Self-Image: How Taking Care of Our Basic Needs for Clothes Can Help Reverse the Ways We’ve Been Neglected by Caregivers and Ourselves

“Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without” by AlyssssylA is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-image lately and how it relates to clothing. My caregivers put a lot of emphasis on body image and our outward appearance. This sent me the message that I needed to look attractive to be loved or even liked. This was especially apparent regarding the subject of clothing.

How You Look on the Outside is Not Who You Are

About two weeks ago I got it in me that I wanted to throw away two sweatshirts that I’ve been holding on to for almost two decades. I had just bought a pair of hiking boots for the winter weather we’ve finally got up in the Northeastern part of the States. And I was thinking about what else I needed to replace. I had just bought some wool socks and work shirts, so I thought I’d throw out the sweatshirts, a few other items and that would be that.

Sentimental Attachments

So I gathered the sweatshirts first. There were two. One was from a private school I never went to and the second was from a Pawsocks game I saw in 2004. They had sentimental value for certain. The private school, a cross-country club sweatshirt I got from a good friend when we used to work at a Mexican takeout place together, that was located next to a screen printing shop. He had traded a couple of burritos for the sweatshirts and gave one to me. We were counterfeit brothers in sweatshirts from a school we never went to. Nor could afford.

The second was from a Pawsocks game I went to that reminded me of my childhood. When my family would all go to Red Socks games together. When I took the sweatshirts out to examine them, they had so many holes in them that they were literally falling apart in my hands. I was sad at first. It felt as though my memories were directly connected with the condition I kept these particular sweatshirts in.

The good times I had with my friend, riding longboards around the city while drinking 22’s. Or the time I spent helping to paint my niece’s bedroom before she came home from the hospital. If I let go of these memory’s physical counterpart, the entire package may be lost. And worse yet, they were falling apart on their own. Which meant it was only a matter of time before I lost everything.

I thought about keeping them, but I felt like I was being held back by gripping these memories too tightly. I felt stagnant. As though I was refusing to leave that part of my past. And they were good times and memories for sure. But there was also a lot of fear, anxiety and insecurity. Fear because I don’t want to go back to that time or way of being now and. In fact many of the people I made those memories with I don’t even speak with anymore.

Letting Go of the Past

So there I was in front of my dresser, holding two sweatshirts that had been past their prime for 14 plus years and riddled with so many holes they were barely discernible as garments. And with those who my memories were tied to I no longer spoke with. The absurdity of the situation finally made sense to me. I got a few bags, thanked the sweatshirts for their service in Mari Kondo fashion and began the process of sorting through my clothing, tossing what I no longer needed.

The more I sorted, the greater my realization that most of the clothes I owned resembled the original two articles of clothing I had finally mustered the nerve to toss. I was holding on to pairs of socks that had sizeable holes in them. One long sleeve tee that was in worse condition than the two sweatshirts, if that was even possible. And dozens of other articles that I kept for no other reason than I felt that’s what I deserved.

The Realization

I had been living with the discomfort of not having my basic needs for clothing met for so long, due to the neglect I experienced around not being taught the most basic life skills, coupled with my family’s inability to discern self-worth apart from the things they buy, that I had become the embodiment of my family’s polar opposite while staying loyal to the legacy of neglect I learned from my care-givers by dressing like a hobo. If No Labels Living had a thesis, this would be it.

So with this new knowledge, and about half my clothes that were headed for the garbage and the few pieces that were in good enough condition to be donated, I made a plan to get some new clothes.

I made a list of what I needed and set aside some money that wasn’t in the budget. Because if not having enough clothes to wear isn’t an emergency I’m not sure what is. And struck off to the local thrift shop to get some new threads. I’ve since replaced a good portion of my clothing. But the more I focused on this mindset of letting my basic needs be left unattended as a form of neglect, I started noticing it in other aspects of my life.

Neglect in the Rest of the House

My pantry for example. I have dried beans and pasta, some teas and a few other items that have been there for up to 5 years! I had been treating my pantry as you would curate pieces for a museum. Not a place to make meals from. And the shower caddy in my bathroom was so old that it had rusted around the edges. The reason I even thought to check was because I had boughten four new towels and wash clothes to replace the two towels and plastic luffa I had been clinging to for the past four years. Things I never liked all that much to begin with!

And what held it all together was a feeling of self pity. Also empathy for inanimate objects and feeling as though I somehow deserved to live a life filled with discomfort. While also feeling unworthy of something better. What I realized was that my caregivers had been living life the same ways I had been living. And I felt as though I were judging them as inferior just for wanting something better than how I was taught to take care of my needs. As though I was betraying them for feeling like there was something more than what I had been taught. I was afraid to let go of these things and lessons because letting go meant losing one more thing in a life’s time worth of loss and feeling neglected.

Curating Things That Will Last

My family also has a legacy of poor boundaries. So discerning who was feeling what was a confusing endeavor. But I’ve since made plans to begin replacing all the things I’ve been neglecting in my life. Keeping in mind that I want items that will last and are made sustainably. If you haven’t visited Buy Me Once, check them out. Their mission is to connect people with items that will last a lifetime. For example I’m looking into buying alpaca throw blankets and sweaters. Because when treated with care, they not only keep you warm but could be handed down to the next generation.

I’ve also been shopping for clothes at thrift shops instead of buying them new and saving a ton of money to boot. At my local Savers I spent 90$ for two pairs of jeans and eight shirts that would have cost me around 400$ retail. And I’m also recycling at the same time as taking care of myself. That’s a win in my book.

And knowing that I’m comfortable in my own clothes gives me a new healthy self-image. One based on my values. I can replace the things that aren’t working in my life and that feeling is empowering. Also a source of confidence. Knowing that I care enough about my self-image, by taking care of myself has been a real resource for my emotional well being. I’m worth my time and the effort it takes to make my life better. I’m worth being a part of my own life. And it all started from tossing a couple of old sweatshirts : )

Healthier Self-Image Leads to a Healthier You

Neglecting our self-image can take a lot of forms. Clothing being only one. Next time you’re cleaning or doing laundry, take a look around at the items you’ve collected. Are there some that you don’t like but put up with? Is there a particular towel or set of sheets you dread using? Ask yourself why are you holding on to these. Especially if they cost less than 20$ or 30$ dollars to replace. Is the discomfort and disease worth putting up with for something that could be replaced so easily? Why or why not? And stay curious. It doesn’t help to be forceful or judgmental. And be kind to yourself while you listen.

I hope this has been of some use. I know it’s not easy making changes, especially those that take some self introspection. Or that are connected with our basic needs. But making these changes can be an incredible source of strength and lead to healthier self-image. So take heart, and know you are not alone and be strong! Peace, and thanks for reading :]

Image Credits: “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without” by AlyssssylA is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated: 7/31/22

Not Talking About Money: Why It’s Dangerous to Neglect the Financial Sector of Your Family

Money. This is a difficult subject for a lot of folks. I grew up in a family where it wasn’t just improper to talk about money, it was considered a personal insult to ask questions about the subject (which was the case with most topics really). When I was young, money was something that was scarce. Not to be discussed. This lead directly to me having absolutely no understanding of how money worked. This seems crazy to me now, considering my father worked dealing directly with currency. Also the amount of time my mother spent shopping, I was surrounded by all degrees of it. Water, water everywhere…

The Problem With Money Being Taboo

I recently read this article, sent to me by the only friend I talk to about finances. It’s about, as the article describes it, the “hollow middle-class” and it really hit home. They spoke about how both the rich and poor talk about money often. Though the middle class seldom breach the subject. This is true from my experience and something that left me in the dark when it came to making major financial decisions in my life.

How I’d be making a living was probably the most important decision never talked about. But also how to negotiate salary, ask for raises, ask for benefits, know my monetary value… The list goes on. All I knew was that I needed to work hard, make sacrifices and to just be thankful that someone was giving me money. Or that I had a job at all.

Not Knowing What Your Time is Worth

There was a sense of not having any value, or inherent worth in my family, regardless of how hard we worked or how well we did our jobs. No matter what we did, it was never enough. And I believe this is what was holding us back from discussing how we should be compensated for our work. If we didn’t find value in ourselves, why would someone else find it in us.

So it was with this mindset that I entered the workforce. And subsequently earned far below my capacity. I never thought of myself as having a career because careers were something that were had by responsible adults. And for all intents and purposes, I still very much felt like a child. Being thrust into the workplace under prepared and scared. Of not only not knowing what to do, but also of asking any questions. Mostly for fear of seeming like I didn’t belong and wasn’t the responsible adult I was pretending to be.

Not Having Guidance Managing my Worth

There were few mentors along the way. And I’m not sure I would have recognized them through the fear, had they presented themselves. Which also raises the question, if you’re not talking about money at home, and you’re too scared to ask questions about the subject at work, from whom or where are you supposed to learn this skill? I was raised in a world before Google. So the realm of knowledge laid squarely in the pages of books or with people who had experience. There are those who succeed even in the face of this type of adversity. But they are usually celebrated for being the exception not the majority.

So how do we find out how to talk about the value of our time and find guidance? We spend so much of our time at work, that if we’re scared to talk about compensation, or scared to take time off for fear of seeming not dedicated or replaceable, this can make for a miserable work experience. Not to mention breed a sense of resentment for feeling under appreciated.

Finding Guidance

One place I started, was with Dave Ramsey’s podcast. Dave helps people to get out of debt. Something I had a lot of and still do. With thinking my self worth was contingent on how high my credit score was and taking out student loans at the height of the lending and tuition crisis, I racked up a lot of debt. 115k to be exact.

Without any guidance, it was and is so easy to get caught up in the spending mindset. And before you know what you’ve done, you have eight open lines of credit and are up to your eyes in debt. Dave was a good resource. Not only for his pragmatic advice on money issues, but also for the sizable community he’s created. With three hours a day, and a huge library of past shows and his large community on social media, it’s easy to feel that support and get some sound advice too.

Finding Support From Friends

Finding people to talk to about money is also so important. As I said above, I have one friend who I speak with about my finances often and at all. If it wasn’t for him, I would have zero real life support. His wife works for a small investment firm. Just hearing about his path about retirement and savings has been a huge resource for me on my path. Once I realized that money is a tool, something we use to accomplish things like retirement or a better quality of life, I was then able to demystify it as something relegated to famous or hip-hop artists and start utilize it in my own life.

Not Being Defined by Our Wealth

And you are not defined by your wealth just as a carpenter or gardener aren’t defined by the tools they use. But rather the enjoyment from the buildings they build or gardens they tend to. As I said above, money is a tool and only a tool. It carries no other inherent power to define us than the power we give it.

While I was working on increasing my credit score, I really couldn’t think of another use for money but to spend it. Accruing interest, paying it back and do it all over again was the norm. It never even crossed my mind that I should have an emergency fund or save for retirement! I was living paycheck to paycheck. Completely oblivious to how close I was to economic ruin. But with no one to give me any guidance, how was I expected to know or act differently? The short answer is, I just didn’t know any better. Lessons usually taught by the familial unit.

The Places We Should be Learning Money Skills

There is merit to the idea that basic money skills should be taught in school. Asides from the semester course they may or may not still teach in home economics on how to balance a checkbook. And schools are a great place to do this. Since children have to go and it’s the staging place for the plans we make for living the rest of our lives.

But if you were someone like me, who was already checked out of school due to lack of support at home, the schools would be better off with a platoon of social workers, poised to catch those children from falling through the cracks and caring for those neglected. An updated curriculum with focus on basic life skills would be a great avenue to explore. Making sure the kids are safe and set up to succeed should be first priority.

Schools and Supporting Those With a Lack Of Support at Home

But also, that’s when it’s important to teach these life skills. When we’re still young and learning what life is all about. Learning how to care for all aspects of our well being. Money being one of the more important ones seeing how it has the capacity to do us great harm if not managed carefully. Knowing that we have the ability to care for ourselves. By taking care of our basic needs should be parenting 101. But too many of us never learn how to create and stick to a budget. Or what it looks like to plan for you’re financial future, as was the case with me. And I also recognize that it wasn’t my caregivers faults’. They weren’t given the guidance they needed to succeed either.

And if ignorance is handed down generationally, then how do we break free from the cycles of financial insecurity? I don’t exactly remember how I started on my path, be it the grace of God or whatever, I was ready and took to it with tenacity. And once I started bringing order to my financial house, I started telling everybody who would listen. I told the one friend I talk to about Dave Ramsey and he took to it too. And anytime the subject gets brought up, I try and add my two cents. For people who may not know where to look or are looking to make a change.

Talking about Money is What Really Matters

Regardless of whom you tell, it’s important to talk about money. Maybe you have a group of friends you’re close with. Bring it up while you are hanging out. Or if you have couple friends, it could be worth looking into retirement plans together. Or make a plan with your S.O. to get a consultation from a financial adviser and then talk about it over dinner. You may have a niece or a nephew, cousins or in-laws that you’re close with. Check in with them every once and awhile and see if they’re reaching their financial goals. And don’t forget to talk with your S.O. about your shared plans.

I know from experience that shared money doesn’t work without shared responsibility. Make it a date night, or schedule budget meetings. Whatever it takes, just remember to check in often about your financial goals.

And Talk Often

Whomever it is that you talk to about finance, talk about it often. Check in and bring a sense of caring and levity to it. Finances are scary enough without being afraid we’re gonna screw them up in some way. And the more awareness we can bring to understanding how to care for our financial needs, the better the odds are that we will break the cycles of financial neglect learned from our families.

I’ll be putting some resources I found to be useful when dealing with money on my community page. Mostly budgeting tools and a link to Ramsey Solutions. Also, it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to pay for most information to help with your finances. And there are a lot of free apps and finance blogs to explore.

Spending money can seem counterproductive when attempting to reign in your finances, so do your research first before spending any money on financial products. And only if it feels right. I don’t think I spent any money on the tools I use. It helps that I have a written budget that I keep in my bullet journal.

So regardless of where you are on your financial journey, whether you’re just starting out learning how to care for your financial needs or have been involved for some time with this area of your life. Don’t forget to find and foster a place for this with your close relationships. Because in this case, spreading knowledge could be akin to spreading the wealth. Something everybody could benefit from a little more of :] Peace, and thanks for reading :]

Image credits: “Home budget. Calculating monthly expenses for rent, electricity, phone, grocery and food” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 7/28/22

%d bloggers like this: