Monday, July 20, 2009

French Fry Intervention

Do you ever stop to think about how many of your actions are motivated by feelings of 'obligation' rather than conscious choice?

I tend to have an over exaggerated sense of responsibility. I'm all about trying to 'do the right thing' and that is perfectly fine. There is, however, a way that this can get very out of balance. I can flip into a mode where my own wants and needs absolutely vanish as I try to make sure that everyone else around me is comfortable and feeling good about everything. Often times I can be more concerned about the other people around me than they are about themselves. This can lead to some very poor decision making!

I was on a 4 hour drive this past weekend. I need to stop for a 'bio break' and use the restroom at a fast food restaurant. I'm a big time iced tea drinker, so this particular stop was, well - let's just say it was much needed!

I always feel bad about going in to a restaurant, even a fast food restaurant, to use their restroom without buying anything. Even if its a place I've eat at many time before, I still feel guilty. I usually try to at least buy a drink. This particular day, however, I'd had more than my allocated amount of iced tea. Any more and I risked being up all night from the caffeine.

After I used the restroom, all I really wanted to do was get back in my car and continue my drive. The guilt got the better of me and I got in line to buy something. I didn't want tea, so I decided that I would get a small order of french fries. Now, I needed french fries like I need a hole in the head. I didn't even really want them. I just wanted to buy something since I used their restroom! I planned to eat the french fries, of course. I wouldn't want to waste food!

As I stood in line, I kept thinking about walking out. Why was I waiting in line for french fries I didn't want or need? I'd stopped at this place dozens of times in the past and bought food or beverages. Surely it was acceptable to use their restroom once in a while!

The line dwindled down to one elderly couple in front of me. They ordered and paid their bill. The counter person handed them one small cup. The woman said, "Where's our other cup?" What ensued was a discussion about what they had actually ordered, as opposed to what the counter person charged them for. A manager was called. At that moment, I turned and quietly walked out of the restaurant. I got in my car and drove away. I was relieved that I hadn't ended up with the french fries that I didn't really want.

As I drove along and thought about it I got a little frustrated with myself about my willingness to buy and eat french fries out of guilt and a sense of obligation to 'earn my right' to use the restroom at this restaurant. As someone who has struggled with food and weight issues my entire life, it is really quite unhealthy for me to eat something out of obligation or guilt!

I really feel that the 'confusion' between the little old couple and the counter person was a type of universal 'intervention' to save me from myself. If that issue hadn't been made, I would have eaten fries that I didn't want. It would have lessened my enjoyment of the dinner I had an hour later. And for what? Because I felt guilty using the bathroom? That's pretty crazy. I needed to be stopped and shown that this was really not necessary. The pause created by the couple's errant order, allowed me to rethink my decision and make a new choice.

Obligation and guilt are lousy reasons for action. It's never in anyone's best interest. I personally am committed to ferreting out the situations in my life that trigger my sense of obligation or guilt and bring conscious awareness to my choices.

Making a decision for the right reasons is just as important as the decision itself.

Take some time to think about the motivations behind the choices you are making. If guilt or a sense of obligation are lurking there, bring it into the light and reconsider.