"But I want to be the bride." REW photo

For my younger son’s second wedding within a month, the bride and groom arrived in full dress to help recreate a miniature wedding gala at the nursing home for “Nanny.” Midst the festivities one little child frowned. She wanted the bride’s veil. So I went to the activities room, found a princess crown, and placed it on her head. She sighed, tried to smile, then admitted quietly, “But Aunti Rita, I don’t want to be a princess, I want to be the bride.”

After our 93-year-old mother posed for what seemed like a million paparazzi moment's with the newleyweds, my daughter-in-law took off her veil and there sat a happy princess-bride holding a balloon.

When children want something, they ask. As adults, we often become tangled in the confusion of what we want for ourselves and what we think others would like for us. We tend to forget the simplicity of asking—oftentimes out of fear. When looking through my own book a long way off in revisions for an eBook, The Art of Decision Making for Women, I was amazed that stories women told me in the 90s still resonated.

And I was further reminded of Carol Gilligan’s work, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development which Harvard University Press called, “the little book that started a revolution, making women’s voices heard, in their own right and with their own integrity, for virtually the first time in social scientific theorizing about women.”

Here are some examples of desire and conflict 

We all know someone who has struggled with their wishes and their circumstances. These are snippets from just six of the women out of several hundred interviewed:

  • Margo, 22, graduate teaching assistant: “What shall I do about my boyfriend? I really can’t continue a long distance relationship. I want to be married, but I’m afraid to tell him.”
  • Gloria, 30 nurse: “I really can’t keep working double shifts. I really want to give this up and open a day-care center.”
  • Judy, 40, attorney: “If I don’t make partner in this law firm, I am going to find it too humiliating to stay but too terrified to leave. I really wish I had the courage to apply for teaching jobs at colleges."
  • Patricia, 38, wife and mother: “Jim is changing jobs and once again wants us to uproot and go along. I really want him to do the commuting this time. But he’ll be furious if I suggest it. I just don’t know what I would do.”
  • Molly, 61, retired school teacher: “My daughter and her new baby want to come live with us. Yest, I really want to sell this big house, move to a condo, and give her the money to make it on her own. How can I tell her? She's our daughter."
  • Terry, 44, real estate broker:  “I want to start my own firm. Our company has changed hands twice in 10 years. I want out, but don’t know if I have the courage to do so."

All those women who said, “I don’t know what to do” really did know what they wanted to do—they were simply afraid to move forward. They were afraid of making the wrong decision. Very often when asked, “What do you mean by 'the wrong decision,' they said they were afraid that their decision would not please others.

If each of the women could take the time to focus on what their inner voice was saying, they might find a way that will lead them out of the muddle of indecision to a decision that will bring them to a place of happiness and calm. And with proper planning, they might find that others will rally around them.

A quick planner

Sometimes it is difficult to ask for what we really want. Here is a method that might be of help with decision-making:

1. Think of what it you really want.

2. Assess the situation by making a pros and cons checklist.

3. Consider alternatives.

4. Visualize yourself inside the dream or wish setting.

5 Decide if this is the best plan.

6. Share the “I wish” with a someone who will be a cheerleader for you rather than someone who will say, "Are you kidding? That's ridiculous." 

7. Once you feel confident about your decision, ask for what you wish.

Consider a loving, inclusive approach

An entire generation of women were raised to be pleasers. Sometimes decisions create stress for others, and that is troubling. But with family decisions or even group decisions, it is important to ask: “Am I moving on out of spite, or because I really love myself enough to know what is best for me?" If it is best for you, you'll work at a solution that creates a win-win. 

When taking a thoughtful approach to decision-making it is easier to talk from a rational perspective and, at the same time, acknowledge the feelings of others. Ask for what you wish, thoughtfully and graciously.

A veil, a smile, and a balloon /Courtesy of Lois Ardito

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

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