About 18 months ago my husband and I were in the latter stages of our house build. After 2 years we were finally coming up to the point that for many is an exciting stage: bathrooms & wet areas. Unfortunately for me however, this is a nightmare scenario. Bathrooms mean fixtures. Sinks. Toilets. And the kicker: TILES. All of these needed to be picked and decided upon.
If you’re decisively-challenged like me, it ain’t no fun being presented with a choice that you’re going to have to look at and live with for the rest of your life, no. Rather, it’s your proper torture device. Kirsten’s internal monologue in this scenario: RUN!!
What if I don’t like it? What if other people don’t like it??
Over the years I’ve almost perfected the art of forgoing and defaulting my choice, often leaving the decision to others, and of late, my husband. This has been something I have done in many relationships, mostly because I have been desperate for people to like me – so if they make the choice (of restaurant, activity, movie, tiles), they can’t be disappointed in me.
Why is this? Do I believe I have bad taste? No. Do I believe that I need to concede my choice to males? No. But the fear of disappointment, the fear of creating a reason for someone not to like me? That’s the world ending. It’s painful. I don’t enjoy it. Even if the consequence of constantly saying “I don’t mind, you pick” is actually the other person resenting you for it, the practice is so deeply ingrained in me, I continue it, despite it being debilitating for me, and deeply annoying for those who know me.
Hence when I was given the task of going down to the local tile store to pick our laundry floor, I couldn’t do it. I tried: I went to the store three times. I returned 2 sets of tiles to the store after bringing them home and hating my selection.
Cue meltdown. I ended up on our kitchen floor in a fetal position because I couldn’t pick a tile. I couldn’t make a choice and back that choice. I stayed on that floor for over an hour, disgusted with myself. I was pathetic. And I hated myself for being so. So now not only could I not make decisions, but even when I recognised the destructive nature of indecision, I still couldn’t make a choice.
I understand the ridiculousness of this moment: tiles don’t matter. Especially laundry floor tiles! Who even cares?
It wasn’t about the tiles. This post isn’t about tiles.
The thing is, even knowing myself, even in the pain of lying on the ground in an anxiety attack, I had no pity for that woman. I was disgusting to myself at this point.
JUST MAKE THE CHOICE, KIRSTEN. BE BETTER. GET OVER IT. I was standing over myself, critical and full of judgement.
I spent an entire session with my wonderful psych about this a couple of weeks later (this is a little embarrassing to admit). We spent time talking about my recurring fear of decision making, but she also encouraged me to spend time looking at my hatred and disgust of myself too. She kept asking me how I was feeling toward myself at that moment, and the words kept repeating: Shame. Disgust. Frustration. Hatred.
She then stopped me in my tracks and asked me what that woman on the floor actually needed:
She asked me to ‘parent myself’ in that moment and imagine what a compassionate parent would be feeling and acting towards me on that kitchen floor. Rather than judgement, not only was it completely acceptable to feel pity towards myself, but it was also appropriate – and much more helpful – to extend compassion and grace to a young girl who just wanted to be told that it was ok that she was scared. And that she was ok too.
We need judgement FAR less than we need compassion. Judgement rarely inspires healing, growth and life-giving decisions. Even if it is ourselves who are floundering or indecisive or completely in the wrong.
I have returned to that moment a lot since it happened. In my times of anxiety and self-hatred I imagine myself on the floor in the kitchen – but now I also try to picture the compassionate parent who sees her. What would be helpful to say to her? I try to imagine the compassion that is needed.
And I try to EXTEND IT TO MYSELF.
Thanks to Shan who told me to write today.
Also thanks to Shan who ended up picking the laundry tile. They’re grey.
In case you were wondering. X