You Are More of a Control Freak Than You Realize

Yes, I’ll admit it. I am a control freak. And chances are, you are too.

Many of my stresses and problems in life stem from me wanting to control everything. I’ve gotten so obsessed with trying to manipulate and scheme my way into making certain things happen so much that it has cost me to miss out on many wonderful things in life.

Example No. 1: I obsessively try to avoid having an allergic reaction. I don’t like going to certain restaurants and don’t trust the food at parties. I have become hypervigilant about all these things and instead of sitting back and enjoying the company, my mind would go in circles trying to make sure I was safe. Did that waiter seem confident that there are no nuts in my meal? Did someone touch peanuts and then touch these chips I’m about to eat? Is there a good hospital nearby? Not that it’s wrong to be cautious, but there comes a certain point where it can be too much and become burdensome.

Being a control freak can be an intermittent thing. I like to call this concept, “wearing your control freak costume”. Some areas of our lives has more resistance, while other areas are more free-flowing. Everyone has a few areas where they feel like they need to control every aspect and outcome, which is a symptom of “putting all your eggs in one basket”—aka, “If I don’t do well on this exam, my ENTIRE LIFE is RUINED FOREVER!”

I believe the first step is becoming completely aware of when you are wearing this silly control freak costume. Here are a few questions I’ve asked myself for inventory:

What are some of my behaviors when I’m being a control freak?

  • I micromanage others
  • I’m constantly looking at my calendar, agenda, email, or phone
  • I’m constantly assuming what other people are thinking
  • I future-trip (thinking too much about the future)
  • I’m thinking way too much about potential outcomes
  • I make myself carry unrealistic burdens and responsibilities

How do I feel when I’m being a control freak?

  • I feel exhausted, even if I haven’t done much
  • I feel stressed and worried
  • I feel tense and contracted
  • I feel like my whole world will collapse if what I want doesn’t happen

Often, I put on the control freak costume to manage my own internal affairs. Fine. Great. But it’s another problem entirely when I decide to be a control freak around others.

And when this happens, my control freak costume can be sneaky. It can come in the form of “caring” for someone.

Example No. 2:  I often like doing “little” things for the people I care about, but it’s not actually coming from a place of love. It’s coming from a place of trying to control how they should be doing something. For example, my brother sometimes would skip breakfast before going to work. So one day, I decided to make him eggs because I knew he would be hungry at work later. On the outside, it seems like a sister caring for a brother–but NOPE! The core of it was not because I care about him, but because it bothered me that he wasn’t eating breakfast–he SHOULD be having breakfast or else he’ll get hungry at work. I wanted him to eat breakfast on my terms and graciously thank me for saving his ass. Yes, there is some caring-ness mixed in there, but I don’t dare think I’m a saint for that. I was trying to control how he lives his life by projecting my own rules and values on him, with the assumption that my own rules and values are better than his.

I call being a control freak in other people’s lives the mother-knows-best mentality. It can start as coming from a place of love and care, but it can easily warp into trying to control how others live their lives. Helicopter parents can do this to their children, which is ultimately doing them an injustice, because they’ll never learn to choose for themselves. Also, the mother-knows-best mentality is a quick way to get someone to start resenting or rebelling against you.

So I’ve done an inventory—a control freak assessment, if you will. I’ve seen how bad my control freak nature can actually get. And that’s the first step in trying to change it. To identify the control freak and call it by name. Because most of the time, we don’t realize we’re being controlling. We don’t realize that our actions stem from this need to control things or control how others perceive us. It took me awhile to realize that I was wasting energy on controlling other people. It also took me awhile to realize that most of my stress stemmed from trying to control circumstances or outcomes in my life. And that’s no bueno.

The truth is, we all crave safety. Whether it be in our careers, finances, relationships, etc. And if you’ve been on this planet long enough, you’ve realized that things can become chaotic and there is no real guarantee that everything will be okay. As a result, we cling to what we think we can control. We trick ourselves into thinking that the more we try to control, the more it will all work out. But this is a straight up lie. It’s an imbalance. The improper ratio of yin and yang, if you will. This may sound counterintuitive, but the more we try to control, the more we must learn to let go and let it work itself out.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this—Control isn’t bad. Control is necessary. But this must be balanced with surrendering. Surrender all of your efforts, surrender all of your goals and outcomes, surrender everything that you’re striving for. Surrender to fate, God, the Universe, Jesus, Kanye West—whoever and whatever it is you can truly believe in. Let it go and do something else. Go grab some coffee or read a book or call a friend. Give the situation some breathing room—some space to work itself out. In my experiences, once I’ve stepped away from the situation and completely let it go, brilliant things would happen. The situation would end up fixing itself or I would receive some genius insight on what to do next. Or the situation will just fall away on its own and I end up forgetting about it entirely.

And if all these things that I’ve suggested doesn’t work out…just sit back, take a deep breath, and eat some cake. I swear this works every time.

Kisses and Meows,

Gretchen

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