Blog: Debilitating freedom of choice

So many choices that you can’t make any, stresses out blogger Oscar.

The freedom to make your own choices is a way to express your personality, character and autonomy. Moreover, having more options means you can more closely approach your ideal job, winter coat or toothpaste. However, it also leaves you with the illusion that there must always be a product somewhere that matches your preferences even more closely. The seemingly infinite number of choices results in a perfection asymptote that sometimes results more in stress than in freedom of choice.

This freedom of choice goes beyond the supermarket. As a six-year-old lad, I stared at a blank page for fifteen minutes during primary school art class. The more undefined the assignment, the longer my page stayed blank. Draw ‘something you enjoy’. Oh boy. Music, sports, languages, food, a Disney movie, my pets, my friends, a party, playing outdoors, popcorn.

‘Just start anywhere, it’s all okay.’ – no reaction. Even when the teacher suggested I draw an animal, this small curly-haired boy had trouble choosing. Only when she said I had to choose between a dog, cat and rabbit, could I finally start.

I would much rather be that six-year-old whose teacher presents him with three options

Not being able to draw an animal in pre-school for fear of excluding the opportunity to draw an even more fun animal is not much of an issue. But, if the debilitating feeling caused by freedom of choice persists, it may affect you. It may seem exaggerated to extrapolate the primary school drawing issue to writing my thesis. However, I still feel the same debilitating effect. The options are too many and too bewildering to confidently make a decision, and “simply starting anywhere” is not something I have developed as a skill during my school career.

But I also have stress from choosing outside of my university life. I want too much. I want to learn to spin records, make furniture, play a musical instrument, improve my Spanish and Italian, learn about photography, experiment with plant-based cuisine. The list is endless. It is debilitating, and instead of doing everything, I do nothing at all.

I would much rather be that six-year-old whose teacher presents him with three options. That still leaves sufficient room for my personality, character and individuality, but provides sufficient clarity not to drown in the options.

Oscar Delissen is a third-year Food Technology student who likes cooking with sharp knives and colourful festival shirts.

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