In a previous post, I touched upon how difficult it is for me to make choices and I thought I’d use this time to explain why.
To understand the why, sometimes we have to step back and understand the how.
I have trouble making choices. It’s not because I’m indecisive; it’s because it causes anxiety. The more options there are, the harder it is.
For example, if someone were to ask me where I wanted to go for lunch today, I’d have an internal meltdown.
First, where do I want to go? There are so many choices, how will I narrow it down?
- What food do I feel like today?
- How far are we allowed to travel?
- How much time do we have?
- Will my friend like it too?
These are the thoughts that run through my head after someone asks what seems like a simple question: “Where do you want to go?”
Nothing comes naturally or quickly. I’m an analyst by trade, and I’m good at it. I think about all the angles.
For my job, this is great, but for every day life, it can become a burden.
Focus on the Options
The more time I’m given to think about a simple question, the more I will continue to dissect without getting any closer to a solution.
- What if she doesn’t want to go there?
- What if she went there yesterday and doesn’t want it twice in a row?
- What if it’s too expensive and she was hoping only for a quick meal today?
The list goes on and on.
You’ll notice that the first question, the simple one, was ‘where do you want to go?’ – this is assuming we already had lunch plans to begin with.
Can you imagine the turmoil I face if you asked, “Do you want to go for lunch today?”
Sure, to you it might seem like a yes or no question, how hard could it be? For my sanity, however, I have to plan ahead.
I already planned to eat my leftovers today, now you’re facing me with all these other options and it’s stressful.
Every single time I am asked an opinion question, this is what I face. It starts as ‘what if I say the wrong thing’ and then it spirals out of control.
Close-ended questions are easier.
For those of you who want to know what to do in this situation, remember that. Instead of “where do you want to go for lunch today?” try asking “do you want to go _______ for lunch?”
That’s assuming you know that I’m suffering from anxiety. But what about others like me who haven’t just come out and said, “I suffer; choices are hard”?
Well it doesn’t hurt to listen.
I would say that it’s good practice to ask anyone close ended questions, regardless if they suffer.
If you do give someone an open-ended question and they don’t answer, or they are constantly giving you the “I don’t know” as an answer, try making it easy. Yes or No.
Anxiety Needs a Break from High Stress
Side story: I can never ask my husband what he wants for dinner because the answer is always, “I don’t know.”
To make matters worse, close-ended questions don’t work with him either. “Do you want spaghetti?” he still answers, “I don’t know.”
With my husband, I learned that I need to just do. If it’s my turn to make dinner, then you get what you get. He’ll eat, or he’ll make something else.
This is what it’s like in a house with two people who suffer from anxiety. No amount of close-ended questions will solve anything.
If I’m having a particularly bad day, then I need to say, “I’m having trouble deciding…” and my husband will just take over.
He gets that that ‘trouble’ is a panic attack on the verge of exploding.
He’s quick to help, even if he still hasn’t figured out what he wants for dinner.
If it’s not life or death, or it doesn’t concern me and my immediate family, I have no desire to make the choice.
A long time ago I used to have this friend who would send me text messages of her in 2-4 different outfits and ask me which one I liked best.
I’ve never had any fashion sense, and I’ve always been open about not being good with choices. Why ask me?
At first, I’d just pick a number. It doesn’t concern me in any way; it’s not life threatening; what do I care which outfit you go with?
“Three. Go with three.”
Except it didn’t end there. She’d send a follow up text of “why three?”
Sigh. I don’t care.
I have to run through questions all day long, this one just doesn’t matter.
Next time she sent me images and asked me to pick, I wouldn’t. I’d go with “I don’t care.”
Then she’d plead with me to pick one anyway, so I’d say “three” and once again, she’d ask me why. “Why did you pick three?”
“Because you told me to pick a number.”
This was a high stress friend, and so after a long time, I had to let her go. It wasn’t just about the text messages; it was everything.
Anxiety Needs a Team
My life is already stressful because of my inability to make choices. I cannot surround myself with people who are always asking me to choose for them.
It’s not that I can’t be around others who suffer. Look at my husband and I – we both suffer.
Sometimes he can’t choose either, but the difference is, he never asks me to choose for him. We have an understanding.
He also understands that anything involving food, which is obviously my favourite topic, causes me the most stress.
There are far too many options. I don’t know what’s right, nor do I know what the group wants.
Since I have no idea how to please everyone, I’d rather not even try.
This is how I suffer. This is why I suffer. And this is what you can do.
Lessen the choices.
If you don’t really need my opinion, don’t ask for it.
If you do, phrase it that way. “I need your opinion on the following…”
For the majority of my friends, when they ask my opinion, it’s usually on a meaningful topic that they need help with – not just “what do I wear today?”
Although, I had a friend who was shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding and needed my opinion on that – that was fun.
I was able to tell her what I liked about each dress, and she made an executive decision all on her own.
That’s good teamwork. That’s good friendship. That’s what I need.
Good friends who are patient with me as I make up my mind, and also respect when I can’t.