School Shopping: Emotional Survival

Selecting the right clothes can be one of the most pressure filled experiences of going back to school. Start the year off right by knowing how to emotionally survive the shopping.

1. Recognize Vanity Sizing: Have you ever wanted to know why stores size their clothes differently? It can be discouraging to go shopping only to find sizes are all over the place.

Size inflation or vanity sizing is the term which describes size discrepancies and includes how a designer or store may change the measurement in their clothing for emotional buyer loyalty. Recently, a researcher measured over 1,000 pair of pants that were a size 4 and discovered an 8 ½ inch margin of difference. While some stores want to keep that “thin is in” feel to their clothing other stores size up to satisfy our desire to fit into smaller clothes. The new size 0 or 00 is not necessarily because women are getting thinner, rather it is because market research is showing women feel better when they can buy a smaller size.

The struggle comes in when we use size to determine self-worth. Women tend to feel better if they can wear a smaller size. Don’t let marketing distract you from having a good shopping experience.

2. Put Personal Identity before Brand Identity: We often think we will “make it” if we have the right clothes.

I was convinced that if I wore a pair of stonewashed “girbaud” jeans all my troubles would go away, that I would be accepted. But, I never got those jeans. My mom invested more time on helping me understand my identity vs. investing in a pair of jeans. To be honest, I held a teenagers grudge that I was not one of those kids wearing brand names, “my mom just doesn’t understand.” But the way my mom emphasized personal identity when I was a teen, gives me emotional strength today. I am not my clothes. Yet, I know what it means to take care of myself. It doesn’t matter what I wear or what people say about me because I understand who I am.

When you understand “who you are,” It is a constant unchanging strength that can protect you. For more help on this check out a past Studio5 interview on I Know Who I am

There is going to be a struggle with hierarchy and popularity, it is part of life. It is more important to understand yourself, than it is to be popular. Learn about yourself and stand firm in your identity.

3. Re-Think Retail Therapy: Retail therapy is a term we use to describe shopping with the purpose of feeling better or soothing our emotions. When we use shopping as an outlet to cope, we set ourselves up for continued emotional highs and lows.

One mother and daughter shared their story about going shopping because the daughter had a difficult break-up with her boyfriend. It was done out of love for her daughter, she wanted to help her feel better, but in doing so she set her daughter up for more struggles. The exact words the mom used after getting new make-up, and expensive clothes were, “We’ll show him.” The daughter continued to think she needed new clothes in order to be valued.

Shopping can be good, it can be fun, but it can also be dangerous. We can buy new things to take care of ourselves, not to establish that we are valuable. Retail therapy is a short term high that has extreme lows, and it can lead to addiction. For long term healing we need to start on the inside rather than start on the outside.

3. See the Appearance Roller Coaster: When we base our worth on appearance we are limited to the success or failure of our appearance. It is why we may be feeling such extreme highs and lows. Take away the conditions and level out.

When feel up-to-date on trend and beauty we may feel a high. But what happens when those trends go out of style. A low. So we go shopping again to fix it and start the cycle all over again.

Consider what it means to take care of yourself. Avoid making appearance decisions that are based on competition, breaking your budget, and pleasing other people.

5. Say no: There will be many times you need to say no to a price tag, a style, or a brand name. Boundaries are important. Too many moms try to fix every hurt and, out of love and good intentions, they try give their daughter everything.

Even if it means your child is on the outside of the “cool” group there are times it is pivotal you say no. Vital. Imperative. Even life-saving. Your job is not to be to help them always be the most popular, the best, the prettiest, and to avoid those awkward years. Rather, your job is to help them develop empathy (think about people who are left out), kindness, and respect for all people no matter what they wear. Some of the most powerful learn-for-yourself moments come when a child feels excluded. Don’t deny them an opportunity to grow.

Karen Eddington is a self-worth analyst and mom comedian. After spending over ten years researching women and teens, she often has been seen helping people understand why life can be so hard.

As a mother of three she explains that being a mom is a lot like running a marathon, in flip flops, on a treadmill. You can put in a lot of effort, yet never cross the finish line. Look her up on facebook for more opportunities to connect and laugh. or on her website Look for NEW resources from Karen’s back to school workshops.

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