I felt like a complete dweeb when I started college. My parents made all my major decisions for me including what to study in college, where I went to college, and basically what I wore to college. Yup, I was controlled that completely. Teenagers don’t magically turn into decision making adults without making their own decisions and their own mistakes. I didn’t do those important teenage things.
8. “Indecisiveness. [It feels like] every choice I make is wrong even if I choose the option I’m told to take…I’m afraid to [be a] parent because I don’t want to ‘mess up’ my kid.”
I was INDECISIVE about EVERYTHING. Basically I didn’t stand up for myself about anything, until I got married. However, indecisiveness tripped me up over and over and over. When I started counseling I spent a few months in group counseling (for me, the group counseling was a disaster) during that time I met a lady that guessed a lot about me. She talked on my wave length. We are in different parts of the city but we have been friends for over 10 years. We try to get together about once a month and swap progress stories. We meet at a restaurant and eat and chat. Oh my goodness. The first two years it would take us forever to decide where to eat and about a half an hour to decide what to eat and order our food. Occasionally, we would get so stressed over this simple decision of what to eat we would ask the other person to pick for us. It was fun to realize as the years past it became easier to pick where to eat. We became comfortable trying new things on the menu. Sometimes we would each order something different and split the plates so we each got part of both meals. We also didn’t criticize each others’ indecision and we cheered when we realized we were making progress and actually able to choose a restaurant and a meal without anxiety.
My counselor spent hours and hours teaching me about choices, how to make a choice, how to stand up for my choice, and most importantly recognize it is not the end of the World or beatings if I make a mistake. This was a lot for me to take in. I was fortunate that I had a counselor that understood it wasn’t enough to figure out how messed up I was. I needed to learn basic skills like decision making. I am going to repeat that decision making is a skill that needs to be taught. Sadly there is no Decision Making 101 taught in any school that I know of. Controlling parents raised controlled children. Cutting the apron strings is more like cutting the puppet strings off from the marionette. My mother didn’t want an independent daughter, she wanted a puppet she could control. My decisions were ridiculed, mistakes were punished far beyond their severity. Perfectionism was not just high expectations but a painful burden used to crush what ever spark of I-can-do-it-myself might possibly appear.
Two of my Bill of Rights covered this topic.
I have the right to say no. When I say “yes” to one thing I inherently often have to say “yes or no” to something else that is not always obvious. I am aware that saying “no” in some situations may damage a relationship and have far reaching consequences. I also need to keep in mind that I have a limited amount of time and energy.
I have the right to make mistakes and the responsibility to take the consequences for those mistakes.
Setting boundaries was the start of making my own decisions. My Bill of Rights was an integrated part of creating boundaries. What was I protecting with my boundaries? My rights as a human being.
Recognizing that I can make a decision and change my mind if it is not giving me the results I hoped for. As I mentioned earlier, it is not the end of the World for me to make a mistake. However taking responsibility for myself and making my own decisions was the end of other people controlling me. Scary and powerful stuff that teenagers are supposed to learn. My counselor reassured me that I could learn it in my 40’s, too. He kept reminding me making decisions is a skill and I can learn it. I am thankful for a wise counselor.