As I’ve said before, sometimes knowing who you really are and making decisions based on this isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as it sounds. There’s just so many factors at play.
So let’s look at an example – I get invited to a house party… and I get this sinking feeling. Does this feeling mean that I genuinely don’t want to go? Do I not enjoy the company of the people with whom I’ll be socialising? Would I only go because I feel I must; because it’s better than saying “no?” It this just my inner-introvert fighting back, telling me to forgo anything that involves the outdoors in favour of a night on the couch in comfort? Is my anxiety at work here – is this reaction simply the one that I’ve hardwired over time by repeatedly fearing and avoiding social events? In fact, am I telling myself that a night in is more in keeping with who I am, simply because it’s a convenient way of avoiding a scary situation?
Being a fully-fledged people-pleaser, and having almost completely lost trust in my own opinions in my teens and twenties, when I have these moments of indecision, I really have to work just to know exactly what I’m feeling and thinking. My intuition is lost under a pile of crap basically. So in order to actually find and use it, I have to give that fella a good clean. Every time.
So when I’m struggling to R.S.V.P to a party invite, I really have to just take a moment to breathe and listen to the thoughts that come up, along with the sensations in my body.
It’s often my first instinct my make an, “urghhh” noise when these invites come up, regardless of who it’s from and where it is. And I’ve finally stopped beating myself up about that, telling myself that I’m weird or boring – because I am an introvert and therefore, I’ll always prefer to be on the couch, with my cats, rather than painting the town red.
Once I’ve gotten over my instant reaction of “HELL no,” and knowing that even a ‘Billy no mates’ like me has to get out an socialise sometimes, that I will in fact enjoy it even more than a night in with the cats, I can take those moments to listen to my breath and my gut.
If my gut tells me to go – that I’ll have a good time – that this is just my anxiety kicking in because it’s worried about the safety risk of a social situation, then I know that I have to go. And once I know I’m trying to avoid something because I’m afraid, that’s when I know I have to do it. Fear is my Councillor, not my jailer. I’ve made a commitment to starve my anxiety, not feed it with avoidance.
On the other hand, if when I’m listening, I hear that my need to turn down the invite stems from somewhere other than fear and anxiety, then I know that there are genuine reasons for me not wanting to go. Maybe my gut thinks that the friends that I’m seeing just aren’t worth the effort – Do they really know me? Do they really care? Do they really support me? Can I really trust them? – or perhaps it just a really crazy week, so whilst you want to say yes, you know that in doing so, you’re adding to what is already a hugely stressful time.
As I’ve hopefully demonstrated above, knowing what to do in any situation can be quite a complex process, especially if you’re someone who hears a lot of disparaging and untrustworthy thoughts. Luckily, the solution is much simpler. Just take a breath, listen to your gut and feel your way to a solution.