Life is about making choices.
Imaging giving yourself a treat day and bellying up to the counter at your local Haagen Dazs and asking the server for "whatever you think I'd like."
Of course you wouldn't do that. With a veritable rainbow of ice cream flavors tempting you, making a choice might be difficult, but you'd do it. "Give me Cherries Jubilee and Chocolate Night, put the chocolate on the bottom and get a scoop with lots of cherries in it for the top."
Granted not many of life's choices are as lightweight as choosing between chocolate and vanilla, but what you choose and how you make choices, or don't make them, is as central to your self-esteem as taking responsibility for yourself.
Choices come in two flavors: Active — when you make something happen and live with the consequences, and passive — when you "choose not to choose," and continue to live with the status quo because the stakes appear too high for any changes choice might bring.
Active choices can be painful; feelings of fear and vulnerability often accompany these decisions. Just because we know what's best for us doesn't make it any easier. The most difficult choices don't have any absolute right or wrong; there is no perfect solution. It takes great courage to face these hard decisions.
On the other hand, the postponement of choice can have serious backlashes in the way of stress, depression, discouragement, apathy, even physical illness. Procrastination seldom has any favorable results.
Though in the end the choice is yours, getting to the place to be able to make a decision doesn't have to be a solo trip. Ask for help. Talking things out with another person can be helpful, especially someone who is on your side but has nothing at stake in your decision.
Just putting voice to your concerns may help you sort things out, and writing down the pros and cons will give you more clarity than keeping everything in your head. Getting some distance (emotional or physical) may make assessment easier, especially if that distance allows you to see the reality of the situation, rather than the way you wish it could be.
Even with thoughtful consideration, not every choice will be the right one. But wrong decisions don't make you wrong. And, trite as it may sound, one of the ways we learn is through the mistakes we make.
Not each of the choices you make will have profound effect on the whole of your life. But the ongoing and continuous act of making choices will.
Making choices you believe in, choosing intentionally and with moral deliberation, taking responsibility for your choices, these are some of the markers on the road of self-esteem. The way William James put it was, "The first act of freedom is to choose it."
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications