By All Means, Rome.
For whatever reason, I was so obsessed with the movie Roman Holiday as a teen, and particularly proud of the main character, Ann, for choosing to fulfill her duty over pursuing love at the end of the film (sorry if that spoiled the ending for you, but it came out in like 1953). I’m not sure where this message was first given to me, but for such a long time I believed that doing what was expected of me was always the “right” thing to do. I saw Ann’s sacrifice – giving up an autonomous life for herself so that she could continue to serve others – as something admirable. While in some cases, I’d still agree that it was a fair decision (I mean she was the heir to the throne and her love interest was literally just some guy who lied to her the entire time), my ideas about self-sacrifice have changed.
It's so difficult, especially for a young person, to understand the difference between what feels right to you vs. what feels like it should be right for you. I really want to go here, but I shouldn’t live too far from my family. I want to pursue this exciting job I’m passionate about, but I probably should just settle for a job that pays my bills even if I hate myself every day. I really want to eat this chocolate cake, but I think I should eat this sad piece of spinach instead. It’s what’s best for me… isn’t it??? Another spoiler: these preconceived notions are not always the best thing for you!
Even though I’ve worked so hard the past few years to grow more self-aware when decision anxiety arises, it often comes up in sneaky ways. It’s resurfaced frequently the past few years as so many of my loved ones and peers are tackling huge milestones. It can be especially confusing seeing so many people project happiness that you’re unsure is genuine. I find myself scrolling through social media and facing a series of unintended thought crises. What does success look like? Why isn’t mine the same as theirs? Am I a bad person for being jealous? Should I speed up, or slow down, or change direction entirely?
Whenever conflicting thoughts and internal comparisons become too much, I must come back to my body. As much as I love to fight it, I know deep down that most of the time I already know what feels right or wrong for me. I have gotten so used to asking other people for reassurance more times than I can count instead of first asking myself what I think. Sometimes I’d be ready to make a choice and just be paralyzed with worry that somehow, I’d ruin everything or mess up my entire life if left to decide on my own. I’d replay what others told me, because surely, they knew better than I did when it came to making choices – but, whenever I decided on something that I felt should be right instead of what I felt was right, something inside of me seemed to twist with disappointment.
Honestly, I’m pretty good at decision making, even though it took me until this year to believe that. Instead of looking outward for the answers, I try my best now to look inward to make the distinction between intuition and fear. What am I experiencing in this moment? What makes me feel at ease or re-centered? What is driving my desire for a life change? What makes me feel excited, passionate, curious, motivated, or happy?
Even though I no longer idealize Ann’s level of self-sacrifice, I still love the way she coped with her sadness - by doing whatever she wanted all day, without thinking for too long about it. I love that she cut off her beautiful, long hair and opted for a short cut, even if the hairdresser hesitated with judgement. I love that she fought back when her friends were in danger, even if everyone around her was shocked. And I loved that she was brave enough to be honest with herself when she felt that there was something missing in her life.
Despite my best efforts, I can’t control much of anything in my life. Nobody can. I can’t control how much I can handle, how late I can stay up, or who I feel love toward. I can’t force myself to fit a mold of what I feel a successful 20-something is, and I certainly can’t convince myself that I’m happy when I’m not. The most important aspects of decision making are to find compassion for the parts of myself that are worried, listen to what they are trying to tell me, and honor my needs as they arise. Who knows? Maybe I just need a trip to Rome after all…
I enjoyed your post as ever. You might find it useful exploring Human Design