About 8 years ago, I was diagnosed with Avoidant Personality Disorder. Jenny Lawson has called it “social anxiety disorder on speed”, so that’s probably all you need to figure out what it does: it makes you so scared of people and social situations that you do anything to avoid them.
I got help for it at the age of 20 (when leaving the house became difficult), so that’s a good 20 years of getting into the habit of not doing things. To counter this habit, I developed a new one: in German it’s called “Augen zu und durch”, which translates literally to “eyes closed and through” and semantically to “Just do it”. (I should get sponsorship; my whole life is a Nike commercial.) In other words, I just pushed myself to do things, no matter how uncomfortable they seemed.
So the new habit replaced the old: I started saying yes a lot more and have had amazing experiences as a result of it. In general, it’s a good thing.
It’s also led me to saying yes to too many things, especially in the past year or two. Somehow, no matter how much I say that I “want to slow down”, the old habit hits (or a sense of duty, or FOMO, or something) and I say yes to the fifth thing that month even if that means I’ll have to forget sleep if I want to get it all done. So how to find a balance?
Today I had a swing dance class booked. It was three hours long, I knew it would be physically exhausting, I didn’t feel like being around people, and I recently lost my enthusiasm for dance. I really didn’t want to go, and that feeling stuck with me for the first hour. As I kept thinking about whether or not to leave, it struck me that, having lived between the two extremes of do nothing and do everything, it is hard to figure out what I should be doing. I fully believe in cancelling something you’ve already paid for if you’re really not up for it on the day, but … what if I’m just Avoiding? But … what if I only said yes in the first place because that’s what I do, even though I didn’t actually want to do it?
The one solution I have found so far is to ask myself: Is there something else I could be doing right now that would be more enjoyable?
Today, there wasn’t. I had nothing I urgently wanted to get back to, so I stuck with the dance class and had a good time. Last November, I left a concert by my favourite after an hour because I realised I’d be happier at home in bed. No regrets there.
Obviously this question isn’t always appropriate (unless we’re talking about career changes, asking myself if I’d rather in the park than at a desk on a Wednesday morning is a bit pointless), but for me it helps identifying whether one of my habits has taken over the decision-making for me. In situations where we can afford it, the question “Do I really want this?” is always worth asking.