Why We Hate Shopping

Adele Leahy, personal stylist, standing in front of a rack of clothes looking like she is passing on some pearls of wisdom to someone outside of the shot.

Picture this; you’re breezing through your shopping center of choice, enjoying the pleasant greetings of the shop assistants, have a clear idea of what you are after and are confident in being able to find pieces that will compliment your body. You have a few items already purchased from your list and are feeling empowered and capable in this shopping expedition.

If this represents you, you are likely to be in a minority of people who feel connected to their style and have developed sound skills around shopping. If this doesn’t feel like this, you are in the majority of people who want to feel great in clothes but don’t know how to shop to win.

Why do so many of us dread shopping?

This is a question I have had to ponder many times whilst devising a clear plan to help my clients overcome their shopping frustrations. If shopping were an optional thing, it wouldn’t create so much frustration, however the frustration is very real due to the fact that well, we all need to wear clothes.

So, if ALL of us must shop to buy the clothes we need, how is it that many of us feel at a disconnect with ourselves in retail stores?

How is it that the hatred of shopping can run so deep we avoid the shops altogether, resorting to online shopping that doesn’t often yields worse results. How is it that men hate shopping so much they send their women folk to do it for them? How is this?

The better question is; how are we not like this?

Consider the machinations of advertising we are subjected to in our capitalist society. An underlying principle of advertising is to create a story about how your life is less without this object, experience or product. Advertising does NOT give us a sense of completeness, satisfaction and happiness. The purpose of advertising is to let you know about a product or service that is available to you. The stories woven by advertising is that your life will be better with these things, therefore your life as you know it is unsatisfactory. We are not sold satisfaction, we are programmed to be susceptible to advertising via our dissatisfaction.

Once we have grasped this concept, we can zoom out even further.

When we are informed by, in this case, that these products will supposedly make our life better; that we will feel better, look better and have more if we buy these products, what is the underlying thing that is happening?

An externalization of what makes us happy.

A handing over of our conscious thought and being informed by advertisers, retailers, conglomerates and service providers that our satisfaction lies in the possession of something outside of ourselves.

While a lot of us will be conscious of this concept and don’t blindly buy Coca-Cola because of the bright young things that are depicted enjoying life with a cold bottle in their hand, when it comes to shopping there is an interesting vulnerability that is running alongside.

All of us want to look good. Very few of us want to leave the house looking like yesterdays breakfast. Consider how this is leveraged by advertisers. It is almost universally acknowledged by everyone (men to a lesser degree but still there all the same) that we don’t like how we look.

Pair this with the advertising world creating a very binary and limited ideal of beauty (think thin or buff models) being told that this is what we should look like. In this process, we are handing over our power to advertisers, internalizing without knowing it that it is ok to be told that because we don’t look like this, we are not somehow not acceptable. Not enough. It’s no wonder then that even the thought of shopping deflates many.

There’s something here I want to home in on.

When it comes to shopping, many of us externalize our power.

Many of us rely on the acceptance of what brands are telling us to look like, dress like, be like. Many of us allow ourselves to feel terrible when we don’t fit the dress, the pants are too tight or the jacket doesn’t fit properly. We directly connect our not being able to fit something with us needing to feel bad about our bodies. This is the case for both men and women.

We are susceptible to handing over power to others, especially when we are lacking in confidence.

Many of us lack confidence in our bodies, our looks, our purpose, our ambitions and seek gratification and encouragement from those things that present as expert knowledge. Retailers. Advertisers. Clothing manufacturers. Marketing campaigns. And thus, the vicious cycle is perpetuated, and we never arrive at a place of feeling satisfied, let alone happy, with our bodies or how we present ourselves and having a direct line and capability between the two things. This is equal to men as it is to women.

Go back to how advertisers have long since made the connection between how we all want to look good, fit in, belong and how most of us feel negative about how we look. Layer this with the idea that shopping is something we feel should all be naturally good at and the hole we are buried in is deep before we’ve even driven out the driveway.

Awareness, my friends, is key to learning. This is definitely the case with shopping  Unaware, you are a fragile dandelion feather, tossed and thrown about by concepts that have been created by marketers that hold no actual truth.

So, how can we change from feeling dread to excited anticipation at the thought of hitting the shops? Realise that as the consumer, you possess all the power. The clothes, the ads, the sizing, the trends, the limited and normalized ideals of beauty are not your guideposts.

These are your guideposts to shopping to win;

  1. Knowing how to dress your body shape
  2. Understanding your lifestyle needs
  3. Auditing your current wardrobe
  4. Identifying gaps in your current wardrobe
  5. Realising that it’s always the clothes fault, never your bodies fault

Your guideposts to overcoming this tsunami of negativity and mass media messaging is to return to you.

Start the mining process of asking yourself what you actually like, what do you like about your body, realizing that it is safe to like things about your body. Start a Pinterest board to turn thought into picture. Pin people that look like you. In so doing, we may start to inch back that permission that we have been taught to handover to ready-to-wear, mass produced clothes that have nothing to do with who you are and how infinitely wonderful your body is.

If shopping does feel akin to torture for you; it is largely because you have been successfully groomed by the advertisers you have been exposed to.

Its ok, you can start to take back your own power and separate very negative messages from advertisers and start to ground yourself in what you think. What you want. What you like.

Powerful stuff, hey? The purpose of this article is to validate and help you understand why something as common and everyday as shopping is so hard. It’s because the foundations of the retail world are dysfunctional and represent a power imbalance because they are based on the needs of marketers, not based on your needs. Through awareness, you can start to retrieve your power, put yourself (not the advertiser or products) at the centre of your shopping experience and build a solid skill set of shopping that serves you and not commercialism, consumerism and discontent in general.

Research shows those who are happiest live a life of self-concurrency.

That is, deeply understanding what you would like and being able to have it. Before you gear up to go shopping next, review the list above and help that frame your approach.

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