Retail Therapy: Short-Term Relief to a Deeper Problem

A woman with shopping bags.

Have you ever thought about why you spent money on things you never really needed? (Image: StockSnap via YouTube)

Retail therapy can turn into a black hole. With all the time spent at home, you must have at some point looked around the house and thought to yourself: “Where did all this stuff come from?” If you actually take a moment to answer that question, you’re bound to come up with some fascinating answers. So you start going down the rabbit hole and one of the most poignant moments will be when you try to answer why you spent money on things you never really needed.

Taking responsibility

Now, you find yourself up against all the excuses that led you here. You start blaming aggressive marketing, corporate agendas, peer pressure, or maybe even the neighbors. However, it all boils down to the fact that nobody forced you to click on that “Buy” button or swipe your credit card. You made that decision.

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What’s fascinating is that once you can start honestly answering these questions, you will be able to live a life that’s much more liberating, enabling you to prioritize your resources for something more worthwhile than useless material goods.

Retail therapy is connecting happiness to ‘things’

According to Forbes: “Once all of our basic needs have been met, consumption must become about something more than needs. Unfortunately, it too often becomes an opportunity to display our wealth, our importance, and our financial success with the world.”

Retail therapy makes you crave more things that you don't need.
People always crave expensive things, like expensive houses, expensive cars, and so on. (Image: via Pixabay)

This is something hard for anyone to admit, and yet at the end of the day, we have been brainwashed into thinking that we earn money to collect things that will make us feel better about ourselves. What’s more, this “feeling of being better” is ridiculously relative.

Envy is one of the primary driving forces here. We need a bigger house, a faster car, and trendier clothes, not to make ourselves happy, but to convince other people around us. What’s disappointing about this is that this “happiness” is incredibly short-lived. This is one of the main pitfalls of retail therapy.

Filling the void

As we grow older, we should grow wiser, learn to accept our shortcomings, and acknowledge and enrich the better aspects of our personalities. However, more often than not, this doesn’t happen. We are constantly pulling role models into our life that don’t relate to who we actually are. We feel ourselves to be “wanting” and instead of working on these issues through hard work and positive mental reinforcement, we take the shortcut and fill up the void with material things that simply act as temporary camouflage.

Advertising actually works

Our minds are constantly under attack from a steady onslaught of marketing. There are studies that say the average human being is exposed to around 5,000 marketing messages every single day. With a major chunk of advertising spilling over to our phones, our minds have been re-wired without our knowledge. The message is essentially the same — “You need to buy this to make your life better,” “You are missing something and we can give it to you right now.” Over time, your mind has no option but to believe this lie and act on it.

Burden of uncertainty

According to ZenHabits: “Most of our stuff, we buy because of one feeling: the feeling of uncertainty. This is the underlying groundlessness, shakiness, insecurity we feel about the future and the present moment.” We’re never comfortable with uncertainty. 

People are never comfortable with uncertainty.
People are never comfortable with uncertainty. (Image: via Pixabay)

We cannot deal with being left in limbo about something. People deal with this differently. There are definitely ways to address this positively, but unfortunately today, we are under so much stress from so many different directions that we just don’t have the time to deal with this in the right way.

More importantly, today we have the means to dispose of this feeling as quickly as possible. Retail therapy is the quickest response to tackling our uncertainties, but unfortunately, the consequence is that we end up buying things that we don’t really need.

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