February 20, 2015

Ask Me Anything: “I Am Addicted To Shopping” {Weekly Advice Column}.

retail shopping

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected].
I look forward to hearing from you!

Dear Erica,

I am addicted to shopping.

I’m not broke and my debt is under control, but sometimes the only thing that makes me feel better is going on a shopping spree.

In itself, this is not a problem, but I am hiding purchases from my husband—going to great lengths to cut off labels, throw away receipts and bags before I get in the car to go home. Then sneaking the stuff into the house because I know he won’t approve. On the other hand, he really doesn’t even notice what I buy, so I’m not sure why I go to all that trouble.

What really bothers me is that this behavior is so not who I am. In all other areas of my life I am honest, conscious consumer and someone who physically and spiritually cares for myself and others.

After I buy the stuff, I know I don’t need it and I feel disappointed that I let myself do the same thing again. I can’t return what I bought because I always cut off the tags. I end up giving away or donating tons of clothes and household items that I have never used.

Why can’t I stop doing this?

~ Shopaholic

Dear Shopaholic,

I am surprised to see that “shopaholic” was a real word:


a person who likes to shop very much

— Mirriam Webster’s dictionary

As such, it seems you are not alone. Webster’s also aptly says that “shopaholic” rhymes with “alcoholic” which I think strikes closer to the heart of the matter, more than merely saying you “like to shop very much.”

There is obviously something deeper going on here.

Compulsive behavior begins when we are trying to cover up some kind of psychic pain. Then the behavior takes on a life of its own and becomes a whole other issue. One key to solving this problem is to ask yourself; “what am I trying not to feel when I go shopping?”

Unfortunately, you may need some help, in the form of counseling, to find your answer. The facts that you are not honoring yourself, that you are lying to your husband and that you can’t seem to control yourself all indicate that whatever pain it is you’re trying to numb is significant. It will take some heavy lifting to unearth your truth and begin to heal.

Your shopping addiction is telling you to slow down and look inside, and if you do so, you will likely find rich opportunities for growth.

Dear Erica,

I think social media is ruining my life.

I feel bad when I go online and see how everybody else is doing—all of their vacations and parties, the meals they made and the work outs they did. Meanwhile I’m just lying here doing nothing. I’d think I would be motivated to do more after seeing what everyone else is doing, but it has the opposite effect.

I tried getting off Facebook and just being on Instagram and Twitter but all these people got mad at me and thought I was “de-friending” them so I went back on. I get sucked in every time and spend hours just scrolling through stuff and stalking people too see what they’re up to.

I wish social media was never invented, even though I have to admit, I don’t know what I would do without it.

~ Too Social

Dear Too Social,

Jealousy existed before social media did, but the internet certainly has a way of throwing things in our face and making us feel even worse about ourselves.

As painful and challenging as this may seem, I am going to recommend a total social media fast for you.

Try to be completely unplugged for at least a week. Only allow yourself to check emails, and just once a day, if your job will allow it. Turn off all notifications on your computer and your phone that tell you when someone has posted something. Log out of everything and take a big, deep breath.

Ah. Now you have some space to be.

It will feel weird and hard at first, and you will wonder what on earth you should be doing with yourself—just accept the discomfort. It will pass. Start noticing the details of your own real life; how things smell, how your friend’s voices sound on the phone, what food tastes like. The world will likely seem to come alive.

If and when you decide to go back to social media, strictly limit your time on it. If you find yourself falling back into old patterns—feeling jealous of other people’s lives rather than experiencing your own—force yourself to do another fast.

Repeat as necessary to slay the social media monster.


Relephant read:

“I was an environmentalist, but I was also a shopaholic.” Kristin Glenn on #WalktheTalk.


Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photos: flickr

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