‘Risk is the tariff for leaving the land of predictable misery’
How fear stops you taking your decision

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Are you someone who is tearing themselves apart, unable to decide whether to leave your partner or stay?

Each time you think you’ve made a decision, you find yourself back in the loop, raking over excellent reasons to stay and ever better reasons to leave. You are as confused as your friends by your inability to take action, even though your indecision means that you’re stagnating and making yourself ill.

It’s a tragedy that you can neither decide to give up and compassionately make your exit, nor decide to stay and skillfully resolve your differences. Instead you stay, endlessly argue and threaten to split up or stay, silently seethe and secretly plan to leave.

Either way, you don’t change

Unlike your experience with the people who’ve tried to help you up until now, my approach is to spell out to the impact that your indecision is having on your making the most of your one and only life.

For as long as you can remember, your head tells you that the rational decision would be to either confront your partner and both commit to a new way of living together or to accept that this is not the relationship for you and leave. But in the defence of your own self-image or that of others (i.e. not wanting to hurt parents, partner, children), you choose to suffer the consequences of your own inaction.

So why don’t you act? Why do you focus on defending your ego rather than take the risk of saying what you mean and doing what you say?

Fear is the answer. There are a number of fears that prevent us from doing what’s in our hearts or on our minds:

* Fear of looking foolish
* Fear of being disliked
* Fear of standing out
* Fear of being rejected
* Fear of losing
* Fear of being out on a limb
* Fear of getting it wrong
* Fear of being shouted at
* Fear of failure
* Fear of uncertainty

Have you ever been at a party and someone is expounding on a topic in a way that you find offensive, yet you’re unsure how to disagree without upsetting people or spoiling the atmosphere? The more you don’t speak, the more nervous you feel about hearing the sound of your own voice; and the more nervous you become, the more unskilful what you have to say sounds in your head?

If and when you eventually do pluck up the courage to speak, you either make a hash of it or, because of the delay, it’s now out of context and so you do in fact sound unskilful! Yet we have no difficulty in saying what you mean as soon as you leave the group to ‘freshen your drink’! As soon as you’re amongst like-minded friends, you feel safe enough to say what you mean. And boy, do you say what you mean!

Why do people behave in such an inauthentic manner? Why do we feel the need to defend our self-image? It starts very young, with parents who tend to think that they’re right and so their children learn that the way to win their parents’ approval and recognition is to conform to their wishes. This is reinforced by teachers, religious instructors, lecturers and so on who likewise reward their students for doing things ‘right’ in their eyes and punish them for doing things ‘wrong’. When they are punished for being ‘wrong’ they are made to feel stupid and as a consequence begin to lose confidence in expressing their own ideas and view of the world.

By the time people enter work they’ve learned that if they’re to win approval, it’s generally best to suppress their own opinions, feelings, experience and creativity and, instead, conform to the expectations and standards of others. So strong is this need for approval, that even as successful adults we still feel put out if our parents fail to acknowledge our status and success.

It is in trying to win this approval that people perpetuate the status quo within their families. Rather than be decisive and change, they try to be what they imagine others expect of them.

They keep their heads down, do what they are told and suppress their views, ideas and opinions, for fear of getting it wrong, being a misfit, making waves, being disliked, disapproved of, the discomfort of an argument and so on.

If you’re to make your decision and act upon it, you have to learn to take the risk of being yourself. Well it’s either that or stay the same!

As Howard Figler puts it:

‘Risk is the tariff for leaving the land of predictable misery.’

Learning to jump this hurdle – and 5 others – is how I ensure people finally live an authentic life; one that they’ll be proud of.

Copyright © Beverley Stone Confronting Company Politics Published by Palgrave Macmillan 1997 ISBN 0-333-68154-1
Copyright © Beverley Stone The Inner Warrior Published by Palgrave Macmillan 2004 ISBN 1-4039-3677-3
Copyright © Beverley Stone 2010