The Anxiety of Choice

- Tribe Interactive
Doors in a Hallway

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Image by Arek Socha

The skill of choice is something I’ve had to work on (and continue to work on) a lot throughout my life. Those who know me best will tell you I am incredibly indecisive. Picking simple things like what to eat for dinner or what movie to watch are often particularly a struggle. More often than not I will end up making a list of appealing options and offering it to the other person. I would like to think it is because I am quite easily satisfied, which may hold some truth, but is likely deeper. Ultimately (as with many things in my life), I believe it boils down to anxiety. In this case, it is anxiety about picking something that will disappoint others.

Passing Off the Anxiety of Choice

This sort of anxiety shows up a lot in my life in strange ways. I have been known to give too much or unnecessary information fueled by a subconscious fear in the moment that someone may not be as successful without it. Even though this anxiety comes from a place of caring and consideration for other people, it can often have a negative outcome. Let’s say I am asked what I want to watch or eat and respond with a list. Sure, I could consider this “narrowing down options” but I’m essentially handing the choice over to the other person. In this moment my consideration for the other person has put the pressure back on them.

Do Unto Others

Being considerate of others is an admirable quality but is only as effective as your consideration for yourself. There are a million variations of this concept that people hold on to. I’m sure we are all at least somewhat familiar with the biblical “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In terms of inner peace many say you cannot be at peace with others until you are at peace with yourself. The idea of choice is no different. You can’t expect others to be satisfied with making all of the choices on the basis of you being “flexible”. It is a life-long skill to improve decision-making and continue analyzing your likes and dislikes. Put the pressure on others to tell you when they disagree or want something else. You can show your consideration by compromising instead!

You Are What You Want and Say and Do

Trust that people want to hear what you want. Your desires and the way you act upon them is what makes up your personality. These things living inside you may still comprise a part of who you are but to others you are made up solely of what they can see. Showing that you like certain things over others or have strong opinions about things does not make you less appealing. In fact, making strong choices makes you a more well-rounded and interesting person.

The Big Choices

When it comes to big decisions, being decisive is what will drive you forward in life. Of course we shouldn’t rush the answer to the big question, “What do I want to do?”. We can however make the choice to go out and discover what we love doing. Try things out. Say “Yes” to things. Once you do figure out what it is you want to do, make strong choices to help yourself achieve it. Make the choice to take a class. Ask people to study or practice skills with you. Choose to invest in yourself now so you can be closer to where you want to be later. Remember that there is no “end point” and make a choice to either enjoy the process or change the process.

A Forever Routine

I want to reiterate that this is a lifelong routine. While I’m of course speaking from some experience, in many ways I know I have been writing this with myself as the audience. Learning and growing are lifelong aspirations. It is what we choose to say and do with the things we learn that make up who we are.

Make good (and many) choices, friends.

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