When I turned 18 and was finally legal to drink at a bar, I never knew what to order. I’d always turn to one of the people that I’d be with and ask ‘What are you having?’ and then I’d um and ah and then would choose exactly what they were having, even if I didn’t know what it was or if I wasn’t sure I’d like it. The reason I started doing this was genuinely because I didn’t know what to order, but there’s also a small part of me that knows that I did this because I didn’t want to order the wrong thing. And that’s just ridiculous. Why should what you order at a bar define you as a person? I know it doesn’t and to be honest, I know the people that I was with at the time wouldn’t have cared whatever I’d ordered, but to me, it was a big deal.
It occurred to me recently that the way I ordered at a bar when I was 18, was equivalent to the way I make my choices in life. I tend to be an indecisive person who struggles to make a decision, because I don’t want to upset other people with the choices I make. If someone asks me if I’m free at the weekend, and I know I don’t have definite plans, I’ll agree, and then immediately regret it because secretly, I wanted the weekend to myself after a long and stressful week. If people I know are talking about trying a new restaurant that’s recently opened, I’ll nod along and say I’m up for trying it too, even though I actually don’t know if I like that sort of food, and would be just as happy at the place that we’ve been to before. It’s become clear that I tend to be a bit of a people pleaser, who’s terrified of doing the wrong, socially unacceptable thing.
Breaking a habit of a lifetime takes a while, and I’m pretty sure that when someone next asks me if I’m free at the weekend, I’ll start frantically trying to think of how I can fit it in, but the point is that I’ve become aware of it. I want to be a bit more decisive and I want to make a decision that’s solely based on my wants, rather than because I think it might please someone else.
So the next time I’m at bar, I’m going to order what I want to, just because I want to, even if everyone else is ordering beers and I feel like I’m ordering too fussy a drink. If someone asks me if I want to try the latest Thai restaurant, I’m just going to be honest and say that it’s not really my thing.
There’s always going to be times when putting other people’s opinions and needs ahead of your own is the right thing to do, but on the other side of the coin, your opinions and needs are just as important. And it’s fine to admit it, both to others and to yourself.