How to make scary decisions through chronic anxiety

I’m fucking terrible at making scary decisions, but I’m learning how to get better at it over time. Like right now, I’m debating myself about whether to quit a job that I don’t want or need. I’ve been debating for a week or so now, but I’m scheduled to work in an hour and I just don’t want to go.

When tough decisions like this come up, I tend to take the safe way out. Right now, though, that would mean me putting on pants. So, it’s now time to tell this boss lady to go to hell, but I’m so terrified to burn bridges.

I’ve never quit a job, but I don’t want to work there for one more shift.  So, it’s time to use those skills I’ve been learning to help me do what’s best for me.

Since I’m hard-headed and anxiety is a bitch, I figured writing out what I need to do here will help push me over the edge. Hopefully, the thought of having to tell you all I let that Rosie O’Donell look-a-like walk all over me again will be simply too embarrassing to bare.


Don’t accept ambivalence

Scary decisions are hard and facing that anxiety head on is tough, but, in order to do things that are new and memorable, you must step outside your comfort zone. This is one of the biggest things that has held me back as an anxious person.

It’s rare I make a decision that seems like a great idea in the moment, but turns out to be safe. Most of the time when I’ve made a decision I regret, I can recall a moment where I gave up and said, “whatever.”

For me, that word essentially means: The thing I think might work is too scary because I haven’t seen anyone else do it.

I worry I won’t be able to make it work. So, it makes me really anxious to choose that one, even though I know it might be fun or cool. When I’m in the depths of self-doubt, I’m obviously not going to do the scary thing. I figure, I should just do the safe thing and everything will be fine.

Since I don’t actually like the safer idea, the only way I can convince myself to go forward is by saying that this decision doesn’t matter and then putting it out of my mind. This results in me making shit I don’t care about and don’t feel proud of.


Examine the fear

Why are you so afraid? What are you really afraid of? Do you fear rejection, trying something new, embarrassment or what?

While it’s normal to be scared when facing tough decisions, to be so fearful that you avoid making a decision that’s obviously in your favor is a problematic overreaction. Overreactions like this happen when we let our emotions control our feelings. I know it might surprise you to know there’s a difference, but there is and you need to figure out what heck is causing you so much fear and why.

Emotions come first and are simply the way our body reacts to something – chemical reactions, heart racing, etc. Feelings are in your mind or thoughts; they’re essentially memories of a similar situation that inform your thoughts and actions now.

In the case of an anxiety-inducing decision, you’re probably feeling anxious or worried due to fear. Perhaps when you think about the scary choice, your heart starts racing or your mind goes blank. Maybe thinking about the fact that the option is even there makes you uncomfortable.

Go back in your memories to think about times when you’ve felt this way. If you look long enough, you’ll probably find some adult who made you feel like you couldn’t do it or some sort of coping mechanism you developed to survive trauma. Even if it seems small, knowing where the emotions and feelings that formed this habit started can make a lot of difference in how real your fear feels.


Give the scary idea a fair chance

If you thought an idea was good and you keep coming back to it, ask yourself why. We already know why you’re saying no, but it’s also important to know why you liked the idea originally.

For me, it’s usually because I can feel a pull from it. Try examining what is causing the pull, not just the idea itself. Is there money to be made? Is it something you think is cool? Even if you find the idea needs some maturation or refinement, if you can find the great thing about it, you might convince yourself to do something great.

Also, don’t be afraid to sleep on it.

Give the safe idea some scrutiny, too

If you’re conflicted, you know the safe idea is a bad one. Just as with the good idea, give the safe one some scrutiny to see if it’s really a good idea at all.


Be methodical

Over time, I’ve learned how to make good decisions about certain things. For example, when buying a new gadget, I put a lot of thought into it. I may spend six or more months looking at specs, reviews, rumors and any other relevant factors to make a solid decision.

On the other hand, when making decisions about my professional life, I often feel a sense of panic or urgency. So, I’m find myself making quick decisions based on my emotional response rather than research and facts. That’s partially because I don’t know what to research, but thank goodness for our good ol’ friend Google.

Even if you don’t know how to go about making a certain decision, you can google how to make a good decision on that specific topic. Try: “what makes a good…,” “how to decide on…,” “how to pick…,” You may not find the perfect answer, but you may find some other questions to ask or simply some first-hand experience to advise you.

Write it all down and run it past people you admire. Put the pieces together to support the scary idea or find out how to refine it. Eventually, you will usually find enough evidence to make your idea seem less radical.


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Although I’m not religious, I do take many things from various religions to make my own set of zen-like practices. When it comes to facing inevitabilities, the Serenity Prayer is a great source of peace for me.


I must “accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace”


There’s more to the prayer, but it starts getting into sin and the crucifixion of Jesus, which is where they lose me. I also clipped a bit about god off the front, but you get the idea.

Mistakes will happen and there ain’t much we can do to stop it. The best you can do is accept the inevitability that some things are simply beyond your control and, even still, everything will be good again.


Get a powerful incentive

I put together this guide for making scary decisions to help me and you. I'll be honest, though, even after writing all this and knowing what I need to do, I still don't want to quit this job. I really fucking need to though.

Fuck it…

It’s done. With 52 words in two text messages, I quit my job at a local café. I’m now free. When all else fails for me, the promise of public embarrassment usually does the trick.

Though my mind says my boss will hate me and get revenge, she can’t get me or hurt me and everything will be fine.

Everything will be fine… I know everything will be fine, but I still feel like I’ve made a bad choice. Luckily for me, I can’t change the past.

No matter how scared I feel, I did the right thing. Even though it doesn’t feel that way now, I’m going to ride it out. I have a feeling that, once the adrenaline wears off, I’ll soon be singing like the muchkins at the end of The Wiz.


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