Coming out of my shell: Cautious choices

Reflecting on the origins of my indecisiveness

Emily Xia

Last Thursday, I was faced with a dilemma.

I was sitting on my couch, ready to nestle in for a good nap, when my mom told me that we would be eating out for dinner. Disappointed at being forced out of my precious sleep time, I was then asked the dreaded question:

“Where do you want to go to eat?”

I think I want ramen … but wait, dumplings sound pretty good too. Or maybe we should just get pizza. Or we could also-

This wasn’t the end of my thought process, but you get the point. It was a seemingly simple question — yet for me, it required over 15 minutes of thinking. Actually, it probably would’ve taken longer if my mom hadn’t gotten impatient and decided on ramen herself. While this entire situation may seem disappointing and underwhelming, the most unfortunate part is that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I hung out with my friends or family without having a mini existential crisis over what meal I should buy or how much sugar to add in my boba.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m terribly indecisive. I apologize if I seem overdramatic, but one of my ultimate goals in life is to be efficient, and I’ve realized the main reason I haven’t been able to achieve this goal is because I can never make up my mind. One moment, I’m sure that I want one thing, then one second later, I debate over whether another option I never even considered in the first place would be better.

I am continually reminded of this flaw of mine throughout the day. Picking a number between one and 10? Unimaginable. Choosing a piece of candy from an assortment of brands and flavors? Impossible. And of course, I haven’t even gotten started on those dreaded multiple choice tests.

Illustration by Emily Xia

I’m sure the answer is B. Hmm, but now that I look more closely, it could also be A. A or B? Which one should I choose? OK, I’ll choose B. Shoot, now D also looks right.

In fact, as I wrote this very column, I began to question if I should rewrite it because I kept wondering if my words even made sense. Of course, as you are currently reading it, I decided to keep it, but it’s quite obvious that my inability to make up my mind is reflected in not just my speech, but also in my writing.

My indecisiveness is a parasite, attaching to my unaware self and appearing in the worst possible moments; I can’t seem to shake it off no matter what I do. The problem isn’t knowing that I’m indecisive — I’ve known that for quite some time — it’s that I haven’t tried to approach it, or take action against it. Although it’s always there, I’ve chosen to ignore it.

Now that I look back, I wasn’t always like this. My kindergarten self could confidently choose the red lollipop every time without questioning every thought she was having. Comparing the person I am now to the person I was then, I’m proud to say that I’ve vastly improved my character relating to my empathy and compassion, but I can’t deny that, for some reason, I’ve grown to be less confident about the decisions I make.

The truth is, I used to be blissfully uncaring and unaware of what others thought of me. In my efforts to become more kind and compassionate, to be generous and forgiving, I lost something that I never knew I had in the first place: self-worth. Though the issue of indecisiveness itself is what I was trying to target in my attempts to “come out of my shell,” I realized that my indecisiveness stemmed from my fear of offending others, from what I thought was kindness.

I completely misunderstood and exaggerated what it meant to be polite. I thought that by sitting back and letting others make the decision, I was doing the other person a favor, when in reality, it just annoyed everyone. But ultimately, the one who suffers the most from my problem is me. I’m unable to see that my thoughts are valid, and that I shouldn’t let my lack of self-worth hinder my success.

This habit has to change. How can I say I’ve become assertive if I can’t even make my own decisions? As much as the comfort of my shell is calling to me, I’m determined to continue in my journey of self-improvement. I have to learn to trust my instincts more, to understand that although there are sometimes consequences for making the wrong decision, I can learn from them. Although it goes against everything I’ve ever stood for, sometimes making the wrong decision is better than making no decision at all.

I can’t doubt myself. After all, who will have faith in me if I can’t believe in myself first?

So next time my mom asks me what restaurant to go to, I can’t exactly be sure about what I’m going to say, but I definitely know that I won’t second-guess myself again. And as I continue to write my columns through this journey of self-improvement, I’ll confidently keep writing. I trust my words, but more importantly, I trust myself.