I thought it was the right road to turn on. The sign said M-50 and I vaguely recalled the intersection. I turned left. Suddenly, I felt that gnawing feeling in my stomach that said “maybe this isn’t the right road to get to I-69. Maybe you are wrong.”
My GPS would tell me the truth. It would reassure me that I had made the right decision. At the moment, it was not showing a large enough area. I reached down intending to touch the screen and zoom out.
Even a small twinge of anxiety is unpleasant. I am especially nervous about getting lost or not knowing where I am. I can turn uncertainty into full blown anxiety. You know the drill.
If I am on the wrong road, I may miss I-69 altogether. I could go miles out of my way. I would be way behind schedule and not make it back to Chicago in time for my social engagement this afternoon. Then I’d feel really stupid. It is, of course, this last flourish of self recrimination that really brings out the nerves.
What is this really about? I am uncertain and uncertainty is uncomfortable. Many people, who suffer from anxiety, tell me they need to be more self-confident. They believe that self-confidence is the lack of uncertainty. They are wrong.
Self-confidence is the willingness to live with uncertainty. Self-confidence is not about making the right decision. It is about knowing you will be just fine even when you make a wrong decision.
If I turned on the wrong road, I will eventually figure that out and find the interstate. The worst thing that will happen is that I am going to see some new real estate along the way. I just have to live with my uncertainty for a few minutes and find out.
I took my hand away from the GPS, took a deep breath and plunged into the unknown.
Less Than Helpful Advice
Next time you feel uncertain about a decision, trust your instincts. If you turn out to be right, you will increase your self-trust. If you turn out to be wrong, smile and pat yourself on the back for having the confidence to trust your decision. Most importantly, live with the uncertainty of not knowing for sure.