I was never on the cheerleading squad in high school. But when it comes to women acknowledging how much we know and can apply to the elder care situation from our own life experiences, I’m all about jumping, shouting and shaking those pompoms. We have so much inner strength. Still, there’s one thing missing: we don’t trust ourselves.
It seems whenever I’m in a new situation the first thing I do is look for a specialist, someone who’s not me and therefore will surely be more competent than I think myself to be.
Of course experts have their place. I’m not claiming to have more medical knowledge than a doctor, or more legal knowledge than an attorney. But what I’ve learned in the trenches with my sister as we managed our mother’s care during her last years, is that the expert is a tool, someone to share information. From there it’s up to me to weigh all the factors and make the decision. Because no one is more expert than me in knowing what’s right for my family, or for my parents.
I confess that I struggle with this. By nature I prefer others to make the decision. I’m more a follower than a leader, so I’m really good at backing people up, not so good at taking the first step. It took some soul searching to accept that by letting someone else make the decisions, I was doing myself a disservice. They got better at what they were already good at. As for me, the spot where self-reliance should have been growing remained a dead brown patch instead.
I was in my late forties when I decided to face the fact that shirking tough decisions was getting me nowhere. I had to do something about it. At first, decision making was hard for me. It was like trying to go on a tough bike ride after having been bed-ridden with the flu. I was weak and didn’t get very far on those first attempts. But I kept looking for chances to workout my decision-making abilities. As I got stronger and better at it, I no longer had that horrible feeling of being tossed in the waves of circumstance.
Eventually, though, things got to a point with my mother where the decisions were complicated, with uncertain outcomes. That’s when my best friend from high school ~~ who also dodged the cheerleading squad ~~ gave me this advice:
1. Trust your gut feeling. When you’re willing to act on your instinct, you move from being a victim to being in control.
2. Develop a sense of gratitude for what others do for you and be willing to ask for help when you need it. Being grateful is one of those ultra-positive emotions. It replaces energy-sapping guilt with a sense of connectedness and support, all of which is positive.
3. Be creative, as creativity is your greatest ally. When you’re not constrained by what others say is the right thing to do, when you begin to allow yourself to come up with seemingly outrageous options, you’ll find that your boundaries are suddenly wide open with possibilities.
Practice decision making every chance you get. You’ll find your self-confidence and inner strength will grow enormously. Through it all, don’t forget your instincts. They’re always there for you. All you have to do is tune in and listen.