Shopping for that sweet summer dress starts out as an enjoyable day of leisure. You walk into the store holding a latte and begin thumbing through rows of floral fabrics and maxi dresses fit for a Greek goddess. These festivities roll along with the best of intentions, yet as you approach the fitting room area you are blinded by fluorescent lights and feel suddenly anxious. After awkwardly counting how many items you have chosen, you are lead to a tiny room with a huge mirror on the wall. The heavy door behind you slams shut leaving you with elevator music playing menacing above your head. You then eye your summer selections hanging neatly on the wall hook and feel a little more intimidated than you had when you entered the storefront.
Before you know it,you’ve tried on eight dresses, scrutinized yourself in those dresses and power walked out of the store feeling like half the person you were when you entered.
But hey, at least the latte was good.
Does the scenario above feel familiar to anyone? It’s an all too common story for so many of us: Fitting Room Woes. I do know some women who actually like trying on clothes, even in the summer, and those girls are a true inspiration. However for many of us, the fitting room is a place where painful feelings regarding body image and self-worth have a way surfacing. It can be very hard to overcome these negative thoughts while standing in an unfamiliar environment, not to mention in front of a floor length mirror.
As summer quickly approaches, I found myself wanting to practice ways to conquer my fitting room anxiety. I was simply tired of allowing every shopping trip to ruin my day and thus I embarked on the “The Fitting Room Project”. The tips below are my findings after interviewing the women in my life and experimenting with different solutions for making the fitting room a more gentle experience.
Tip # 1: Give Yourself a Pep Talk
Before you enter the fitting room, remind yourself of the reality of the situation. It’s just a piece of clothing and it does not define your worth. Whether it looks fantastic or doesn’t quite work on your shape, you are still a person of value and beauty. If you feel a little corny saying those things to yourself call a friend and let them do the talking! If they are a good friend they will understand what you are trying to accomplish and will cheerlead you into that room with confidence.
Tip # 2: Don’t Shop Alone
Try bringing a good friend with you on a shopping trip! Communicate to her that you really want a good experience that day and that you’d love for them to offer up some extra encouragement before you go into the fitting room. Having that extra bit of support, even if you feel silly asking for it, really can make a big difference. Note to friends: This doesn’t mean lying at costs to make the person you are supporting feel good. It just means using positive reinforcement like, “I think we can find something even better! Can I grab a few things for you?” rather than, “That is a terrible color on you.”
Tip # 3: Speak Kindly To Yourself
If you find your mind drifting towards negative and critical feelings about your body, try to redirect yourself to something positive. Find something flattering about the outfit, even if it’s not your favorite. For example, “I don’t like this enough to buy it, but it is such a pretty color I’m still glad I gave it shot.” rather than “If I lost 10 lbs this would be perfect.”
Not everything we try on in a fitting room is going to work. It’s okay to acknowledge that, but do so without tearing yourself down. In those moments simply admire the piece of clothing for what it is and the great care somebody took to make it, even if it doesn’t work out for you to purchase it.
Tip # 4: Set Yourself Up For Success
It’s a good rule of thumb to do something that makes you feel good before you begin your shopping excursion. For some this is a good night’s sleep, wearing a favorite outfit to the store, or exercising before- hand. Arriving tired and feeling insecure is a sure fire way to plunge into self-depreciation in the fitting room. Also, when you make your clothing choices, choose items that have historically worked for you! Sure, trying new styles is a great… I’m all for that. However I know for myself, skirts and pants that are cut very narrow generally don’t work for me. So rather than beat myself up about that, I just simply pick items that are tailored in a way I’m familiar with for my body shape. That way when I walk into the fitting room, I’ve set myself up for success in my attitude and expectations.
Tip # 5: If All Else Fails, Try It On At Home!
Maybe you’ve had a really hard day and all the tips above seem to be failing. Don’t worry; it can take a lot of practice to change our responses to situations that bring anxiety. In that case, try purchasing the item and taking it home to try on. This is less convenient than using a fitting room (as you may need to return the item), but being in your own environment where you feel comfortable will bring you a lot more peace and may help change your perception of how you look in the clothing.
Tip # 6: Be Intentional And Thankful
This tip came directly from a conversation I had with my Mom. Try to remind yourself how grateful you are to have resources to shop with, that you have a healthy body, and that you have a free day where you could spend some time looking for a new outfit. It’s easy to forget how precious these freedoms are that so many of us have. In addition, consider where you are shopping (local businesses, fair trade brands, handmade goods for a cause) and if your experience could somehow benefit others. Knowing that your time and money is going towards something that impacts the world in a positive way can tremendously change your overall feelings. This will help move your heart beyond your fitting room worries to pondering things that carry great opportunity for growth.
Allow yourself some time to change your feelings towards your body and your fitting room experience. It takes practice to change how we react to stressful situations particularly when it comes to our bodies. The important thing is to always be moving towards personal growth and using tools to help you get there, one step at a time. I wish you much peace as you embark on your summer shopping!
Image via HomeDSGN