By Leo Babauta
It’s a simple fact: the pandemic has increased the amount of impulse shopping most people have been doing. There are lots of stats proving it, but you can simply take a look at your own life and the lives of people you know to see that it’s true for you.
Why have we been more compelled to shop for clothes, gadgets, workout equipment, hobby toys and more?
At the heart of it is uncertainty. We’re feeling so much more uncertainty these days, and we don’t know how to handle it.
The higher the uncertainty we’re feeling about ourselves and the world around us … the more we reach for comforts and things that make us feel a little more in control. And shopping is one of those things.
There’s nothing wrong with that! Feeling in control, and feeling comfort, are two very lovely things — we all need them sometimes. The more we can let go of judgment, the more open we might be to other possibilities.
Let’s take a look at what we’re hoping that the shopping will bring us … and then at other strategies to meet those needs.
What We Really Hope We’ll Get From Shopping
When you go online to buy something you’re craving … are you craving that item? Or something else?
In my experience, we’re craving something else — something we’re hoping that this purchase will get us. We have a hope that when the package arrives at our front door, it will bring something into our lives that feel lacking.
For example, we might hope that the purchase will give us:
- Comfort / feeling loved
- Health / wellness
- Excitement / joy / fun
- A beautiful life / serenity
- A feeling that we’re cool / strong / sexy
- A feeling of control / being on top of things
- Adventure / outdoorsiness
- Minimalism / simplicity
- Connectedness / friendship
- Self-improvement / worthiness
You can see that we hope for a lot of things from our purchases! And these are just a few of the most common.
Underneath some of these is something even deeper — for example, underneath a hope for stylishness is a hope for a sense of worthiness. Underneath the hope for minimalism or contorl is a hope for a feeling of peace.
What’s underneath the things you’ve bought most recently? What feelings were you hoping for? What experience of life? It can be powerful to take an honest look at this.
Other Strategies to Meet Those Needs
If what we hope for is an experience of life, a feeling … you might imagine that there are other ways to get this than buying something.
- Peace: Could you meditate, take a walk, sit in stillness and silence for a bit? Peace is always available to us, if we give ourselves some space.
- Comfort: Could you give yourself love and compassion? Give yourself some self-care? What could you do right now that would feel like a hug from a loved one?
- Adventure: Could you go outside and feel a sense of play, adventure, wonder? Could you find the adventure in everything you’re doing?
- Joy: Could you find joy in daily living?
- Control: This feeling could be accomplished by getting your life in order, one small thing at a time. But it can also be helpful to realize that control is an illusion, and nothing we buy will ever really give us control. The real practice is surrender and trust.
- Feeling strong / cool / sexy / stylish: What we’re really hoping for is a sense of self-worth, from our possessions. As we can see from past purchases, it never really gives us that. Maybe a little boost in self-worth for an hour or two, if that. Instead … we could practice valuing ourselves. And that means paying attention to how we feel, giving ourselves love, taking care of ourselves, honoring who we are. That’s all free!
The good news is that this is all available to us right now, in every moment. For free. That means we don’t need to order anything, it’s already arrived! It can be a nice relief to the bank account as well! :)
How would you like to practice with this?