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How I Finally Decided I Wasn’t Indecisive

Salma Elbarmawi
Oct 9, 2018 · 6 min read

I used to believe I was indecisive.

I didn’t think it was a problem really. People would ask me what I wanted to eat and I’d say ‘I don’t have a preference, what do you want?’

I’d try on a shirt and send a photo to four of my closest girlfriends asking them what they thought — just to be sure it looked good on me… I told myself.

People asked me what I wanted to do that day and I told them it was ‘up to them’, that ‘I didn’t care’, that I could go either way.

And it was all true.

I really could go either way. I really did want to know what they thought. I did know what I wanted… I think?

They called it indecision but for me, it was keeping the peace. Ensuring that I didn’t hurt someones feelings. I’d think — what if they also have a preference? What if I just throw mine out there selfishly and we all go with that… just because I said it, and deep down they actually wanted something else? What if they’re just being polite by asking me, but they’re waiting for me to say “it doesn’t matter” so they can tell me what they actually want?

Yes. Those were the thoughts running through my head.

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Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

I’m not ashamed.

But I’ve come to understand that when they called it indecisive, they had got me all wrong. It wasn’t indecision, it’s that my preferences weren’t as important to me as the preferences of others.

I wasn’t indecisive. I was afraid. Afraid because as a perfectionist I was obsessed with making the RIGHT choice. The choice I wouldn’t regret. The choice that led to everyone chanting, “that was such a good meal” or “what a fun day.”

I wanted to pick the RIGHT option, for me and everyone else — And sometimes… frankly, most of the time, it’s impossible to know.

The revelation hit me once. And then a second time when I failed to feel the bump on my head.

The first time was picking my second car. It had been ten years since I had purchased a car. And the process was excruciating.

Between lease vs. buy
New vs. used
Mini-SUV vs. sedan
Black vs. navy blue
Dealer vs. used car lot
CraigsList vs CarMax
Toyota vs Ford vs Mercedes vs Lexus vs Mazda vs every other manufacturer on the lot.

Each decision took me endless hours of research, countless calls to friends who ‘knew cars.’ Fifteen dreaded visits to the dealership PRAYING I wouldn’t be talked to by a salesperson. And still it took me over a year to decide.

When I came back to the dealership for the 5th time in two months (apart from the many other dealerships I had visited), I had already negotiated the deal I wanted; the package I had been adamant about; the best financing option available; and I still wasn’t sure because of the color… or if the timing was right to get a new car in the first place.

I made the decision when I went back one day, planning just to “look at it one more time.” I thought, I’m here now. I’ve come back. I might as well.

So I did.

And the irony of it all was that I went with the very first car I had locked eyes on a year and a half before.

The second time was opening a “travel credit card.”

I traveled quite frequently and felt like I wasn’t using my resources wisely. I had friends getting discounts on hotels and deals on flights and all I had to show for my spending were a couple of bonus points from my bank card that I didn’t even know how to use.

It was time.

I researched every viable travel credit card.

American Express Gold
American Express Platinum
American Express SPG
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
American Airlines & Visa
United MilagePlus & Visa

I asked friends for recommendations. I converted points in a spreadsheet. I looked for promotions. I read comparison articles about them. I read through the same Points Guy article about 8 times — just to be sure.

I even joined a Facebook group about using credit card points so that I could figure out what individuals were making the most gains on.

I told myself the investment over the year was high and I needed to be certain it would pay for itself. I told myself I needed to make sure I would be able to pay the annual fee if anything happened with my job.

I told myself story after story until I finally filled out an application online and got the card.

I did it on a whim. After scrolling through Instagram and feeling frustrated about my indecision. I decided I’d just pick the card and suck it up even if I regretted it later.

And of course, I ended up with the same card I had initially leaned towards 8 months prior.

hey say the enemy of your enemy is your friend — and as Salvador Minuchin put it, “Certainty is the enemy of change.

I had beliefs about change. I believed that if you changed your mind, you lacked conviction, rather than embraced new knowledge. I believed that if you changed your career you lacked motivation rather than realized life is short. I believed that if you changed your style you were probably trying to keep up with the Joneses rather than experiment with something that felt more you, today.

On some level, I believed having to change meant that I had failed. That I hadn’t thought hard enough the first time around. That I hadn’t done enough research. That I was wrong.

On a fundamental level, my need to make the right decision made me question what I knew I wanted.

Until one day, for no “good” reason other than I wanted to, and I could — I booked a one way ticket out of the country.

It wasn’t as compulsive as it sounds really, I had been thinking about it for a long while (as I’m sure you gathered). But the difference this time was that I didn’t have the option to create spreadsheets, or read guiding articles on what I should do. This time the research wouldn’t matter, and the plan surely wouldn’t help. This time I was making the decision based on a back and forth dialog in my own mind.

I was quitting my steady job and leaving for something unknown. I had no way of ensuring my decision would lead to success. I had no way of knowing if I’d regret it in a couple months time.

But, what I did know for sure, is that it’s what I had wanted for as long as I could remember. What I knew for sure, is that right now, I was physically able.

And what I came to realize, is that I had always known what I wanted, but I had been too afraid of being wrong and having to take it back.

Change is inevitable. Even for a perfectionist.

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Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

It doesn’t make you less of a leader. It doesn’t make you ill informed. And it doesn’t always mean you don’t know yourself. It’s simply a window out when you suddenly realize you’ve soaked up the last bit of opportunity in the room.

Every big decision I had ever made, every small decision I never spoke out loud, was the same decision I would have made long before — with an added layer of courage and scrutiny.

So rather than perfection, I threw certainty out the window, and made the choice I’d been afraid to choose — The irony is now I’ll probably have to sell my car… the beauty is that I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Salma Elbarmawi

Written by

Salma is a writer, activist and aspiring social entrepreneur. She has a special love for culture, meaningful conversations, politics and dance. @dearestsalsa

Salma Elbarmawi

Written by

Salma is a writer, activist and aspiring social entrepreneur. She has a special love for culture, meaningful conversations, politics and dance. @dearestsalsa

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