In this counseling answer:
• We can gain much insight into motivational change by analyzing cognitive states and how we view, process, and react to things.
• Make a list of what it is that you fear about making decisions, and another list of what it is that you would like to do in a given situation.
• Document this step towards decision-making in a journal and express internal gratitude for your accomplishment.
• Even if you feel unsure or scared, act like you are confident.
• Remember that we all make mistakes when making decisions, however, look at these mistakes as learning steps, not failures.
Assalamu alaykum sister,
Thank you for writing to us and discussing your concerns. As I understand your situation, you always want to make people happy and satisfied with you. You gave instances and examples such as listening to your fiancé regarding your career specialization, letting your sister help you shop, as well as feeling intimidated when trying to decide on your own.
Fear of Decision Making
Sister, you feel afraid that you will upset your fiancé if you followed your own career dreams. You also grew up in a home with a father who got easily angry, therefore you were always obedient to him and feared him.
While this may have had some impact on your inability to make independent decisions, as well as trying to please people, it may not be the full reason.
Oftentimes, people seek to please others and it is a natural response. Seeking to please people and making them happy is a sign of humanity as it is an act of kindness and compassion. However, when it inhibits our ability to make decisions or interferes with the things that we personally desire or want to do, it becomes a problem.
When we cannot make decisions out of fear of making mistakes or displeasing someone, it becomes a blockage in our lives.
Signs of People Pleasers
Usually, when one seeks to please others and not themselves, it is often due to low self-esteem and low self-worth. This ties in with your history of living with an abusive father whom you feared. When you were a child, you may have adopted the thinking that if you please people you will not get mistreated.
According to Psychology Today, the 10 signs of trying too hard to please people are: “you pretend to agree with everyone, you feel responsible for how other people feel, you apologize often, you feel burdened by the things you have to do, you can’t say no, you feel uncomfortable if someone is angry at you, you act like the people around you, you need praise to feel good, you go to great lengths to avoid conflict, and you don’t admit when your feelings are hurt”.
Sister, I encourage you to in shaa’ Allah look at these 10 items and check off the ones that pertain to you. The items that pertain to you are indicative of a maladaptation and need to be examined and resolved.
For instance, if you can’t admit when your feelings are hurt, this may prevent you from having authentic relationships with others such as your fiancé. When we don’t express hurt feelings, things tend to become superficial and we feel that we get the short end of the stick. Keeping our feelings bottled up inside can also lead to other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
Another point that you may want to examine, which is pertinent to your situation and history, is how you feel when someone is angry at you. If you feel uncomfortable or you can’t stand up for what you believe in and express your thoughts, you are not being true to yourself. Again, this may stem back to your fear and strict obedience to your father.
Being Aware of our Cognitive States
In your situation, you talk at great lengths about sacrificing your dream of being a psychiatrist because you fear that you will upset your fiancé. Also, your family fears of the drawbacks and effect the job will have on your own mental health.
Sister, I urge you to really examine these two factors and how they pertain to you and your thought process. For instance, do you really think that a psychiatrist will develop mental illnesses because they treat people with mental illnesses?
Does this mean that doctors who treat patients with diabetes get diabetes? By listening to your fiancée and not following your dream, who’s life are you really living?
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By looking at how our cognitive development forms our thoughts and opinions, we can clearly see that we need to look at these situations with logic and dismantle false information and myths. We can gain much insight for motivational change by analyzing cognitive states and how we view, process, and react to things.
In shaa’ Allah, along with the list of 10 traits of people-pleasers, make a list of what it is that you fear about making decisions, and another list of what it is that you would like to do in a given situation.
For instance, you said you don’t trust your judgment while shopping and let your sister make the decisions. Reflect upon this experience with her and write down the list of feelings you had when trying to decide colors and style.
Did you feel intimidated? Did you feel like your decision would upset someone? What would have been the worst outcome had you made the decision and not your sister? By answering these questions and applying them to each situation in your life, you will see that by making your own decisions, you are empowering yourself and building your self-esteem. It will, in turn, increase your feelings of self-worth.
While analyzing your cognitive processes and the behaviors that follow, you may find that your patterns imitate that of when you were a child. This could indicate that you are stuck in a developmental phase in where others are making decisions for you. You can change this by starting to make decisions on your own.
As this may be scary, and understandably so as it’s been a long-term pattern, you can start with small things. For instance, when you go to the store the next time, make a list of the things you would like to buy, and buy them.
If thoughts come into your head that you may have made a mistake, or it may not please somebody, in shaa’ Allah dismiss the thought and reinforce your confidence by stating “I made the correct decision”.
Document this step towards decision-making in a journal and express internal gratitude for your accomplishment. Research has shown that feelings of gratitude changes the brain in a positive way and increases feelings of happiness and competence. You could also create a list of all your blessings and good qualities as this is in alignment with gratitude and mindfulness.
Lastly, once you begin to make your own decisions, even if you feel unsure or scared, act like you are confident. Research has shown that by “acting” the way we want to feel has lasting effects. For instance, according to Psychology Today, “you should behave like the person you want to become.
When you change your behavior, your thoughts and emotions will follow. Don’t expect feelings of confidence to come out of nowhere. Instead, ask yourself: “how can I act confident?” Acting like a confident person, even when you’re filled with self-doubt, helps you feel surer of yourself. Research shows acting confident even increases other people’s confidence in you.
People Choose their own Responses
Begin to understand that the decisions we make as human beings are our own. Normally, people don’t seek to make decisions to hurt others. People who respond to your decisions in a negative way are choosing to do so.
You are not responsible for how someone responds to your decisions; they are. With that said, if your dream is to be a psychiatrist, go for it. If you don’t, sister, you may live a life with sadness and regret wondering what life would have been like if you had followed your dream.
Allah gave you this gift for a reason. If your family is worried or negative, that is on them. If your fiancé is upset, that is his choice. An old saying states: “you can’t please all the people all the time”.
With every decision you make, sister, know that you are heading towards independence and freedom of choice. As I stated earlier, people are responsible for their own reactions, thoughts, and opinions on certain matters.
Your reaction to others was to obey, change your values, and shrink back from your authentic self. Now is the time to blossom by changing your reactions!
Sister, you are beginning a wonderful journey of self-expression, confidence building, and increasing your self-esteem. In shaa’ Allah, by taking steps towards changing your ingrained dependency and fears, you will break the childhood fear of independent thought and actions.
You may feel uncomfortable making decisions at first, but after a while you will feel confident, in shaa’ Allah. Remember that we all make mistakes when making decisions, however, look at these mistakes as learning steps, not failures.
Knowing when to seek advice and ask for help with decisions depends on the circumstance; there are no set criteria. For instance, if your sister is an interior decorator, perhaps her help in choosing color and schemes is needed. However, if she isn’t, your own choices, preferences, and decisions are the best.
Trust in yourself, sister, there is no one better to live your life-than yourself!
We wish you the best,
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.