In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I make choices. I have never been very good at decisions. Generally, when presented with options of any kind I spend hours—days, even—spinning my mental wheels, circling around the pros and cons and possible outcomes of every choice I could make. The freedom of being in charge of my own existence can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis at times, and I often find myself waiting for other people to make decisions that I’ll be forced to go along with. This is particularly true of breaking up with someone who isn’t right for me, although it bleeds into most aspects of my life.
I did not learn to be confident in my own ability to choose what is best for me when I was growing up, and since becoming an “adult” it has been an incredibly challenging process to learn to discriminate between positive and negative choices (like, don’t purchase a waterbed just because it is on sale and maybe work one full-time job instead of three part-time jobs) in order to continue to create an emotionally and spiritually fulfilling life. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
It Is Okay To Help Yourself
There are certain types of enviable people born with the knowledge that they must take care of themselves above all else. I am not one of these people. I make a concerted effort to pay attention to the things I want and need, but in general a lot falls by the wayside in an effort to please people around me. Satisfaction in this scenario is elusive, generally giving way to deep-seated resentment that is actually no one’s fault by my own. Recognizing that you are important enough to put yourself first sometimes goes a long way toward building confidence in your ability to make life decisions.
Bad Choices Are Okay
I am a secret disaster of a human being, but on the outside I am furious when things are not as perfect as I intend them to be. It becomes very difficult to choose a career, a boyfriend, or even a new hairstyle without questioning whether or not the whole thing will explode around me, leaving me stranded in the ruins of a failed life plan and a bad perm. Mistakes are OH-KAY. I hate them so much, but you learn and move on. Nobody remembers mistakes forever—when was the last time you heard anyone talk about Britney Spears’ shaved head? Exactly.
Good Selfish and Bad Selfish
For me, making choices that eliminate certain options or people from my life has always felt incredibly selfish, even when the choices were in my best interest. Telling someone that I don’t want to date them anymore is possibly the most excruciatingly guilt-ridden task for me. You are not obligated to give any person or project your time if it does not suit your best interests to do so. I repeat this mantra to myself daily (sometimes I even listen to it).
Not Deciding is a Choice Too
An insidiously appealing method, waiting around for things to just “play out” can be incredibly harmful to your mind and spirit in the long run. At times in my life I have been so indecisive about the things I want that I’ve kept myself in some trully soul-destroying situations. I’m honestly ashamed at times of the ways I have spent huge chunks of my life—including participating in a sexless relationship for almost two years. Hot tip: if you ever want to find out just how important sex is to a relationship, give that a whirl (you will be SO grumpy).
We Gon’ Be Fine
Everything works out in the long run, right? Right??? Listen, I’m not sure everything works out, but I think that once you decide on a path that you’d like to take, it becomes easier to choose people and pastimes that reflect that decision. I have to believe that or I’m going to cry probably.
I find myself continuously replaying the thought process of every choice I’ve made in order to reassure myself that I’ve arrived at a conclusion that is consistent and positive. At first, I was really rattled by this obsessive mental wheel spinning, but the more I do it the easier it seems to get. Perhaps the constant questioning is akin to working a muscle I did not know existed. It’s so uncomfortable, but it also feels very good to be sure (I think). I can’t wait until I’m sixty and just DGAF.