There's a pattern that is common in women who go through divorce when it comes to making decisions. Many women have learned to defer making decisions to someone outside of them believing that they know better or they have more authority or knowledge. This pattern keeps them small. They believe that their opinion isn't worthwhile or valid.
The problem is when a divorce happens, this cycle of confusion around making decisions continues into life as a divorced woman. It becomes commonplace to agonize over making decisions because there is an underlying believe that they are not fully in charge of their own lives or will choose 'wrong' making life even more challenging.
In this podcast I'm breaking down why making decisions is so challenging for women after divorce and why so many of us continue to choose to stay confused about what to do, instead of deciding. I'll teach you the two main components necessary to being able to make confident decisions as a divorced woman and how to overcome that fear that is holding you back.
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I know what it feels like to second guess every decision, even small ones like what to have for dinner. I've been that mom who cries herself to sleep after divorce because I'm so worried that I've made terrible decisions that have ruined my kids' lives and that I just don't have the capability to know what are the 'right' decisions and what are the 'wrong' ones. If you can relate to this, then you need to come work with me. Since my divorce six years ago I've learned the tools and techniques needed to make decisions confidently and to trust myself to know what's best for me and my kids. I can teach you how to build that confidence in yourself as well, so being confused about what to do in your life will be something that you used to do. Schedule your free consult by clicking here.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to becoming You Again. The podcast to help you with your mental and emotional wellbeing during and after divorce. This is where you learn to overcome the trauma of your divorce by reconnecting with yourself, creating lasting emotional resilience and living a truly independent life so your life will be even better than when you were married. I’m your host Karin Nelson.
Hello my friends. Welcome back to the podcast. Today I am talking about making decisions and I want to just jump right into this one because I think it is something that is really important that so many of us women struggle with as we go through a divorce or after divorce.
And this can be all kinds of decisions; some that might be considered ‘small’ like whether they want to spend money on a kayak or not, and some that might be considered ‘big’ like whether they should sell the family home and move into an apartment. But there’s a pattern that I see in women who go through a divorce and I’m including myself in this pattern, because this is something that I also have struggled with and it’s a pattern where we have learned to defer our decision making to someone outside of us believing that they will know better or they must have more authority or knowledge so we better just let them decide. It’s a pattern where we have learned that our opinion may not be worthwhile and so instead we better get the consensus to chime in and decide for us.
I want you to think about. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and asked the server what option on the menu is best? Or given the server two choices and said which do you like better? Because instead of going with what you really like or what sounds interesting or yummy, you turn to a complete stranger who you have no idea their background, no idea their experiences, or even their tastes to guide you to their favorite and then you go with that. I am the first to raise my hand and say I’ve totally done this. I can’t say I’ve done it recently but I know I have been this person and I was this person for years. I know this might sound like a silly example but I want you to see how easy it is for us to defer making a decision and you may not even realize that you’re doing it as often as you are.
So why is making decisions such a challenging thing for so many of us? One of the reasons we agonize over making decisions after divorce is because we don’t fully believe that we are in charge of our own lives. For years we’ve been living a life where we’ve let others kind of tell us what to think and feel and so when you find yourself in this situation like divorce where there is no longer that person dictating or driving that, then you really question yourself and your ability to decide.
For example in my own marriage I had a story going on that my decisions weren’t valid or they didn’t hold weight, unless they happened to be the wrong decision and then of course it was all my fault. Right. Like my husband at the time would say do you like this one better or that one better, of whatever you know he wanted an opinion on. And I would tell him, and then he would choose the opposite of what I said. And when this would happen I would use this as proof that my opinions weren’t right or correct because he didn’t agree with me and that meant that my choices were wrong which then meant, to myself. I’m making this all up in my head, right, that I wasn’t as valuable as he was. I eventually stopped saying my opinion, because I believed that it wasn’t good enough so I would say something like, ‘They’re both good.” Or I would look to clues as to which one he was leaning toward and then choose that one. It’s a very people pleasing place to be. People pleasing way to live your life.
And along those same lines if I made a decision for the family in whatever way and it didn’t turn out as I expected, then of course that meant that I always choose wrong and it’s always my fault. So in both of these situations I started to believe a story that my life would be better, and I would have better outcomes, and I would still be loved and I would still feel safe if I just stopped making decisions and let my ex or literally anyone else tell me how to think, how to feel, or what to do. I felt that if I made these ‘wrong’ and I’m going to wrong in quotes. Probably every single time I say the word wrong in this podcast you can just assume that I have quotes around it because wrong is so subjective. But I felt that if I made these ‘wrong’ decisions that I would no longer be loved and I would no longer feel secure in my relationship. And I wanted to feel love and I wanted to feel secure and I wanted to believe that everything was okay and the best way in my brain to do that was to let him make the decisions.
But the problem here, if you have been living your life that way like I was and I think probably a lot you can relate to this, is that when you go through a divorce you get so practiced at not trusting yourself, that every decision you make moving forward feels wrong or you’re constantly questioning yourself, was that the right thing? What if it doesn’t turn out like I think it will? What if a year, or five years, or 10 years down the road I find out this was wrong? Then what am I going to do? And because you learned to stay small and defer your opinions to feel safe and loved, you never truly learned how to provide that safely and that love for yourself. And not feeling safe and not feeling loved is scary. Right. To our primitive brain that is the most scary thing for us. And so instead of feeling the fear of possibly not loving yourself or possibly not feeling secure when you make a decision, instead you spin in confusion and waffle back and forth.
And as much as we don’t like confusion, confusion feels better than fear. Confusion feels better than not being loved. Confusion feels better than being rejected. But confusion is also exhausting for our brain because we never get to rest and let things go. We are constantly second guessing ourselves. We are constantly trying to figure out what the future might hold and which decision is going to provide us the least amount of pain, for the least amount of negative emotion and if we can figure that out then we’ll know which one to choose. But this is truly impossible to do. Right. There is no decision that will be 100% free of negative emotion. Because we are humans and the human experience includes positive and negative emotions all the time. It’s a 50/50 of life. Right. You’ve heard me talk about this concept before.
So then the key to learning to make decisions is to just get better at trusting yourself. And what does that even mean? I looked up the word ‘trust’ on the internet to get a solid definition and this is what Google told me. Google said that trust means, “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” So learning to trust yourself doesn’t mean that you’ll always know what’s best for you or what the ‘right’ decision is for your life. And again I am putting right in quotes just like I put wrong because right and wrong are very subjective. Trusting yourself means that you are going to be able to rely on yourself. You are going to tell yourself the truth. It means you have the ability to act on what you’ve decided. And it means you are going to be strong for yourself.
And when you boil that down, what all of that really means to me is when you make a decision you will have your own back. Because this is what happens when we don’t trust ourselves to make decision and we don’t see our opinions as valid or worthwhile. We will decide on something and then question if it is right or wrong, change our mind 100 times, tell ourselves it was probably the wrong decision and beat ourselves up for even choosing that, then go ask our friends, our families, our neighbors, strangers even, what they would do, and wish we didn’t have to choose, tell ourselves we’re not capable, it’s too hard, we don’t want to choose and then we end up making ourselves wrong for making the decision.
So let me give you an example of what we do when we struggle to make decisions and then I want to explain what it means to have your own back. Let’s say you are deciding on whether to take a job outside of the home or not. You come up with all this evidence for yourself that taking this job is the right decision. It’s really good pay. The commute isn’t too far from home. You’ll be home by 5 every day to be able to make dinner and help the kids with homework. The job actually sounds interesting and you think you’ll be able to do it well. And so, yes, you’ve decided you’re going to take the job.
But then the other voice in your head, you know the one. You know that little voice that’s like in the back of your head telling you all the things you’re doing wrong and questioning everything that you’re doing. That little voice doesn’t quite trust you to make decisions and it doesn’t quite believe that your opinion is valid. And it pipes up, but what about on those days if the kids get sick and they have to be home from school? What then? And what if you hate the job and you end up really not being very good at it?
And it gives you all of these other options and so then you start to second guess this decision. And you start to look for all the evidence that it would be better to not take the job. Because then you’ll have more time to work on projects and the house and make the house feel safe and secure for when the kids get home from school and you’ll actually be there to greet them when they get home from school. And you’ll probably have more energy to make dinner and won’t be so exhausted at the end of the day. And you’ll probably be nicer when you’re helping the kids with homework because you’re not going to be so frazzled after a long day of work. And you’ll be able to enjoy your time with the kids much more because you won’t always feel rushed to get out the door or feel exhausted after a long day. And so then you change your mind. Okay. I’ve decided I am not taking the job.
But then there it is again, that voice. It speaks up again and it reminds you that the reason you were looking for a job in the first place was because the child support and alimony don’t cover your bills and you were going to get the job to help make ends meet. But then your brain offers you more evidence that you should take the job. And around and around you spin in confusion of I’m taking it; never mind I’m not taking it. I just don’t know what to do. I’m so confused. And you anxious about the decision. And then you start to worry about what’s going to happen in the future either way, for you, for your kids, for your family. And so instead you stay stuck.
But when you are able to make a decision and you have your own back, that means that you make a decision and then you don’t make yourself ‘wrong’ for deciding it. Having your own back means, I’m going to choose this. Like in this example let’s say you decide to take the job. I’m choosing to take the job and when my brain wants to offer me all the reasons why this is a bad idea and why I shouldn’t take it, I’m going to say, “I know brain. Those are all possible and valid reasons, but I’ve decided to do this, so you can just settle down.” You learn to show up as the manager of your brain. You actually manage your brain by siding with yourself on your decision rather than playing devil’s advocate and telling yourself all the reasons why you’re wrong about your decision.
I mentioned this a minute ago but having your own back also means that you won’t make yourself wrong for deciding. When we struggle to make decisions one of the reasons it’s so hard is because we’re mean to ourselves in our head. We tie moral value to our decisions making a ‘right’ decision mean that we’re worthy and a ‘wrong’ decision mean that we’re worthless and we don’t have any value. We tell ourselves constantly that we’re not capable at making decisions. We tell ourselves we’re wrong all the time. We treat ourselves poorly in our head, believing that we’re not good enough to know or that our opinions are stupid or uninformed. And if something doesn’t turn out the way we expected, we go on a barrage of insults to ourselves of how dumb we truly are and how we should have known better or we should have done things differently and because we chose that thing now we’re back where we started with no worth and no value.
And, my friends, none of that talk feels good. First of all it is not true. Second of all, it does not feel good ever. It feels terrible when we shame ourselves over and over again. And we make it impossible to change because when we feel terrible about who we are, and when we’re constantly shaming our choices, we hide. Shame makes us hide. Shame keeps us small. Shame keeps us stuck. We hide even from ourselves. Even from moving forward. Even from being able to decide. We don’t like being in our own heads when we make decisions because we’re so mean to ourselves when we think we’ve made the wrong decision.
So having your own back is ultimately saying, “I’m deciding right now, no matter what I choose, that I will not make myself wrong about my decision. My decision has nothing to do with my worth or my value as a human and it doesn’t mean that I am wrong or that my value is diminished in some way.”
I know making decisions feels scary, but it only feels scary because you might end up being mean to yourself in the future for choosing that thing. So decide right now that you’re not going to beat yourself up, even if in the future you evaluate your choice and change your mind – which by the way you are allowed to do at literally any time. But evaluating has nothing to do with being mean to yourself, making yourself wrong or shaming yourself. Evaluating means that you are looking at what works and what didn’t and what do you want to do differently next time. Tell yourself now that you will not make yourself wrong for deciding and then practice by making decisions every day.
Alright my friends, that is what I have for you today. I hope that helps as you move forward making decisions in your life. I will be back next week.
If you like what you’re learning on the podcast and you’re ready to create lasting change and results in your life then you need to be working 1:1 with Karin as your divorce coach. This is where we take everything you’re learning in the podcast and 10x it with implementation and weekly coaching where you start to see change in yourself and your life immediately. To find out more about how work exclusively with Karin go to www.karinnelsoncoaching.com . That’s www dot Karin nelson coaching dot com.
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