The Internal Struggle (AKA Analysis Paralysis)
Oftentimes, women come to me saying they feel like they are going crazy. Some of their comments are:
“Every time I try to make a choice, there are a million arguments inside of me as to the pros and cons of every option.”
“I had analysis paralysis when the server asked me what type of toast I wanted.”
“It was like the weight of the world was on whether or not I should leave at 10 or 10:15 for my appointment and by the time I made the choice, it was already past 10, so I guess I didn’t actually make the choice.”
For those of us who experience this every day, it may seem like there are multiple people in our heads who happen to have very strong opinions about everything. Sort of like those frustrating times when you’ve tried to get a roomful of people to agree on where to go for lunch.
Who are all these people and why are we listening to them?
Some of these voices come from the past, some from society, and some from us.
Ten years ago, I made a cake and used salt instead of sugar and that page in my mental notebook reappears whenever I bake.
A few months ago, I put spoiled garlic (from a jar of minced garlic) into a dish, ruining the food, so now I do a 10-point inspection of the garlic before I use it.
Many women have an amazing skill of learning from our mistakes. Ninety percent of the time, this is a helpful strength that makes our contributions imperative to the various communities in which we participate.
Ten percent of the time, though, this leads to anguish. Unfortunately, that ten percent stands out in our minds a lot more than the ninety percent, leading us to perceive ourselves as “indecisive” or “easily overwhelmed,” when the truth of the matter is that most of the time, we are great and productive.
The other source of past voices may be from childhood. For many BIPOC women, especially, we grew up being repeatedly reminded as to the potential catastrophic fallout of making mistakes or not doing it right the first time. That is a whole other topic to be explored elsewhere!
Social media, movies, shows, videos, and written materials send women mixed messages regarding expectations. Women in leadership are sometimes portrayed as demons (literally, witches) or saviors. Women with emotional intelligence are sometimes portrayed as crazy or mentors. Women who want families are portrayed as needy or nurturers. Women who state their needs are portrayed as nagging or differentiated.
So, when we are presented with the option of “do you want the blue jacket or the pink jacket” this can result in all of those societal voices telling us the potentially deeper meaning of either choice or the message it will send to the world.
Many years ago, I was supposed to go to join my friend’s extended family for a holiday meal. He came to pick me up and could tell something was wrong. I didn’t want to go. Not because I didn’t want to be with his lovely family, but because I was just exhausted. I was torn, thinking about their expectations, how it would come across, potential consequences in the future, etc. He turned to me and asked, “what do YOU want to do?” I said, “I want to stay home.” He said, “Then stay home. Everyone loves you and they’ll understand.”
All the past and societal voices went away, and my own voice could finally be heard.
What would it take for you to elevate the importance of that voice so that it was as legitimate (or more legitimate!) than the others?
The next time you face a decision, notice all of the separate voices that are sparring for your attention and try to determine where each of them is coming from. Allow your own voice to rise to the top and take note of how that feels. Although this process may feel difficult at first, it will get easier with practice