Are My Picky, Indecisive Tendencies Actually Anxiety?

Read Time: 8 Minutes 37 Seconds

Making decisions can be a bit of a struggle for me: What to eat in restaurants, the purchase of a wireless keyboard on Amazon, which agenda to buy for the upcoming 2021 calendar year. Even deciding on my emotions and how those really feel.

Other folks can make a choice and not give it a second thought. I on the other hand, spend 25 minutes in Chapters trying to decide on said agenda, my gears churning in time to an internal dialogue something along the lines of:

“This one is on sale, but this regular priced one I like more. This one I like more has less pages to write in, but this agenda starts in August 2020 – maybe it’s best to get the one that starts in January 2021.”

When I moved on to Bath & Body Works, it was the same thing. Picture me, standing in the middle of the store, spending 20 minutes squinting at labels, smelling candles with the same frequency as someone huffing glue, indecisive on which one I liked more: the smokier pumpkin candle or the sweeter pumpkin candle. Meanwhile, I’d felt a headache start to come on from thinking too much, in addition to the candle smells starting to blend into one zany concoction.

I’m frankly surprised I didn’t give up and walk out of the store – I was committed to my candle buying, apparently.

These purchases tend to demonstrate a pattern I have developed along the way, not in what I buy but how I seem to approach what I buy. I allow miniscule decisions, with their insignificant details, to become more significant than they need to be. As a result, I stress, become indecisive and feel anxious.

At the end of the day, I recognize that purchases such as these are not something that need to take up this much of my time and energy – funnily enough, I’ve managed to write a whole blog article on it, so I actually gave it more time and energy by doing so. I can return the candle if I don’t like it, I can go back and buy the other candle any time, I can eliminate the decision making process in store by shopping online.

Am I just particular? Picky, if you will? Or am I anxious, which affects my ability (and inability) to make decisions? Or is it the other way around, as in having to make decisions, no matter big or small, leads me to feel anxious?

It really doesn’t matter. But I make it matter more, and in doing so it leaves me rather tired, mentally exhausted and headachy after an outing such as shopping.

Perhaps the headaches and stress are side affects of being picky: Candles are money, man, especially ones from Bath and Body Works. I generally think candles containing dessert flavored names are kinda yucky (Cupcake? Irish creme? If I wanted dessert, I’d eat it and be done with it, I don’t want my house smelling of cupcake for 4 hours) – so I take my time picking what I like.

Why would I venture to guess such mannerisms as pickiness or indecision-making could stem from anxiety? The mental energy that some decisions take (and yes, I know, of my own accord) leaves me feeling drained. Midway through shopping for the agenda, I thought “I can’t wait to be back home on the couch, curled up with a blanket and a glass of wine”. I’m already anticipating ways of self-soothing when I get home, when I haven’t even left the mall yet.

Sometimes I’ll get so caught up in decision making when shopping that I’ll get headaches, like I mentioned before, but I’ll also (on occasion) forget to eat while shopping because I get so focused on the choice I’m making, which tends to compound the headache.

Bottom line: I don’t feel as though a task as simple as buying an agenda, should leave me feeling like that. Yet it does.

Social Situations

I think that the headaches and inability to make decisions when shopping are also compounded by a slight level of social anxiety. I recall when I was in Chapters, and Bath and Body Works, I had thoughts along the lines of:

“The staff must think I’m weird for hanging out in this section for so long/ smelling the same 5 candles repeatedly over the course of 15 minutes/picking up and putting down the same 2 agendas over and over again”.

It got to the point that I would consciously go look in another section of the store to a.) Give my freaking brain a rest and b.) Give myself time to look at other stuff, so the staff would think I had moved on from looking at the agendas. Little did they know, I was planning on moseying back to the agenda section after I’d done a lap around the other areas of the store as a sort of “cool down”. Even though I’d left that section, the decision of which agenda to choose was still lingering IN THE BACK OF MY OVERTHINKING HEAD.

Internal dialogues are a complete and utter joy.

In reality, they probably didn’t even notice me loitering and wandering.

I’ll sometimes even try doing eeny meeny miny moe – a grown ass woman (hi, hello, that is me) and even after I’ve done that (whether it’s a decision I am making when alone or with other people), 9 times out of 10 I will STILL not be satisfied.

“Are you not entertained?” – apparently not.

As I continue writing this, I wonder if it’s neither being particular/picky or being anxious but just being an overthinker and the what-if’s that come with said decisions. What if I bring home the candle and I hate it? What if the store staff judge me for taking so long to choose an agenda? What if I hate what I order? What if I run out of writing room in my agenda?

Look, I’m not a mental health professional or a psychologist or a therapist. Can I outright confirm that some of what I would label my more ‘neurotic’ tendencies to be actually anxiety? No. But I know how I feel when I engage in these tendencies (indecisive, finnicky, picky, you get the jist) and it leaves me feeling anxious, with a great need to decompress afterwards.

But before this turns into a giant self-diagnosis sesh (oh wait… I guess it already has), let’s come up with some ….


So how does one alleviate the stress and potential anxiety that comes from being indecisive (or vice-versa)? The first step (I think for me at least) is to remove the decision-making process altogether. The first item of whatever it is that I am shopping for in a store that I like, I buy it. In an instance when I find myself deciding between two items, I shall default to the first. It might sound like a nutty concept but if you find something you like, why should you keep looking? You only create more choices and decisions for yourself. I know that we as humans are curious and want to explore other options, but sometimes it can be good to know when to continue exploring … and when to stop, for your own sake.

I will say that there are often many other factors to be taken into consideration that may prevent one from just seeing something and buying it, as I’m suggesting – price, durability, quality. Not to mention, there will be many other decisions that you will make in your lifetime that will take up more of your time and thought-process. Depending on the decisions and other factors when making said decision, it may even be acceptable to be picky. It’s when it causes you stress, headaches and the need to unwind from the internal chaos it has caused you, that it becomes not okay (at least, in my humble opinion, anyways).

I think a good rule of thumb for myself moving forward, is that if am shopping for something, whether it be an agenda, a candle. a pet parakeet, and I spot one right away that I like, I buy it.

As someone who is picky/indecisive at restaurants too, ways that help me to overcome the decision of “what should I eat” include looking at the menu ahead of time or asking what the waiter/waitress’s favorite dish is and go with that.

The common denominator amidst all these instances seems to be time. Give me too much time, I’ll start to get picky and indecisive. Give me less time, I get to the point in picking what I want right off the bat.

Pick up first choice, instinctively spot a favorite, leave store content. Deep down, I knew which agenda I liked more as soon as I saw it, but as an overthinking, slightly anxious individual, all I could pay attention to was the Jeopardy theme song on loop in my head and what others thought of me. A thought which also came to me the other day, is that at the root of my overthinking and indecision, has to do with me not trusting myself and not being confident when making decisions. If I was more confident and trusting of myself and what was best for me, I’m sure simple decisions would be a piece of cake.

So taking into account all of these factors, as well as the fact that Christmas is coming up shortly, and we’re in the midst of a pandemic, I think I’ll stick to shopping online this year. Save myself the headache and the stress.

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