- Mental Health
Decisions, Decisions and Indecision
Making major life decisions can be difficult for everyone. Deciding which career path to follow or making a decision to buy a home are major decisions. We carefully consider the costs and benefits of our decision, examine alternatives, and eventually select the choice that seems to fit our needs best at that point in time. We make a commitment to our decision and organize our behavior in a way that helps us carry out our decision.
For some, making minor, everyday decisions can be extremely stressful, even paralyzing. Which route should I take to the grocery store? Should I go to the bank before or after the grocery? Which brand of ketchup should I buy? Should I go with the store brand or stay with a known brand? Should I start in produce or bakery? Do I need to go down the beverage aisle at all? Which is better with a roast, potatoes or sweet potatoes? Most of us make these and similar decisions throughout the day with little awareness that we are making decisions. For others, the above decisions can be immobilizing and exhausting.
We all have times when it really is better to put off making a decision. If we didn’t get a good night’s sleep, if we are not feeling well, or if we are too emotionally involved in the outcome are all good reasons to delay decision making if possible. If we don’t have all the facts yet, we might want to wait until we have more facts. We might want to discuss our decision with a significant other or someone else that will be effected by the decision, before we make the decision. If we feel pressured to make a decision, it may be a good idea to wait awhile before deciding.
If I don’t like myself or if I lack confidence in myself and my abilities, I may believe that I am not capable of making decisions or that someone else is more capable of making my decisions. There are some benefits and risks involved in allowing others to make decisions for me. Some risks are that I might become overly dependent on others to make decisions for me. I might begin to make decisions to please them rather than myself.
While asking others for their opinion can be helpful sometimes, it can also be confusing and might even have some “payoffs” for me that aren’t really in my long term best interest. I might come to resent others when their advice doesn’t work for me, and blame them for my circumstances or for the consequences of the choice.
I could deceive myself into thinking that I can avoid responsibility for the consequences of my choices, if I believe it wasn’t my choice. If I give all responsibility for child discipline over to my husband, for example, I can deceive myself into believing I wasn’t responsible for my child’s abuse. In fact, I am responsible for choosing not to choose and failing to act. I am co-abusing by allowing the abuse to go on without taking action to stop it.
I might be afraid of making mistakes, afraid of not being perfect, or afraid of failing. I might believe that there is only one right choice and I must make the right choice. “If only” I had the wisdom to know the difference. What if I make the wrong choice? What if someone disagrees or disapproves?
There really is no such thing as a perfect decision that will magically resolve all problems, or please all the people all of the time. When we make a decision, we are typically choosing among a myriad of possibilities that all contain some positive and some negative aspects. When I make a decision, I am selecting what I perceive to be the options with the most benefit and the fewest costs in the areas I value the most and for the people I care most about, including myself. I make the best decision I can with the information and resources available to me at the time I make the decision. If I gain more information or resources later, that doesn’t mean my choice was wrong. It was the best one I could make at the time. I am free to make another decision now based on the information I now have.
When I do make a decision, I might still have doubts about it. I may have difficulty tolerating doubt and uncertainty. I might berate or belittle myself through harsh self talk after I’ve made a decision, telling myself how stupid, worthless and incapable I am. It is possible that delaying decision making has been self protective, and has kept me from harming myself with the negative self talk that follows decision making. I may berate myself for months or years about a decision that wasn’t perfect. I might even change my mind in response to my negative self talk, only to find I am as critical of the alternatives. Making a different choice would not necessarily make things better either. I may need to work on accepting things as they are.
We are human and humans make mistakes. We can learn from our mistakes and use the lessons learned to make better decisions in the future. In the meantime, decisions need to be made. Fear of making a mistake is not a good reason to avoid making decisions. Decisions are made in the present moment; not the future or the past. Some find it helpful to “let go” of the outcomes once the decision is made, and “turn it over” to God or a Higher Power. The following affirmation, if repeated several times a day for several weeks, can help with problems of low self worth or self confidence that keep me from making decisions:
I am a worthwhile, lovable, capable human being
with 100% positive regard
for myself and others at all times.