When we're growing up, we get used to letting other people make decisions for us. Then, once we get older, it can be hard to turn off that habit. We may know that we technically can do something our parents or friends or partners wouldn't like, but the guilt may feel like too much to handle. Thus begins a lifelong process of learning to deal with other people's disapproval and reclaim control over our lives.
Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, a regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors and CBS TV, and a co-star on Sex Box, WE tv, calls people who have trouble making their own decisions "unsure people." People can often detect unsure people through their body language — they may literally waver — and might take advantage of their willingness to submit to someone else's will, she tells Bustle.
If this pattern continues for long enough, you may wake up one day to realize you're not living your own life. Even if people aren't telling you what to do, you still may be subconsciously trying to please them. Here are some signs you have less control over your life than you realize.
Many people become indecisive because they've gotten so used to other people making decisions for them, they don't learn how to make their own. That indecision then in turn leads you to do what other people want because figuring out what you want feels like too much work. Thus, indecision becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. If you're obsessing over every little decision, you may be vulnerable to other people's controlling tendencies, says Walfish.
2You Doubt Yourself
People with lots of self-doubt tend to feel less in control of their lives, says Walfish. If you're not confident in your own ability to make the right choices, you may excessively rely on others to make them for you.
3You Say "OK" A Lot
It's OK not to be OK with everything. And if you are saying OK to everything others propose, chances are you're not giving your own desires a lot of weight. You might say "OK" to get other people to like you, but this effort can backfire. "Consistently saying 'OK, whatever, I’m cool with anything' can give the impression that you really don’t care, or worse, are a push over," ICF certified coach Tim Toterhi tells Bustle. "Next time a question comes up, whether it’s where to go for lunch or how the department budget should be allocated, have an opinion… and in work situations, have the data to back it up. Negotiation and compromise are a part of life, but if everything’s 'OK' in your world, it’s probably not."
4You Resent People
We often resent people for "making" us do things when, in reality, we have ourselves to blame for going along with whatever they wanted. If resentment is building up, you're probably in a situation you didn't want to be in — and by getting out of it, you're doing the other person a favor, because nobody wants an unenthusiastic companion. "While you may think you are being nice and accommodating by taking other people’s opinions into account when making your decisions, it can often end up making you feel resentful if you don’t take a stance on what you really want," wedding doula Elizabeth Su tells Bustle. "Perhaps counterintuitively, boundaries are the most compassionate thing you can do in a relationship."
5You Don't Know What You Want
Others' desires will dictate your life if you don't speak your own, and the first step toward advocating for what you want is knowing it. "The key to making sure that others are not dictating your life is to be in touch with your own needs," psychotherapist Mollie Eliasof, LCSW tells Bustle. "Learn about what makes you, on your own, happy and infuse it in your everyday decisions as well as large life choices."
6You Feel Like A Victim
If things feel like they're happening to you rather than because of your own choices, you may be stuck in a victim mentality. "Understanding this mindset can completely change your life and free you from feeling controlled by those around you," integrative therapist Dr. Karin Luise tells Bustle. "If you are sitting in the victim role, you are blaming others, thus, you are predicting your future as a victim. Until you decide that you are going to take responsibility for how your life proceeds, you're giving that power and ability to make decisions concerning your life to others."
7Social Interactions Drain You
When we and the people around us are honoring what we want, social gatherings and events nourish us. When we're constantly bending to other people's will, these things feel like a chore. "As a recovering people pleaser, the number one sign that helps me realize I am repeating the people pleasing pattern is when I feel drained in interactions and events with others versus feeling uplifted," life coach and Zendoway founder Kerry Alison Wekelo tells Bustle.
So, how do you start making your own choices when a thousand different forces are pressuring you to live for other people? The guilt probably won't go away, so the best you can do is to get comfortable with feeling guilty, and those feelings will have less and less power.