I’m going to give you this up front. The next time you’re about to make a purchase, take a moment to ask yourself this:
Am I buying this to feel better about myself?
It’s important to answer this question honestly. You have to live with yourself, so I’m going to assume you’re in a place in your life where you’re willing to deal with the consequences of your honesty. If you answered “yes” – if you’re buying something because you feel broken and bruised — you’ll have to deal with it.
The consequences I’m alluding to aren’t things like maxed-out credit cards or hoarder credentials. These consequences are more like heavy weights pushing down on your chest or a sinking feeling in your gut.
When I buy things, I buy them because I need them or because they bring me joy. When I remove possessions from my life, I remove them because they are no longer useful to me or they no longer bring me joy.
It’s a pretty simple system when I’m being honest. But there are times when someone does something, like someone writes something unkind about me, and the words hit, syllable-by-syllable, like consecutive gut punches.
As much as my mind knows not to take it personally, that this person is obviously in pain and taking it out on me, as much as my mind knows this is true, my heart still hurts a bit. It never feels good to be dislike or rejected.
And now we’re back to the honesty.
The pain doesn’t really go away. It may numb out for a bit, but it comes right back to us when the high fades. We’re feeding an addiction to avoiding pain, but we aren’t actually avoiding pain, we’re just putting it off or burying it away.
I grew up in a town where kids had parents who were doctors and lawyers. We didn’t have that kind of money, but I wanted the same things those kids had.
I wanted to wear the latest designer clothes even though I’d outgrow them in a year. I convinced my parents to buy me overpriced shoes in seventh grade — and by convincing, I mean I begged and pleaded until I broke them down.
I wanted these things because I was caught up in my identity.
What I really wanted was to belong, to have true friends, to feel safe, and to have fun. My mistake was that I thought the way to get that was to “fit in.”
When I did get what I wanted, I thought would change my life — but nothing in my life was different. The high was short, and the price I paid was big. I hid from myself for years. I tried on different styles, personas and mannerisms the way we try on clothes. Nothing brought me the truth but facing the pain.
But the real truth is, you deserve a better life than what buying your pain away can bring. You deserve to walk through your own pain and come out the other side a changed person. You deserve to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come up when you’re disliked.
You deserve these things because they make you a better person. They change the way you see life. They make you more compassionate and more capable of feeling. And that’s what this world needs more of: More feeling. More compassion. More love. More joy.
We don’t need to hide or to numb ourselves out. We need people to see that a new piece of clothing might make you feel better, but it isn’t going to change your life. And that’s what you really want, isn’t it? To have a better life? To feel better about who you are? To love more, to give more, and to be happy?