The Fear of Making Decisions: How Do You Overcome it?

Are you afraid of making the wrong decisions? Here, you can find out how to overcome this fear and start making the right choices.
The Fear of Making Decisions: How Do You Overcome it?

Last update: 11 September, 2021

How easily do you find it to make decisions? How much time do you spend aimlessly pondering? In fact, the fear of making decisions can become a major obstacle to living fully, particularly if you spend too much time doing it. Therefore, learning to overcome this fear is essential if you want to feel satisfied with your life.

Insecurity in decision-making can have different causes. However, it’s been proved that it impacts life in a negative way. Nevertheless, there are certain techniques that you can apply to work on this problem and consequently feel better about yourself.

Understanding the fear of making decisions

When talking about fear or anxiety, these are often considered “negative” emotions. However, these feelings are simply natural responses of the body to different stimuli. In fact, the same kind of response occurs with positive emotions, such as joy. For this reason, distinguishing between “negative” and “positive” emotions is of little value. Instead, we might speak of pleasant and unpleasant feelings.

Following along the same lines, it might not feel pleasant but fear actually has an adaptive function. In fact, Becerra-García et al (2007) conducted a study in which they analyzed the adaptive value of fear. The authors concluded that fear is a resource that keeps people protected.

Taking this into account, would it be feasible to say that the fear of making decisions is useful for people? Well, psychology points out that fear is a learned response. This was demonstrated by BF Skinner with the classic little Albert experiment.

Koralek and Costa (2021) conducted a study on how the brain reinforces behaviors that bring rewards. In this case, the benefit would be to avoid a stimulus that’s perceived as threatening or dangerous. Thus, the fear of deciding is the result of a cognitive distortion that creates the perception that choosing involves a risk. If the subject avoids it, they experience the feeling of “security” as a reward.

Woman with doubts

Factors that influence the fear of making decisions

Returning to the above, there are a series of variables that are related to the difficulty of making decisions. Firstly, someone with overprotective parents could present this problem because they’ve learned to associate independence with danger. This is an altered perception in the child that has arisen from their parent’s behavior.

Secondly, self-esteem is another factor that conditions the fear of making decisions. González, Luz, and Mariella (2019) conducted a study in which they made a correlation between self-esteem and decision-making in adolescents from an educational institution. Based on their data, they concluded that there was a relationship between low self-esteem and difficulty in the ability to make a decision.

Finally, people with Peter Pan syndrome also tend to flee from decision-making. In this case, the reason is their inability to assume the consequences that their actions could have.

How to overcome the fear of making decisions

Now that you can better understand what the fear of making decisions entails, you need to also know it’s possible to overcome it. Because, in the same way, that you learn to fear certain things, you can also unlearn this response. To achieve this goal, you need to know about some habits you can adopt and work on for your improvement. Remember that consistency is key if you want to make a significant change.

1. Raise your self-esteem

We’ve already mentioned that low self-esteem can be associated with a reduced ability to make decisions. Therefore, a logical alternative would be to think about feeling better about yourself. A good way to do this is to make a list of your positive and negative qualities in order to help you recognize your strengths.

You can also try using positive verbalizations or phrases that promote a better perception of yourself. These practices will be helpful in building a more realistic and kinder assessment of yourself. Consequently, you’ll feel more secure, stable, and you’ll experience less fear of making decisions.

2. Recognize yourself as responsible for your own life

Sometimes, the fear of making decisions concerns the fact that you don’t recognize responsibility for your own life. In fact, you may have a tendency to blame others around you for the results of your actions. In this way, you don’t recognize yourself as being in charge of your own life, hence you avoid making any kind of decision.

It’s important that you begin to see yourself as solely responsible for the direction your life takes. If you don’t take the helm, one day, you’ll probably realize you’re living someone else’s life.

3. Accept that mistakes are part of living

Many people are afraid to choose because they don’t want to be wrong or they fear that they won’t make the best decision. In this sense, it’s important to make yourself aware that not everything is your responsibility. Indeed, there are always unforeseen situations that can influence how well or badly circumstances turn out.

If things go wrong, you should know that you made the best decision you could with the resources you had available. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or that any other choice you make in the future will turn out the same way.

Woman thinking

4. Go to psychotherapy

If you feel that the fear of making decisions is paralyzing you, it’s okay to ask for professional help. Indeed, in the therapeutic space, it’s possible to externalize and address the cognitive distortions that are causing you suffering. In the same way, the psychologist can guide you with different techniques so you can learn to make better decisions. It’s also possible to work on your sense of responsibility, self-esteem, and any other situation that’s affecting you.

Remember that not being able to make decisions is an obstacle to your personal growth. There’s a phrase that says “if you don’t take risks you don’t drink champagne”. This can be applied to the fear of making decisions. In fact, if you don’t take the first step to change your life, you’re likely to continually feel insecure and unhappy. Remember, it’s never too late to get over your fear of making decisions and to start feeling better about yourself.

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  • Becerra-García, A. M., Madalena, A. C., Estanislau, C., Rodríguez-Rico, J. L., Dias, H., Bassi, A., … & Morato, S. (2010). Ansiedad y miedo: su valor adaptativo, 39(1), 75-81.
  • González Lezcano, L. A., & Vilca Rios, M. I. (2019). Autoestima y toma de decisiones en adolescentes, Institución Educativa Zoila Hora de Robles-Chepén.
  • Koralek, A. C., & Costa, R. M. (2021). Dichotomous dopaminergic and noradrenergic neural states mediate distinct aspects of exploitative behavioral states. Science Advances, 7(30), eabh2059.