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How an internal or external frame of reference impacts your ability to make decisions

What a suitcase tells about making decisions with confidence

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When you make a clear decision, you are visible.

When you are visible, you can be vulnerable.

Especially when it matters to you what others think of you.

If that applies to you, you have an external frame of reference. You value others opinions more than your own. People with an internal frame of reference care less about what others think, as long as they are happy with their decision.

An example from the coaching couch.

Jan could not make decisions. Because any decision was a statement and a statement could be criticised. So, rather than making a decision, she refrained from them.

Which, by the way, is also a decision. But, it gives a sense of safety as there is always the excuse that you are in the process of making a decision.

Jan was a very outgoing personality, had lots of friends and came across as a confident and fun woman. But she carried a heavy burden under her light heartedness. She was very insecure and could not handle negative comments about herself or her behaviour. As a consequence, she found it extremely difficult to make choices and decisions. We worked on this aspect of her life and one day she called me out of the blue, almost shouting through the phone: ‘I did it. I bought a whole set of suitcases, within 10 minutes and I am really happy with them’.

How confidence present itself

Buying a set of suitcases sounds like a trivial action, but for Jan it represented how she had changed and how her confidence had grown. She wasn’t bothered about making a wrong decision. She stood in her power, purchased what she liked and with her developed ‘internal frame of reference’ she was happy with her choice. That was all that mattered.

External frame of reference

Before she displayed an ‘external frame of reference’, which meant that it was more important to her what others thought of her decisions than she did herself. Feeding her low confidence and low self-esteem.

If you find it difficult to make decisions, you can read this article. It might show you that you actually have a strong external frame of reference, which won’t help you with your confidence. If you want to talk about this, just book a FREE call with me.


Dr Mariette Jansen will help you overcome stress and live a more productive life. Give her a call to find out how.

Posted in Confidence, Control, Food for thought
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