She could. not. decide. Pink shirt and shorts, or long, ruffly sundress.
The freedom to choose didn’t feel like freedom to her…it felt like agony. But she didn’t want to give it up, either. She turned to me, holding out both options. “Which one do you like, Mama?”
I hesitated, not wanting to let her know that it mattered zero to me which one she picked. “The shorts and tee,” I finally said.
As I knew would inevitably happen, she immediately came up with multiple objections to my selection. “Okay,” I responded. “How about if you wear the dress, then?” Which resulted in another litany of hesitation and demur.
It’s a terrible problem to not know your own mind. One I have far, far too often.
Sometimes, it’s referred to as “the paralysis of analysis.” I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it’s pretty stinkin’ accurate. It’s the deer-in-the-headlights, suffocation-by-indecision thing. (Yes, it really is a thing, people.) And it ain’t pretty.
Let’s be honest. Can we? I’m just barely keeping it all together 98% of the time, and an Instagram-with-filters world can be intimidating. Hard looks easy on someone else. Exhausting looks effortless with someone else’s hashtag. I can agonize and analyze until I’m worn to a frazzle, and I haven’t made one. stinking. inch. of progress.
It’s not always easy to just make a choice and stick with it. But so much of life is just that:
Choose. Then stick with it.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this, and I’m not going to get into them. You and your common sense can sort them. But sometimes we overanalyze and set expectations too high, and then allow our fear of failure to hamstring our efforts. (Remember, we talked about planning a thing to death?) It’s a terrible way to go.
- Maybe we should stop and ask ourselves to look over the expectations we have. Are they even reasonable? (I’m looking at you, beautiful Pinterest, with the evil eye.) NOBODY lives a Better Homes and Gardens life. For real.
- How much of your life do you want to donate to this particular issue? Is it high on the priority list, or not? If not, it’s time to make the best decision you can based on what you know, and just move it along.
- How big of a disaster will this be if you choose wrong? Are we talking death/dismemberment/lifelong reverberations? Or is it truly NOT a matter of national security? Sometimes stepping back and looking at the big picture helps me to ask the questions: does it really matter if my daughter wears a dress or tee shirt and shorts? Is it the end of the world if the birthday party is kind of lame? Is it such a terrible, life-altering moment if a company dinner ends up being a flop? Will it scar my kid for life if the homeschool curriculum we settle on for the year isn’t a good fit?
Not everything needs to be “just so.” It doesn’t have to be over-the-top to merit the word special. Simple is good. Sanity is good. Choosing a thing and then calmly, humbly sticking with it? Good. Better than never having changed out of pajamas, never celebrating that birthday, not inviting friends over, not having curriculum to teach my kid.
We aren’t meant to live paralyzed and chained by our expectations or social media updates. (Or anyone else’s, for that matter!) Freedom is found in realizing that there is grace for imperfection, and if we mis-step “we have an Advocate with the Father.”¹
He lives to intercede for you and me.
Sometimes, we just have to trust that He is going to lead us and guide us in the way we should go.² Sometimes, it comes down to doing the best we can and knowing that God’s got us, and this whole adventure of life, and it’s going to be okay. It’s really okay to step out of the comfort zone, out of the expectations anyone has, out of the familiar, and as Nike® so famously says: “Just DO it.”
What’s the worst that can happen? So you fail a little?
(Oh, boy, I don’t think the world could handle that. Failure? Nobody else does that. Better not risk it.)
Here’s the thing: (and I am preaching first to myself!) fails happen. They just do. But as Theodore Roosevelt so wisely noted, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
I want to live fully. Don’t you?
I want my children to look at me and not be afraid to reach for the stars, to dream big dreams, to pursue excellence and still stay grounded and humble. I want them to see that life is a full-contact sport. I want them to know that if you sit on the sidelines, you might miss the grass stains, but you’ll also miss a whole lot of joy.
I want my life to give them permission to choose and bravery to stick with it. You too?
Paralysis by over analysis doesn’t have to be a chronic condition. There is hope for anyone who is willing to get over the fear of failure long enough to dare bravely. Just one, simple, tentative step.
Before you know it, you’re flying.
Soar high, dear ones.
² Psalm 32:8