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What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.  – Helen Keller

How many times have we said, “If I only had (you fill in the blank with a material object), everything would be so much better.”  I am not talking about the biological or physiological needs from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep — I am talking about… just one more pair of shoes, those knick-knacks on sale that you will probably never use, just having to purchase that jacket because it won’t be there next time and I won’t look cool without it, or another black turtle neck when you already have 5.

You get my point.  We have all been there at some point, but what is driving the desire to have “just one more” or “a little bit more than I need.” What is the worst thing that would happen to you if you didn’t have it?

What is driving you to make that purchase that you just don’t need?

My personal struggle was with clothes and food.  And my personal journey of self discovery has led me to understand where these urges come from.

When I was in 4th grade, my family went through a period of not having much, including food.  My dad was driving truck and to make ends meet, we had a large garden which provided us with food for the year.  That particular year a couple of things happened; our garden produced an abnormal amount of green beans and not much else plus we were in an economic recession.  We were struggling financially but luckily my dad had come into a 40 gallon box of Rice Crispies which had been damaged during haul. For several months, our meals consisted of LOT or green beans and Rice Crispies.  Rice Crispies for breakfast, Rice Crispies heated with a pat of butter and seasoning salt for a snack, and Rice Crispies on top on our green bean casserole.  There was other food, but not always a lot and not always that good.

And while growing up, we shopped for clothes at the local Good Will.  Nowadays I see nothing wrong with shopping at Good Will or the Salvation Army, but growing up seeing my friends in the latest trends, I grew a bit jealous.

So those two events influenced how I shopped for clothes and food.  I tended to overbuy food; stuff that wouldn’t get eaten (but I knew I would always have enough). And I am still reluctant to buy any clothes not on sale – some would call this being wise or frugal, for me it is a fear of spending too much and not having money when it counted.

But here is where the beauty comes in; I recognized that these two events made a lasting mark in my life.  When I shopped for clothes and food, I was aware of how shopping made me feel.  But I also realized, more importantly than how shopping made me feel, that what I had been searching for was not something tangible out there, but something inside.  I had been searching for the feeling of safety, security and contentment.  No amount of things I could buy could come close to giving me the feeling of safety, security and commitment that looking internally and appreciating myself, my friends, my family and appreciating what I have can give me.

So the next time you feel that urge for something that isn’t necessary or doesn’t enhance your life (I’m not saying don’t buy or go after it), ask yourself why and is there something else missing in your life that you are trying to compensate for.

Sometimes the most powerful tool we have in our toolkit for self-improvement is simply acknowledging where our desires are coming from.

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