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How Having Too Many Choices Is Actually Making You More Anxious

I’ve always grown up believing that choice was a privilege. However, recently, I’ve come to find that too many choices are nothing but a formula for anxiety.

Back in the 1950s, options were limited and paths were pre-paved by the families we were born into. Men worked for companies from graduation until death while women were the homemakers and caretakers. There was little relocating or starting over. Everyone knew their place and that was that.

The world we live in today gifts us with an overabundance of worthwhile alternatives. Women can now be the designated breadwinners of the family while men can take on the role of “house husband,” and both men and women can start and end as many careers as they please.

The only drawback to having these choices is the uncertainty and doubt that comes attached to them. It’s the confusion that arises from having to pick the right college to attend and the stress from wondering if you made the right decision. It’s analyzing these life decisions over and over again.

Buying a car isn’t just about purchasing the safest and most reliable automobile on the market. Buying a house isn’t just about finding the most humble abode in the most welcoming neighborhood for a decent bargain. And dating is no longer about settling down with a nice human who shares our morals and doesn’t piss off our parents. Nowadays people are opting to rent rather than buy and serial date rather than commit. With so many places to see and so many people to meet, how could anyone expect us to choose?

It’s like being asked to pick an ice cream flavor. If given the option between the classic three, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, the decision might come easily, and you’d likely be satisfied with your final decision. Those who choose chocolate will forever be fans of that delectable sweet cocoa, just as those who choose strawberry prefer the mouthwatering tartness of fruit.

If asked to select one of dozens of flavors inside a busy ice cream parlor in the midst of summer, you’d be more likely to question your decision and pivot back and forth a few times. Pistachio might be your favorite, but you haven’t yet tried pumpkin stracciatella or cilantro lime. And what about the ice cream sundae or milkshake option? They might even offer smoothies and juices too.

Remember taking those multiple-choice exams in school? You might have spent hours studying and maybe even had the answer staring back at you once or twice. But it was the random assortment of additional answers that threw you off and made you second guess yourself.

Teachers always informed me to go with my first instinct. To not give in to the power of the eraser and choose again. To be confident in my original decision. The advice didn’t prove to make me an A+ student, but it did help to eliminate a lot of anxiety that often results from having too many choices.

Perhaps we can apply this same multiple-choice rule to our lives. What if we narrowed down our options and just stuck by our original decision? What if we went back to the basics and made decisions based on our individual objectives?

The truth is, we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do to be content. We only need our bare essentials and everything else is just gravy. Maybe the real privilege isn’t having choices, it’s how those choices teach us more about ourselves. We have more opportunities than we’ve ever had before to discover our true essence. At the end of the day, we are not the sum of our poor decisions, we are everything we’ve learned from them.

About the author
Fluent storyteller, memoirist and lover of prose poetry Follow Valerie on Instagram or read more articles from Valerie on Thought Catalog.

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