Retail Therapy Isn’t Self-Care
It’s the Holiday season and you know what that means! Why, it’s me presenting hard truths and railing against the way capitalism enslaves us all, of course.
Unpopular opinion time: Retail therapy isn’t self-care. It’s running from your actual problems and hiding behind immediate feel-good self-soothing behaviors, whose emotional high effects fade fast. I will die on this hill.
Maybe also an unpopular opinion: Overspending isn’t a matter of a lack of willpower. Rather, it stems from underlying emotional problems that aren’t being addressed.
Overbuying clothes and shoes? It’s possible you lack confidence in your body or appearance and are constantly trying to amend it. Just one more flattering dress and I might feel good about my waistline.
Dining out too often? You’re swapping instant gratification of a restaurant meal or UberEats dinner for the time spent and health benefits reaped from a healthy home-cooked meal. I’m too tired from a day at the office to make dinner; Chinese takeout is kind of healthy, right?
Buying more books than you could ever read as your shelves overflow? You might be trying to escape some aspect(s) of your life and are hiding in fiction or memoir or history. I could lose myself in these other worlds and in other people’s lives.
Drinking too much alcohol? There is a deep-seated unmet emotional need that isn’t being addressed. Depression, anxiety, trauma, feelings of low self-worth; these are all possibilities. I just need two glasses of wine to unwind at the end of the day.
Instead of these quick hits of happiness (which do not last), maybe spend that fun money budget on a few sessions of therapy or a gym membership or cooking lessons. Invest in yourself for the long term. Don’t just get what you want today, this hour, right now. Figure out what your mind and body need — truly need — and start working on introducing that into your daily life.
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Deidre Delpino Dykes, an author of speculative fiction, may actually be three birds in a trench coat. She is the co-organizer of the Columbia Writers critique group in Maryland and a passionate player and GM of tabletop role-playing games. She is working on a novel-length manuscript and enjoys writing short and flash fiction, some of which have appeared in Wizards in Space vol. 1, Ghosts on Drugs, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Deidre tweets as @DeidreDykes and previously worked as a slush reader for Clarkesworld Magazine.