About 8 years ago I lost 25 kilos. At the time I was using food to fill an emptiness in me, although I now see how I had learnt to control my eating and weight but never really dealt with the issue underneath, so it popped up again in a different form – this time through buying clothes.
When I was a child we didn’t have a lot of money so my mum and grandma would make our clothes. My sister and I got a new dress each year in October to go to a show and if we made our first communion or confirmation, then we got two dresses that year. As I got older and had clothes made for me, I would pick a pattern and design how I wanted it to be made. It was always a joke in my family that I would never get a dress or pattern without wanting to make changes to suit my body.
Before I got married I remember buying three new dresses. I would save my good clothes for good and I didn’t really wear them. Then when I eventually got rid of clothes, they always looked as if they had never been worn and that was because I hardly wore them!
After I had my second baby, my mum and sister took me shopping. They thought that I needed to get a few things as I was still wearing my maternity clothes nine months after my baby was born. That day I bought two outfits that I could mix and match. I loved what I bought, especially a bone top and a khaki pair of long shorts. I felt beautiful in them. I also remember buying a beautiful grey tracksuit. I wore these clothes all the time; I didn’t put these clothes in my cupboard and not wear them.
When my first marriage ended and I shifted to Brisbane, I started to buy more clothes. At first I would buy really expensive dresses to go out in the evening. However I didn’t go out, so I didn’t wear them, and they would sit in my wardrobe. I spent more money on those ‘good’ clothes that I didn’t wear and not on things that I could wear each day. I stopped this and then started to look for a good bargain and I would find myself saying, “It only cost $10.” But I did wear them.
Two years ago I started work in a clothes store and I began to buy clothes on sale. They were now quality things that I was buying because they were on sale, so cheap and such a good buy and I was saving so much money… never giving any thought to, “Do I really want or need this item?” I had gotten sucked into something that I was losing control over. Sometimes I would stop and have short periods of saying to myself, “No, you don’t need that,” but the moment I bought something, it would start all over again. Pretty scary!
I knew my needing to buy clothes was about something else. I felt something was missing. I was missing something and I was using clothes to fill up this something. I felt that I needed something ‘out there’ to fill an emptiness that was in me. The more I bought, the worse I felt.
I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness.
I got to a point where I could feel a change in my body as I would buy something. It was like my body was telling me something, but I didn’t want to stop and feel what it was, – I didn’t want to listen to my body. I noticed how I would start to feel racy, disconnected, unsettled and guilty all at the same time.
One morning I added up all the dockets that I had spent on clothes since I had started working in the clothes store. I was pretty shocked at the amount of money I had spent, and when I looked into my wardrobe, I could feel how I didn’t really like the clothes that I had bought. This was an even bigger shock, as I do wardrobe makeovers with women and support them to buy things that they really love. Looking into my wardrobe I could say there was very little that I loved. Looking into my wardrobe made me feel sick.
It was at this point that I realised that I had an addiction to buying clothes that was no different to any other addiction. I was using something to make me feel better about myself. I was trying to fill something up with clothes, an empty feeling. There was something out there that I needed in order to make me feel better about myself because I didn’t feel ok about me, just being me. I looked the part – confident, well groomed – but I still felt I wasn’t good enough, and I thought that by buying clothes I would look and feel better and that this empty feeling would go away, but it never did.
I continued to buy clothes, with more awareness of what was going on, but I could still feel that I didn’t want to get to the bottom of why I was spending so much money on clothes. What I felt when I went to my wardrobe was the energy that I was in when I was buying the clothes, and that was what was making me feel sick. I had to really stop and feel what was going on and what choices I was making when I bought these clothes. One of the things that I noticed about this addiction was that I had stopped buying for anyone else. It was all focussed on me, what I wanted. That was a big eye opener for me.
What if what I didn’t want to feel was how amazing I was, how simply divine I am and that I don’t need clothes or anything else to fill me?
The clothes we choose to wear can support us far more then we realise. When we buy clothes in the energy of ‘I’m not enough,’ we are setting ourselves up each day to feel less, like we are watering down who we are, our power as women. If I’m hooked into anything that is not about me feeling the fullness of ‘me’, then what am I truly reflecting?
It feels like I have now taken a step back to observe what I had been doing. I was on a roller coaster. All that I needed to do was STOP and FEEL. I was so afraid to feel what was under the emptiness; I couldn’t bear to know what it was. I know this seems crazy now to even think that about myself, but when I was hooked I was not thinking clearly.
When you buy clothes with a connection to you it is a totally different experience. There is no thinking from your head, “Do I love this or not?” There is no part of you that has to get a second opinion: your body is there to tell you. The way you hold yourself, the way you walk, the way the clothes feel on your skin, these are all the signs that you need and they are a true confirmation.
In my raciness, I had forgotten this amazing connection that I used to have with my clothes; how I love wearing clothes that my body feels great in, clothes that I can feel on my body. When I buy things in a need from my head, I don’t feel the clothes that I’m wearing, I don’t get to feel what my body is saying.
Now when I work and the sales are on, and I feel like I want to buy something, I allow myself to stop and give myself the space to ask myself, “What is going on? Why do I want to buy something when I am already enough, already beautiful?” Buying with an addiction is like continually selling out on myself. When I’m connected there is no need, I find that things that I love naturally come to me, I don’t have to go looking for them.
Nothing can ever fill a place inside me. Only I can do that. I am already full of my own beauty.
By Denise Cavanough, Beauty-full Woman, Wife, Mother, Organiser/ Wardrobe Makeovers, Brisbane