If you fall into the indecisive camp, understanding why you have trouble choosing might help you become more confident in your future decision-making. “At its root, indecisiveness is often the fear that you’re not going to make the right decision because you don’t trust yourself and you’re scared of how people are going to respond to your decision,” therapist Meg Josephson, a meditation teacher and master of social work candidate, says in a recent TikTok focused on explaining why people struggle with decisions.
This can stem from childhood situations where you might have had to neglect your own needs in order to please other people and feel safe, she says. It's possible, she adds, to stop this cycle by adopting two practices:
- Starting to feel comfortable with people not fully agreeing with your decisions
- Practicing trusting yourself again
Josephson tells me that indecisiveness “is a common pattern that people often shrug off as a personality trait,” but that view can be quite limiting. For example, if your indecision comes from worry about how people will react to your decisions, it's actually a form of self-betrayal. “Giving another person the power of the decision gives us and our inner child a false, short-term sense of safety,” she says. “That’s why it can be such a healing practice to start becoming comfortable with people not fully agreeing with our decisions. It’s how we can really start to regain trust in ourselves, and begin honoring our own truth and needs. This practice gives us the strength to say, 'You may not agree with this, but it feels right to me.'”
"It can be such a healing practice to start becoming comfortable with people not fully agreeing with our decisions." —Meg Josephson, therapist
Clinical psychologist Thea Gallagher, PsyD, an assistant professor at NYU Langone Health and co-host of the Mind in View podcast, agrees that when it comes to learning how to overcome indecision, it’s important to learn to not care about what others think of your choices “within reason.” That is, if you’re making a decision that will impact your partner or your family, for example, it's wise to loop them in on some level.
“But at some point, you have to learn to tolerate the fact that people aren’t going to be 100 percent happy with the decisions that you’re making all of the time,” Dr. Gallagher says. “If you can do this, it’s going to make you a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled person.”
1. Get comfortable with people not agreeing with you
Of course, being more confident in making decisions and actually making them are two different things. To learn how to overcome indecision, it's important to first identify what what matters to you. “To practice being comfortable with others not agreeing with our decisions, we first need to know how we actually feel so that we don't continue relying on other people's opinion to drive our own,” Josephson says.
From there, try visualizing the possible outcomes of any given decision you’re tasked to make and see which one just feels right in your gut. Next, set healthy boundaries to protect yourself from external opinions.
For instance, that can mean saying no when someone asks you to take on a task you’re just not up for, or saying yes to something that you’re actually excited about, Josephson says. It can even be as simple as not responding to a call, regardless of how you think the other person might feel about that choice. “If you're getting a FaceTime after a long day and you don't have the mental capacity to chat right now, practice being okay with not allowing yourself to be accessible 24/7,” Josephson says.
2. Trust yourself to make the right choice
Dr. Gallagher suggests starting small. “Make something that you want for dinner without asking for approval first,” she says. “Remind yourself that when you’re accommodating everyone else, it can make decisions even harder.” Eventually, these new habits will allow you to make bigger decisions with confidence. “At some point, just make the decision,” Dr. Gallagher adds. “Don’t go back and re-evaluate it. Just move ahead.”
If after taking these steps you still feel like you’re not able to overcome indecision, Dr. Gallagher recommends consulting a mental health professional. “You may need to unpack the underpinnings of this,” she says. “Indecisiveness can be a symptom of anxiety and depression, or you could be dealing with something else entirely. Either way, reach out for help.”
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