True Story: I Bought Sneakers to Numb My Pain
On December 14, 2013 I got a pair of sneakers that I'd always wanted: Jordan 12's, the "Taxi" colorway. At that time, the shoe had only been released once before in 2008 (for all you sneakerheads, I'm talking about the time when they were retroed in their original form, not the 2004 low-top release).
Starting at 10:00 am, I waited for 2 hours in a virtual waiting room, with thousands of others, hoping to get the shoes before they sold out. I remember the moment I refreshed the page and I saw the size 6.5 Y in my cart and thinking, "I can finally go pee."
In my early to mid-twenties, there was something about buying sneakers that made me feel more interesting, like I actually had a way to contribute to a conversation. For a span of almost 2 years, I bought nearly every single Jordan release -- if there was a new sneaker to be had, I was definitely buying it and was definitely going to make sure you knew about it, too.
Not-so-ironically, that was also one of the most difficult times in my adult life. I never felt more rejected, unloved, abandoned, hurt, disconnected or unworthy -- and still to date, I don't know if I have felt that level of pain.
On the surface the sneakers were a great way to "treat myself" -- they were the perfect $160 band-aid. I had other band-aids too, including (but not limited to) more frequent shopping, going out every weekend, drinking champagne in the shower (that's for another post) and excessive posting on social media. If Brené would have seen this she would have called it "hustling for worthiness."
Change Ain't Easy
When we try to use the things we don't need to build up our self-worth we're never actually satisfied. Engaging in behaviors that mask underlying concerns helps us muddle the "what-do-we really-need-to-feel-better" waters. If we rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, whether it be buying sneakers to make us feel worthy or drinking champagne in the shower to help us numb emotions (I clearly have zero experience in the latter activity), it becomes harder and harder to understand our actual needs.
Then, if we continue this behavior through time without evaluating our intentions, it becomes more difficult to change our thoughts and actions as we get older. I don't want to say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I will say it's way more difficult to implement change when you're used to doing things the same way for a long, long time.
Change isn't easy, though. Many, many times I told myself and everyone I was ready to do things differently, and still didn't -- I could readily admit my faults (shout-out to perfectionism and anxiety) and that was a really easy way to "look" like I was ready to be different. What I noticed was that people who loved me wanted to hear the "here is my part of the problem" line -- I was smart enough to recognize their pattern and gave them the lines they wanted to hear. But in all honesty, I knew I wasn't fully ready to shift my behavior and wasn't prepared to acknowledge my underlying sense of unworthiness.
Don't Buy the Sneakers
To this day, if I feel overwhelmed with a difficult situation or experience emotions I don't like, my subconscious encourages me to go to Nike.com -- the initial reaction doesn't change because whether I like it or not, I engaged in this behavior for years... so that urge may never go away.
But my response has shifted through the years (thank God). Now, I got to Nike.com, put sneakers in the shopping cart, and leave the website once I talk myself down and think, "This is money I could use towards my credit card bill." (#Adutling)
When we try to use the things we don't need to build up our self-worth we're never actually satisfied.
For Freedom's Sake
In between your reaction and your response, there is a space to consider your intention. A psychologist, Viktor E. Frankl, suggests, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Freedom is about choice -- and when I bought the sneakers, I wasn't choosing. I was giving into an impulse, and we all know how impulses can feel both overwhelming and controlling, but also good at the same time. By acknowledging the impulse instead of giving into it, I was able to be honest about how I was feeling, ultimately giving me the space to make a clear decision about what was really best for me.
My nugget of wisdom? Evaluate your intention every time you feel an impulse to do something, especially after you have been feeling hurt, are disconnected, or are struggling in general.
Freedom does not come easily, and growth certainly doesn't either. But your emotional struggles aren't the core of who you are, they're just visitors. By choosing to not engage in the behaviors that entertain the visitors, helping them overstay their welcome, you are paving the way to your own freedom: freedom of choice. That's real power.
LOVE YOU, MEAN IT