What You Think is What You Get: How to Shop for Clothes with Positive Results

March 20, 2015

Today is the first day of spring. Whether you are still buried in snow, freezing temperatures and are expecting yet another snowstorm (as we are) or your daffodils are popping up and color is everywhere, it is time to review and update your spring wardrobe in anticipation of much warmer weather to come.

The question is, do you want your shopping and dressing experience to feel like this?

Or this?

Knowing what you want is easy. Getting there is another story…

At this point I am in full shopping mode. This week alone I am shopping with clients four times at Lord & Taylor and twice at Infinity Boutique! With the onset of spring shopping, what I always notice is that while everyone is looking forward to warmer temperatures many women are a wee bit apprehensive when it comes to exposing more of their body. In the cold weather, it is so easy (and accepted) to hide under lots of layers, but it is less easy to do that comfortably as the temperatures rise. This results in anxiety over their wardrobe choices.

Not to mention that whenever I spend time in the dressing room with women (and this includes myself!) I am acutely aware of the energy of their experience of shopping. What I mean by this is that buying clothes is not just about making sure something fits and you like the color. Not by a long shot.

Choosing a wardrobe is as much about navigating the unrelenting world of body image concerns as it is about the practicalities of buying clothes.

For this reason, I want to connect with you before you head into the stores or try on the things you ordered online. Of course, the choices you make and how they flatter (or not) your body and personal taste is important, but none of that matters if a cloud of worry, doubt, fear and anxiety hovers over you throughout the entire experience.

Whether it is a low grade negativity that haunts you and undermines your best efforts or a full-blown ‘get me out of here’ feeling, the end result is the same: poor choices, things bought in desperation, a feeling of being deeply unworthy and hopeless and overall frustration.

Phew! Who wants to shop with all that hanging over their head! And, to be honest, there is little likelihood you will have great success if those negative feelings have anything to say about it (and they will!).

Think about the last time you walked into a store. What was the first thing you thought about? Was it:

  • Nothing ever fits…I don’t know why I bother shopping.
  • It takes me forever to find something I like…I don’t have time for this!
  • Everything is made for someone taller/shorter/thinner/bustier…
  • Even if I do find something I like I’ll never find something to go with it to make an outfit. And what about shoes…oh, dear…it’s too hard!
  • I’m overwhelmed. There’s too much here and I don’t know where to look first.
  • Everything is overpriced and I don’t want to pay for something I’m not even sure I’ll wear.

And, the list goes on. No wonder you put off shopping as long as possible!

I would like to share something very powerful that I have learned over the years:

If you approach shopping with dread, frustration or overwhelm your outcome will feel the same. To change the outcome you MUST change your approach.

“But,” you say, “that’s the way it has always been. I can’t find anything I like or feel good wearing. I don’t see how that is going to change any time soon.”

Clearly, that has been your experience and I don’t trivialize it (it’s exactly why so many women come to me for help not to mention that I have experienced it myself in the past), but I’m sure you want to change that experience going forward.

I know this is hard to believe, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have shopped with hundreds and hundreds of women and have yet to find anyone who cannot have a wardrobe she loves… Not one person and I doubt you will be the first.

You can experience the same fun and delight as Annie and Sara in the photo at the beginning of this article. Right now, all you have to do now is be open

To Change Your Experience, Change Your Thoughts

Do THIS the next time you shop for clothes:

  • Sit in your car or on a bench (somewhere quiet) before you go into the store.
  • Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths…slowly…the store isn’t going anywhere and your shopping experience will be positively enhanced after you go through this exercise.
  • Then imagine what it feels like to be wearing something you love. Something that makes you feel beautiful or sexy or elegant or cool…whatever positive feeling you want.
  • This is VERY important. You DO NOT have to see the exact details. This is all about the feeling. So, if you were wearing something that made you feel great, what would that feeling feel like? Joy? Serenity? Empowerment? ___________?
  • Now, sit for a minute or two and revel in that feeling. Imagine yourself dancing in front of the mirror or leaving the store with a big smile on your face. Whatever feels good to you.
  • Open your eyes and take another deep breath. Now, keep that feeling alive within you as you go into the store. Expect that you will find something that makes you feel that way.
  • If you feel yourself starting to fall back into old habits or feelings, find a corner or hide behind a rack or in a dressing room and go through the exercise briefly again.

Does it work? Absolutely, yes!

Might you need to practice it a bit? Absolutely, yes!

Should you celebrate every success? Absolutely, yes!

Maybe you don’t find anything you want to buy, but you realize that you don’t feel the dismay you usually do as you leave the store empty handed. If so, then celebrate! Or, perhaps you find something unexpected and are surprised. Celebrate! Be open  to how your experience will change. It might not be what you think…at least to start.

Not too long ago I took women from a workshop I offered to Lord & Taylor for a special group shopping experience. Before we started shopping I took them each through a short exercise just as I described above. Then, we shopped.

A little while later as one woman had on a dress she had picked out, a huge smile spread across her face and she said, “This is exactly what I was looking for and how I felt in the exercise we did.”

See this new way of shopping as an adventure and pay attention to what happens for you when you do this exercise. If you get stuck or it feels forced, say to yourself, “More and more I love the clothes I find when I shop and I come home with beautiful items to add to my wardrobe.” (Or create something like that that speaks to you.)

Here’s what Kim had to say about this exercise:

“I have been using your mantra of ‘more and more I feel…’ and it is so empowering. Saying I am beautiful wasn’t working for me but the more and more I feel beautiful, powerful, etc. is absolutely working AND happening! Woohoo.”

Also, if shopping is not a favorite pastime of yours, do not plan a 4-hour shopping trip at the mall! I know it’s tempting to do that to try to get it over with, but it will backfire. Instead, start with 45 minutes at a small store that feels manageable to navigate. Here’s what Pam had to say that speaks to that (she and I had shopped together and then she went shopping on her own):

“In addition to helping me find fabulous things, you have enabled me actually to shop by myself and not get turned off. I tried it in a small session on Monday and felt much better about it and had some idea what to look for. You even made a hit with my daughters. They loved everything. Thanks so much! You were terrific!”

How do you think professional athletes have so much success? All of them use visualization to get results. So, for you, think of shopping as a marathon sport. Use your new visualization tool, practice with it each time before and during your shopping experience and watch (and celebrate!) the results.

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