Choice Anxiety. It’s the feeling that we get when we are overwhelmed with having to decide among too many options. This article in The Atlantic is about our current phenomenon of having too much stuff.
Do you ever go online to purchase something and find that the options are overwhelming?
But when you type hangers into Amazon’s search box, the mega-retailer delivers “over 200,000” options. On the first page of results, half are nearly identical velvet hangers, and most of the rest are nearly identical plastic. They don’t vary much by price, and almost all of the listings in the first few pages of results have hundreds or thousands of reviews that average out to ratings between four and five stars. Even if you have very specific hanger needs and preferences, there’s no obvious choice. There are just choices.
I love to read. So when I go to find something to read, I usually head to the new book page on my library’s website. They have their 1000 newest books listed. I will spend over an hour trying to decide the next new book I want to read. Talk about choice overload!! I do the same thing on the audiobook website for the library. I don’t want to waste time listening to a book I might not like, so I spend over an hour scouring the audiobook page for the perfect book! It’s crazy!
Not only is this nuts, but it can give us anxiety. We aren’t content when we are looking for the next perfect thing among millions of things. What we are looking for doesn’t have to be perfect. Just like the hangers, it just has to work. And, I don’t need the “perfect” book; I just need a book.
How can we deal with our choice anxiety? The author of The Atlantic gives some suggestions, such as lifestyle influencers, review sites, and higher end companies that sell very few items. I’ve got a few other suggestions.
Learn to live without perfection. You don’t actually have to look at every single item and compare it with every single other item. You can decide that you don’t have to have the perfect hanger. An adequate hanger at a good price will do just fine. You can give up choice anxiety when you decide that you don’t have to have the perfect choice. As a recovering perfectionist, I realize that this is difficult, but it is worth it.
Buy and consume less stuff. I know, I know. As Americans this is downright heresy. But, hear me out. Maybe it’s OK to have less. We can make fewer choices if we decide that we don’t need quite as much. I’m working on two knitting projects right now that are both using yarn from my stash. If I can find projects that use stash yarn, I can save money and avoid buying more yarn. (I know, fellow knitters, that is blasphemy. But, I’ve already got the yarn!)
Find a brand and stick with it. I use this mostly with groceries. When I buy groceries, I don’t stand around and compare brands on every item. If I see a new brand or if something is on sale, I’ll check it out, but otherwise, I don’t vary my routine. To keep from getting overwhelmed, I have things that I buy and I buy them. I make a list and I (try to) stick to my list.
Throw away catalogs. Unless you need something from a catalog, just pitch it. They’ve got a website and whatever you want will be on the website. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with catalogs and start to think that you really need whatever they’re selling. You probably don’t. If you do, order it immediately from the catalog and then thrown the catalog away. Keeping catalogs is just a way to make yourself dissatisfied with life.
Choice anxiety is just another form of discontentment. God doesn’t want us to live that way. Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
21st century America seems to be made for discontentment, but Jesus is walking beside us saying that he’s all we need. All that stuff that they sell online has its uses, but they are temporary. Jesus is forever. So, enjoy the stuff that you have, but don’t fret over it. See it for what it is - material goods for the here and now. Love and Jesus last forever.