I’m quite possibly the worst decision maker in the universe, a fact which was recently confirmed by a conversation I had with my boyfriend Camille. “You know, I said to him anxiously, I’m not sure whether to go on this 30 Day Challenge. I’ve just bought it but it’s really expensive, and I could really use the money elsewhere. I’m wondering whether to ask for a refund. What do you think?
“You always do that”, he replies without looking up from his book.”
Me: “Do what?”
Him: “You spend ages deciding on something, then you change your mind straight after you’ve made your decision, but you don’t dare to speak out and so you just go on stressing about it.”
Me: “No I don’t”.
Him: “Yeah you do, even your mother says that you did it even as a kid”.
Me: “How do you know?”
Him: “You remember that time your parents took us for lunch and you’d wanted a soup but ordered a sandwich, then realised the minute you ordered that you’d rather have soup but you felt too shy to change the order, even though the waiter hadn’t processed it yet?”
Mmm. Apart from the unflattering discovery that my significant others compare notes when I’m out of earshot, I was also surprised that they’ should have caught me on what I thought was my dirty little secret – I hate making decisions. I don’t just hate it, I suck at it; I take forever deciding about the smallest things and keep worrying after the decision’s been made that it might not have been the right one. As I since discovered though, I am not alone in this – and if you recognize yourself here, you might want to read on.
According to introversion researcher Susan Cain, indecision is a typical introvert trait – quiet people take longer to decide because they consider more factors than extroverts. Thus when asked “what do I fancy eating”, an introvert might be calculating not only what they would LIKE to eat, but also things like is it healthy? how many calories does it have? how expensive is it? is it balanced with whatever other meals I’ve had today? is it for eat in or take away? was it grown organically? what will people think? will the tomato sauce splash on my shirt? etc etc. By which point their brain starts to feel dangerously close to shutdown, much like a computer with too many widows open – and they no longer have any clue what it was they wanted to have.
But this leads me to think that this indecision thing is also a tragic symptom of mind over body, of intellectual thinking over gut feeling and instinctively knowing what is good for you. As a society, we’re not really into tuning in to our inner guidance – not only are we constantly encouraged to do what we should regardless of whether we like it; but pervasive consumerism has us endlessy checking we are making the most of our choices, both in comparison to our own options and to what other people have.
The excellent Martha Beck puts this way in her book Finding your own North Star: our Social Selves have taken over our Essential Selves. In the case of perpetually indecisive people, I would add the Social Self has probably kidnapped the Essential Self, shut its mouth with sticky tape and locked away in the broom cupboard where no one can hear it scream.
How do you get over this would be the object of many posts but in the meantime, do you know where your Essential Self is? if not, why not? If you suspect it may be locked away somewhere in a far corner of your being, start listening out for its voice. It needs your help to get out.