Making things up is painful. I recently let go of predicting what another person will say or do without asking them. Especially in situations where I feared the results, I would map out the worst possible outcomes in advance. I would imagine that, not only would the person say, “No” to my request, but our relationship would be destroyed forever. I might not have a conversation or I would keep a secret because I feared the reaction of another person. Periodically, I made bad financial decisions and had trouble forgiving myself, extending my feelings of shame to how I thought other people might react.
For example, I kept the secret of my husband’s manic-depression diagnosis, which we found out six weeks before we got married, for two years. My husband and I were ashamed and worried about what people would think if they knew. My assumptions amplified my expectation of shame, isolated me from my network and hurt us even more than speaking out. In reality, when they found out, my family and friends were upset and angry that I didn’t trust them enough to share it. With finances, I tended to swing to either making rash decisions without asking for advice in advance or being paralyzed and taking no action at all. Neither way worked.
This pattern of assuming the worst to buffer anticipated disappointment, disapproval or shaming (without evidence) was damaging in every area of my life.
Assumptions are fictional. In reality, we don’t know what will happen until we have the conversation or take the action we fear. We don’t usually predict best possible outcomes, only worst ones. Our dread of what will happen, based on our imaginings, shapes reality since we react to how the other person interacts with us. I made a decision to stop assuming and deal with “what is”. What I was afraid would happen was probably much bigger than the real reaction would be.
Since my assumptions isolate me from people who love me, hurt their feelings at my lack of trust in them and increase my sense of shame, I chose to do something different. To build a better foundation, I started saying and doing the hard things, eating my “frogs”. Every outcome was not fun. Sometimes people got angry and mistakes took time to fix. The longer I procrastinated, the more likely it was that the mess would be bigger. But I was dealing with real conversations, real actions and real consequences, not imaginary ones. After David died, I was no longer scared of the worst, his death. I knew. The aftermath was horrible in so many ways but not how I feared. Strangely, I felt more peaceful, knowing that the reality was not the same as what I had imagined.
Ask yourself these 3 questions:
Do the assumptions you make scare you, isolate you, hurt the people you love or stop you from taking action?
Do you fear something bad will happen if… in a complicated or challenging relationship or situation?
Would you be relieved to speak or act, know the real truth and deal with the consequences?
It’s important to be aware of the cost of making assumptions vs. facing reality. I experienced a greater sense of peace, joy and connection after I chose to act on what was true instead of making up imaginary outcomes in the echo chamber of my own mind. If we could predict the future, there would be no surprises and life might be a bit boring. If we did not try to avoid pain and fear, we would not be human. Once I was clear, most of the time (because habits take time to break), from making toxic assumptions, I was free again.
Let’s talk if you want to learn how to shed the weight of false assumptions and move powerfully into a future lifestyle and legacy of your own choosing.