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Mental health

Wellmeaning salespeople: the shadowy nemesis of the anxious person

You may have followed my recent drama, in which, in a fit of anxiety, I purchased a dress I hated and then proceeded to have a breakdown about it.

I know how ridiculous this sounds. I know for many people, something like this just wouldn’t be an issue. But it happens to me more than I’d like to admit.

It begins the moment I enter a store.Oddly enough, I actually like shopping, but I prefer to do it alone because it takes me forever to make a decision. I want to be very sure that I’m getting the right thing. If I’m going to actually spend money, I want to be certain I’m spending it in the best way possible, because every cent counts. Every cent means I will miss out on something else.

So the moment a salesperson says “hi” to me, my pulse goes up. I usually try to avoid going near the counter, so they won’t notice me. If they do, I squeak “hi” back and try to scurry away before they engage me in further conversation. If I’m not successful, and they start with the “Are you looking for anything in particular?” – then I’m a possum in a trap. My mind goes blank. I can’t find the polite thing to say to make them go away.

So I end up with them trailing about after me, trying to find me the “right” thing (which, trust me, no one else will be able to find the “right” thing for me. Most of the time, I can’t.) The more awful things they bring me to try on, the more I can’t say no, because they’ve already put in the effort, right? They’re trying to help me. Why am I so selfish? Look at their eager little faces. I’m the worst person in the world if I don’t buy something from them.

I know how absurd this is. Believe me, I’m aware that my life, viewed from the outside, is farcical. But in the moment, it’s impossible for me. I just cannot find the ability to say “No, thank you.”

Thus, I end up in Wednesday’s situation, where I impulsively spend money to please the salesperson and because I feel like I can’t escape, and I get home and promptly burst into tears because I’ve gone and bought something I hate and now I have to not eat to pay for it.

Luckily, I had friends who supported me to exchange it – the mere idea of which filled me with choking terror. I assumed that the salesperson would look at me like I was crazy, and I had ruined her life. I assumed that they’d fight me and say I couldn’t exchange it.

Of course, none of these things happened. They not only allowed me to exchange it – that same salesperson was very kind, and gave me equal measures of space and advice to find something I was happy with.

So, some lessons for myself, and anyone else who makes Anxious Snap Purchases They Later Despise.

1. Don’t shop under time pressure. You’re more likely to make a decision that doesn’t feel right.

2. It’s totally ok to tell salespeople you’re “just looking” or “don’t need help” or, even (those words of horror): “No thank you.” You’re not insulting them personally. They’re just doing their job.

3. Ditto for if you want to take something back. They’re just doing their job – they’re not going to hate you for it. It happens all the time – you’re not unusual, they’re not making fun of you.

Anxiety isn’t a rational thing, unfortunately, so it’s hard to behave rationally when in you’re anxious. But I’ll try to remember these things next time. (For what it’s worth, the fact that I didn’t avoid the situation that made me anxious paid off. I ended up with two dresses I love, for the same price.) So maybe:

4. Avoidance may seem like a good solution, but you don’t learn skills if you do it all the time. So instead, I’m going to try and be this girl (albeit usually more polite, except if I’m dealing with idiots on the internet) more often.

sarah-nope

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@writehandedgirl) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Wellmeaning salespeople: the shadowy nemesis of the anxious person

  1. I have social phobia (well Avoidant Personality Disorder actually) and avoid shopping in places with salespeople who come up to you and offer help. They mean well but it just makes me too anxious to think about clothes and I scurry out.
    I cope with being out in public by sort of pretending I am invisible to others. If someone speaks to me I can’t maintain the illusion! I find decision making a challenge at the best of times and impossible if I feel I have someone looking over my shoulder. The only places I have found that I am safe from wellmeaning salespeople is Farmers and Postie Plus. They allow one to browse in peace so I simply do all my clothes shopping there. Shoes from Shoe Warehouse. Crappy quality but no sales staff to scare me off. Most other shopping I do online, but clothes need to be at least held up against you if not tried on.
    I know how debilitating and exhausting anxiety can be. Thank you for putting yourself out there.

    Posted by Warren | March 14, 2014, 12:45 pm

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  1. Pingback: In Which I Go To Dinner and Experience a Bizarre Situation | Writehandedgirl - February 14, 2014

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