There it was… just what I was looking for. I took it off the rack and tried it on. It felt comfortable and cozy…BUT…SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I?
As I stood looking in the mirror, waves of self-doubt washed over me. Was the color too red? Did it really look okay? Could I really be that bold?
I looked around, quite desperate for the approval of someone. Any stranger would do. I needed someone to tell me it was okay. I needed someone to validate my choice because I couldn’t trust myself to do it.
Does this sound familiar? Have you had the experience of self-doubt that immobilizes you and causes you to feel desperate for the advice of even a passer- by to approve of your choice rather than looking into your head and heart for the answers that feel right?
What if the choice you are making is a major life change such as divorce, career transition or retirement? Here it is important to distinguish the difference between gathering the information you need in order to make your decision, or taking a poll among those you know on whether it is the healthy and right choice for you.
Joanne consulted her financial advisor to walk her through the financial picture of what retirement would look like for her. Before getting a sense of how much money she needed to live on and how long her investments and retirement money would last, she needed to vision what her lifestyle in retirement would look like.Did she want to travel or work part-time or move to a warmer climate?
As many opinions as she tried to gather, it was her choice alone to make. But could she trust herself? What if it was the wrong decision?
Angela had been unhappy in her marriage for quite some time now. Efforts to repair and renew the relationship had not worked. Two unhappy people lived in a house, silent and strained, children grown and gone. Each day was heavy with the pain and stress of feeling too afraid to make a move.
Angela was getting all sorts of advice from friends and family. The opinions and judgments were piling up, only adding to her confusion. She was also starting to feel guilty about considering divorce at all.
Sarah was feeling the need of a career transition. She had been very unhappy and frustrated with her current job. Changing careers felt reckless and unwise, but she couldn’t deny that her dissatisfaction at work was taking a toll on her health and well-being. Just like Joanne, Sarah had consulted her financial advisor to get a clear picture of her finances, emergency fund and how she could sustain herself during such a big change. In addition, there had already been rumors floating around about lay-offs which added another layer of uncertainty.
What if she actually took the chance and was just as unhappy in a new career as she was in this one? How she wished someone would just tell her what to do!
1. Give yourself some breathing room
When we are in the grip of self-doubt we need to take a step back. When we become victim to the stress and anxiety of life change our view can become very blurry and unclear. Giving ourselves some space to regain our clarity and footing can provide us with a whole new perspective.
2. Get the Facts
For Joanne, Angela, Sarah and myself as well, gathering information that can be a foundation in the decision making process is key. Both Joanne and Sarah sought the counsel of their financial advisor to answer their questions about monetary resources to sustain them during retirement and career change.
Angela sat down with an attorney to learn about the legal process of separation, divorce and the different options available. He asked her questions that she had not considered and through this questioning she realized how much she need to think through to know what would work for her in her situation.
As simple as it sounds, even I had information to gather about the red jacket. What did the label tell me about the materials it was made of, it’s durability and warmth. Would it serve me well throughout the winter?
3. Face your feelings
Divorce, retirement or career transition can stir powerful and deeply hidden emotions within us. The process of naming them, feeling them and working through them may need the help of a therapist to assist in supporting, guiding and most of all listening with a non-judgmental ear.
4. Listen to the voice inside you
Sometimes we need to get out of our own way to be able to hear the answer that is waiting inside to be revealed. Too often our doubts come from past messages and also from our fears of making a mistake. While there are no guarantees, we give ourselves the best opportunity for making the “right” decision when we listen to ourselves and what we need for healthy, fulfilling living. Even if something does not turn out the way we hoped, it can become a valuable learning experience to point us in the direction that fits best for us.
And my learning? After a time of standing in the store, trying on the red jacket and wanting so desperately for someone to tell me their opinion, I gave up. Instead… I looked squarely in the mirror and having determined that the durability and warmth would be fine, I snuggled into feeling the jacket and how well it fit. I loved its red color. I didn’t need to have a stranger weigh in. I could trust myself to know what was best for me. And…my red jacket was just right!