Once upon a time, in my mid twenties, I was less interested in self actualization and more concerned with self image. One autumn day during that time, I received a gift certificate for a trendy, outrageously expensive boutique, and decided to do a little shopping.
As I entered the shoppe, a gorgeous associate approached wearing a very unique sweater. She showed me to a small shelf, displaying only one of each size of the item she modeled. I picked one up, checked the price tag and thought: well, my gift certificate should cover the tax. But I didn’t care; I had to have it. And I certainly wasn’t going to put it back because it was too expensive! I slapped down my credit card faster than you can say ‘consumerism’ and floated out of there with my new purchase, expertly wrapped in beautiful black tissue paper, nestled in a sleek, handled bag.
That evening at home, I pulled the delicately wrapped bundle from the shopping bag.
I peeled away the tissue wrapping with so much care and anticipation you’d think I was Charlie Bucket looking for a golden ticket. There, sitting on the floor of my closet, away from the price tags, ‘cool girl’ sales associates, and allure of the downtown bustle, I had a profound realization: this was the ugliest friggin sweater on the face of our planet! And I mean ugly. It was so ugly that I’m not even going to describe it to you because I want you to imagine your own personal fashion nightmare. If I had to categorize it, I’d put it in the ‘colorblind hobo’ department. Ugly!
In the days that followed, I was determined to make myself like the ugly sweater, refusing to admit I’d been blinded by my ego. I also refused to return it; that would be too humiliating. Each time I tried it on, all five senses were somehow offended. With every futile attempt to wear it, I’d inevitably peel the sweater off and cast it onto the couch as I headed out the door (in doing so I learned that my cat even refused to curl up on it…did I say ugly?). Whenever I pawed through my closet and caught a glimpse of it, I cringed with the guilt of having spent so much money on such a ridiculous item. I admitted defeat about a year later and finally donated it.
The reason I’m sharing this seemingly irrelevant, incredibly embarrassing story with you, is because it taught me some valuable lessons that took several years to integrate into my life. My hope is that sharing these lessons will save you some time (and money!). Looking back on that twenty-something girl in the store that day, I see that her life revolved around the superficial. Her primary concerns were decorating her home, expanding her wardrobe, and obtaining the latest electronic devices. I see two underlying causes for this misguided focus.
First, it’s just plain easy to get caught up in the physical aspects of life that don’t really matter.
It’s the world we live in. We’re all influenced to an extent by images we see in the media, and the people around us. Yet we don’t all let it rule our world like I did. I really gave away my personal power to others around me, whom I perceived as superior in some way (prettier, richer, smarter); I allowed them to dictate what to buy, how to dress, and the persona I emitted.
Second, in looking back at my younger self, I see a lost, insecure girl with no spiritual practice.
This was undoubtedly a result of limiting beliefs formed during past relationships. So in addition to her impressive collection of material things, she was also stocked up on fear, anxiety, constant stomach upset, and an inferiority complex – not to mention a maxed out credit card.
Little did I know, once you start living the life your soul intended, true happiness becomes inevitable. Over the years I began to take an interest in returning to my authentic self. I began meditating regularly. It didn’t take long before my priorities began to shift, which ushered in some wonderful, unexpected perks: anxiety and insecurity were replaced by feelings of worthiness and clarity. My nervous stomach became a memory. The obsession with designer clothing subsided naturally; this wasn’t something I set out to fix, or even noticed as an issue at the time. It was just a natural side effect of realigning with my true self. Most days I feel peaceful and grounded. Yes I still enjoy nice things and I always will, that’s just part of being me. The difference is that I’m no longer hiding behind those things, depending on them to define my value.
The message I hope you receive is that you are a divinely perfect just as you are.
There is no sense in comparing yourself to others in regards to how much stuff you have or how you look, because that undermines your self-worth (not to mention they’re probably doing the same thing). I know it sounds clique but true happiness cannot be bought. It does not come from an overpriced downtown boutique, it cannot be purchased at a discount on Black Friday. It must come from within. In the end, when life is over and you’re being dressed for your funeral, nobody’s going to be checking the tags.