How to Make a Decision without Stuffing your Feelings or Jumping Ship

Decisions:  The subject seems to be coming up quite a bit in my therapy sessions recently. My clients are facing a multitude of really big things: ending marriage, job changes, moving, financial problems, etc. My advice never wavers: don‘t make any decision based on a negative emotion like fear, guilt, shame or resentment. My client’s response is usually: “How?” Great question.

I made a decision and I’m scared shitless and part of me wishes I had decided differently. My decision was to take a trip alone. To be clear, I am not climbing Mt. Everest, Walking the Appalachian Trail, or skiing The Alps. I’m just going to an all-inclusive resort in The Caribbean. The trip is coming up in a month and I find when I think about it, the part that voted against this decision (and lost) is getting louder and louder. She’s reminding me of the possibility of all kinds of terrible things happening… missing my connecting flight, luggage getting lost, no one talking to me on the whole trip, sitting alone at dinner, crying myself to sleep at night. She’s even telling me to bail.

She is especially reactive when people ask me why I’m going alone. She answers for me immediately. “Because I don’t have anyone to go with.” Ouch.

But I’m starting to get curious about that answer. Is it true that I am traveling alone simply because I don’t have anyone to go with?  Because, to be fair, I really didn’t ask anyone to go with me. When I booked the trip initially, I had just finished reading, You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. (A great read, if you haven’t already!)  Sicero’s voice is loud and clear and badassery is an instant result. I was likely feeling pretty empowered in that moment. I love to travel, love the Caribbean and it seemed a tradition had begun as I went the past two years in November. I wanted to keep this tradition rolling. I researched islands and resorts, and settled on Turks and Caicos. I fell in love with the pictures and the reviews on TripAdvisor who voted it the best beach in the world! The resort included all activities, food and booze for a pretty fantastic price. The only very tiny issue was that I couldn’t think of anyone that I would want to go with me, who would also be willing and able to go. I didn’t rack my brain I suppose, and I didn’t reach out to anyone. I decided to go alone and I booked the vacation. It was six months away so I didn’t have to freak totally out. Still, the fearful part tried to say, “Are you nuts? You can’t go away by yourself. Only lonely people and losers do that! Okay not true, but only brave people do that!!” I shushed her away and she stayed quiet until a couple of months ago when it came time to book the flight. “Let’s just cancel the trip and cut our losses,” she said, “We’ll be refunded most of our money.” This time, I do remember listening to her, and debating that option. I contacted my sister and told her I was extremely afraid to do this. Her response: “So don’t go. You’ve already done so many great things. You don’t need to prove anything.” The thing is, I like to prove things to myself. It makes me feel like a true Badass. And that feels really good. Game on, sista.

So I booked the flight, and now my balance is paid in full. I’m going. And part of me is scared. Other parts are very excited! But she is not. So I need to be compassionate and patient with her, and help her feel brave and protected.I did some research on the resort and was assured I will have an incredible time, meet new friends for life and never eat alone, unless I choose to. I reached out to a friend of a friend who does a lot of solo traveling, and asked her for some tips. She said I will absolutely love it.  I’m not shushing my scared part any longer, I’m embracing her, helping her through it, and using the parts that feel excited to help me with that work. I’m listening. I am understanding her true concern:  feeling like she is back in the Middle School lunch room, holding her food tray, searching for a friendly face, confirming that she has a safe place to sit and eat. I picture that vulnerable eleven year old girl, with her crazy frizzy hair (this was prior to practical straightening techniques and not neglect on the part of my mother) and I give her a big hug. I remind her that she’s not alone, and that she’s on her way to greatness.

How do we make a decision when a part of us says “No thank you” or “Hells No!” First, never ignore that part. Find out what she or he needs and wants most. Help her to feel validated, accepted and understood fully.  As Jen Sincero points out, “So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.” And get uncomfortable it often will. Commit to your decision fully, and help yourself through it. Use your self-compassionate voice. Don’t stuff fear, resentment, guilt or shame or any other negative emotion. Acknowledge it and stay your course. I always remind my clients that there is no bad decision. If you go with Plan A, everything will be great. If you go with plan B, everything will be great. We’ve all heard the saying: “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent what you make of it.” True that.







3 thoughts on “How to Make a Decision without Stuffing your Feelings or Jumping Ship”

  1. Julie, This is great stuff. You’re on a new path. You’re growing. Without growth, we are are stuck.
    It’s uncomfortable and scary – but you are doing it! XXOO


    1. Maybe someday there will be a little comfort in the discomfort. Who knows? Onward and upward. Thank you for being part of my journey, as a mentor and a dear friend.


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