need to love ourselves. And we need to love others. We need to stop looking at what they have, or wear, or own, or drive. We need to look within, at the heart of each person.
That’s where happiness lies.
So I never found joy at the mall. I never found it in kitchen gadgets, or that new top, or that new pair of shoes. I never found it in the food court either.
These days, I go with a list, if I need something. And that’s what I buy. I’m doing The Project 333 to keep tabs on how many clothes I own, and I keep careful check on what I buy overall.
And happiness? I’m getting there 🙂