An e-mail from Sephora gave me the wake-up call I needed

Four years ago, a celebratory e-mail landed in my inbox. But as I read it, instead of excitement, I felt a knot form in my stomach.

“Congratulations,” it read, “on unlocking¬†VIB Rouge, our new premium¬†membership level!”

“Congratulations,” I heard, “on spending $1,000 you can’t afford on things you didn’t need and haven’t used!”

Yes, I had spent enough money at Sephora in that calendar year to qualify for a premium membership level. I felt slightly nauseous, but I pushed down the bile forming in my throat with justification after justification. After years of uninformed¬†drugstore shopping, I was finally buying the good stuff. It was an investment in self-care…an investment in myself!

Treat yo self.

In truth, I needed to placate myself with these weak justifications because this overspending conflicted with my self-perception–I was frugal. I penny-pinched, I planned meals, and I would never dream of taking out a loan on a new car.

But in reality, I had my own weaknesses when it came to spending. And in order to see what lead me to that year of VIB Rouge, there’s a lot to unpack.

Now that I’m four years removed from that situation, it’s easier to examine objectively. It’s no coincidence that 2013–the year of excessive Sephora spending–was also the year I was struggling with issues of depression, insecurity, and self-esteem. I remember examining my face in the mirror every day and just hating what I saw. My skin was too ruddy, eyes too small, nose too big, hair too thin…the list went on.

I remember every time I placed a Sephora order, part of me felt like this might finally be the solution. The purchase that would change my life and make me like myself again. That’s a heavy load to put on a face mask or overpriced hair cream.

David Chilton expertly sums up this situation in The Wealthy Barber Returns, “We want with such emotional intensity that we’re able to convince ourselves that our desires aren’t wants at all, but instead integral components to our future happiness.”

Spoiler alert: not one of the $1,000 worth of purchases I made that year magically fixed my overwhelming self-esteem issues.

In fact, four years later, I still have quite a few leftover products lying around, mostly unused.

Now, I want to make it very clear I don’t believe spending $1,000 in one year at Sephora automatically equates to self-esteem issues. For a makeup artist or enthusiast, $1,000+ is probably a pretty reasonable amount to spend on beauty products in a year. The problem was, I wasn’t aligning my spending with my priorities. These purchases weren’t serving me (or my budget) in a positive way.

I would feel a high scrolling endlessly through the products and meticulously selecting the ones that I “needed” most to add to my cart. I would feel a somewhat-lesser high when they first arrived, and with each use, the high would fade further. While some products were better than others (and there are admittedly a couple favourites that I still buy), none of them changed my life in the way I almost-subconsciously wished they would.

I wish I could tie this story up with a neat little happily-ever-after in which I never overspent or let consumerism dictate my decisions again. That would be a lie. I’ve made financial mistakes since then, and I will continue to make all types of mistakes in the future. But more importantly, I have learned and will continue to learn from those (many, many) mistakes.