Stalling is Deciding

I used to be pretty impulsive. Bought stuff that was trendy without considering whether it would work on me. Quitting a job and taking another just because I was flattered to be recruited. Changing my hairstyle and color as often as most people change their sheets. It was all very exciting, but after a while, I got pretty sick of answering all the questions that went along the lines of 'what were you thinking?' The honest answer would have been 'Obviously, I wasn't, fuckwad.' You just can't get away with that more than once, especially with your boss. Some of us never outgrow our impulsivity. Others inhibit the tendency to the point where we become indecisive. Shame about past mistakes and anxiety about future ones eventually renders you pretty frickin indecisive.

Now that I have experienced both ends of the spectrum, I think indecision feels worse. Doing stupid shit, some of which is actually not too bad and some of which is pretty hilarious will at least make you somewhat interesting, even if you're the butt of other people's jokes. Being paralyzed with fear that you might make a mistake means that most of the time you do nothing. And then doing nothing turns out to be the mistake. Women who were more impulsive in childhood and young adulthood can become overly cautious as they age. They make fewer mistakes, but they miss more opportunities, which usually turns out to be a mistake too. It's hard to recognize it when it's happening, but later on, you can clearly see that stalling IS deciding. The moment has passed. The game is over. You lose.

Lots of women with develop pretty severe anxiety because they are trying so hard to not have their differences noticed. They also become card carrying perfectionists who believe they should be able to do what everyone else in doing, in the way they are doing it. This never works, but they believe it should. Part of the problem is the internalized sense of shame that is the lasting legacy of growing up different and being scolded and criticized for being too loud, too impatient, too chatty or too spacey. So, you try your best to suppress your excess and pass for normal or pretend you heard what was said and hope you don't get put to the test. It's exhausting.

Maybe if I just say I don't know, they will skip over me. Maybe if I tell them I'm not quite ready, they'll give me more time. Maybe they will forget I'm even here and I can just opt out instead of facing the humiliation of not keeping up. The worst part is knowing you're smarter than the ones you can't keep up with. It's frustrating and sad and you can't help but be resentful. Over time, you learn to spin your wheels and act busy, so the fact that you're going nowhere is less noticeable. You are stalling, waiting, hoping to act when the time is right, only it never is. You never do feel truly ready. You keep feeling scared and uncertain. And you keep believing that some day, one day you will feel ready. You will be ready and then you will act.

That was me. I let so many things pass me by. I silently criticized and secretly judged those who took action. I faked shock and outrage in my mind as I watched others put themselves out there and seek to be seen. I was tied up in knots with imposter issues and indecisiveness, while others breezed past and claimed their place in the spotlight. I painfully learned that those in the winner's circle aren't always the ones who are the best. They tend to be the ones who made the commitment to being there and had the discipline to avoid anything that would interfere with that happening. Once I decided to learn how to do that, I could be there too.

It really came down to a matter of reverse engineering. You start by deciding where you want to end up, whether that means married with kids, a successful entrepreneur or the author of a best selling book. Then you create a roadmap of actions, working backwards from that goal or destination, until you reach your current location. All that is necessary then, is to commit fully to the goal and to practice believing that achieving it is inevitable. Each and every day, you take the actions that bring you one day closer. One day, you will look around you and see that you are there, as if by magic. See you in the winner's circle.


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