"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good" says a familiar proverb, and as with most proverbs, there's a nugget of useful truth at the core. Amidst the violent buffeting of today's economic ill wind, some good can come to overshoppers. As the nation's financial crisis deepens, all of us, whether problem shoppers or not, are driven to reexamine what we buy. For overshoppers, however, the crisis is a special opportunity. It's a powerful incentive, maybe a tipping point, to get real, to look into the heart of their compulsion and begin teasing out what they're really shopping for. And when they do, almost invariably they find that the stuff they're buying isn't what they're shopping for. (If it were, they'd buy it and stop shopping.) What they really want-what the buying is an inadequate substitute for (or a distraction from)-is the fulfillment of some unmet need or needs, whether emotional, social, or spiritual.
Identifying the individual needs that underlie a particular overshopper's habit is a process I try to guide them through in To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. For now, I want to focus on one essential element of the process, self-kindness. Self-kindness means being your own good mother, means allowing yourself to bring home the care, respect, and good intentions you give to others. But it's more than just a stance. Self-kindness extends to a host of activities that satisfy your needs, activities that are healthier alternatives to shopping.