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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On Long Commutes

on-commutesLately, I’ve been feeling resentful about my commute. I’m tired at the end of the day and then I have to fight through traffic for an hour and a half and dodge horrible drivers who shouldn’t even own a license and it’s been making me absolutely miserable. 

About 2 times now, I’ve been feeling so out of it that I had run a red light accidentally. And just last week, I found out that a girl my age just died in a car accident near a route by my house. I can’t help but think this is just a big flashing reminder to be a more present and peaceful driver. 

I’m sure a lot of people share this same experience–being stuck in traffic and having such a long commute–especially if you live at the border of a city. For some, commutes can just suck out all their energy so much that they go home just to numb themselves from the day’s struggles. A long commute and being stuck in traffic is just one of those things in life you can’t really control (unless you decide to move closer or get a new job), and it can leave you feeling absolutely powerless and hopeless. However, a situation like this can be an absolute blessing. It can serve as an opportunity to take back your power in a seemingly disempowering situation.

Driving is a wonderful way to practice more love, kindness, and empathy with others. In the past, I had never minded the drive. It was just something that was there. But I think my attitude towards living so far away from my boyfriend and everyone else has made me resent the driving. But life isn’t about the destiny, it’s about the journey, right? Honestly, whenever I hear this over used statement of wisdom it makes me want to scream. But it’s completely true. Before I had become resentful, some of those drives had been the most peaceful and delightful times of my life–observing the nature, the trees, the birds, the open skies. I want more of that again. I want to communicate with nature again. I want to be a kind driver again. Not some rushed, impatient, angry person who is always pissed at some car that drives too slow.

I want to resume practicing more mindfulness with driving. Because if you’ve got a long commute, then why not make the most of it? Why not learn to deal with traffic in a positive way? And practicing this with driving is a good way of practicing this with all those other factors in life that can’t be controlled. Because if we constantly see those things as problems, we’ll continue to see more problems in our lives. Those situations that you can’t change are meant to be used as a way for YOU to change and to grow into being your best self. 

Kisses and Meows,

Gretchen

Honor Your Own Humanity

This is a phrase I had heard on the Good Life Project podcast and I immediately went to write it down. To “honor your own humanity” is to truly embrace the messiness, the darkness, and the resistance of the human experience. I come from a perfectionist background and for years, I had done so much in order to avoid my own discomfort and fears. In my mind, I was not allowed to feel anger or jealousy, or have vulnerabilities. As a result, I stuffed it down deep through food, negative thoughts, school, and socializing. I wasn’t allowed to feel the “negative” emotions. I wasn’t allowed to complain. I wasn’t allowed to cry in front of people. I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes. But being this way, cut me off from my own humanity and starved me of genuine connections with other people. I never allowed myself to get this way, and whenever people showed their vulnerabilities to me I would judge them. As a result, I was cold, distant, and isolated. You can imagine how much fun it was to be that way, I’m sure.

But there came a point in my life where I was so starved, so alone, and so isolated, that I took a look around me and saw no one I could truly feel close with. I found no one to confide in when I needed it. And I somehow knew deep down inside that it was me who had caused this. I couldn’t accept who I was inside, and therefore, had no capacity to accept others as they were.

I’ve slowly learned to let go of this image of perfection and stoicism, and truly bask in all that I am, the “good” and the “bad”. It’s amazing to see all those successful people out there share their stories of struggling with their own shadows. And in seeing that, I learned that I can accept myself. And that I have the capacity to accept the people around me, just as they are, with their flaws and quirks. I still struggle and beat myself up about my own weaknesses sometimes, which is a work in progress. But it’s amazing to see how much compassion can soothe all the cuts and burns you can give yourself sometimes. And it works the same way when holding up this same compassion for other people.  When you finally let yourself be human, you’re also allowing the people around you to be human, too. And suddenly, the expectations and pressures we put on our loved ones disappear and you’re able to accept them as they are right now. You free them to be who they are. And I believe that is one of the best gifts of all.

Kisses & Meows,

Gretchen

On Anxiety

Anxiety just seemed like a natural tendency for me from the very beginning.

I was an anxious kid, always fearful of the dark or strangers. 

I was an anxious teenager, always afraid of what others may think of me.

And now in my early 20s, I had just gone through major panic attacks that took about 6 months of therapy to get over.

Although I say I’ve gotten over it, I haven’t really gotten over it. I still have anxiety. Like, a lot of anxiety. And sometimes it’s frustrating. Because that wasn’t supposed to be part of my recovery story. That period was one of the most darkest and strangest times of my life and it was supposed to be like one of those stories that recovered alcoholics shared that went something like, “That night I vowed never again to drink and ever since then I’ve been sober.” But no way. I wish it was as clean cut as that.

And I would really love to say that I’m 100% recovered from having anxiety and panic attacks. But that’s completely false and a part of me feels ashamed of saying that. There still seems to be the residue of all that jazz still stuck on me and I don’t think it’ll ever go away. 

Sometimes, I’d just be reading a wonderful book before bedtime, all snuggly and cozy in bed. And then i would suddenly start to feel tightness in my throat and I would get bombarded by thoughts of fear and worry—like, “what is wrong with me? Is something happening here? Why am I getting anxious? I don’t understand!” Then, I would start to hate on myself for getting anxious over nothing! I don’t know where it comes from. And it makes me sad. I think I now realize how in love I was with the idea of “being recovered” so much that I had never really let myself full recover and learn and understand these experiences.

Once I stopped having significant episodes of panic, I tried to move on as fast as I could. Got into a relationship, became involved in school, started to finally have fun again, and even said sayonara to my therapist after 6 months because I felt absolutely wonderful.

Although, I’m grateful that all these amazing things happened in my life, I think the honeymoon stage is over and it’s now time to address the things that still linger. I still have paranoid thoughts sometimes. I still have random anxiety at times. I still worry about death and disease more than the usual human. And I’m beginning to be able to see that that is okay. And to admit to myself that I still have these things in my life that haven’t completely dissolved already makes me feel better about all this. Maybe this phase of healing is where the true mind body soul resolution begins. Yes I still feel the throats tightness. But I’m okay. And I will continue to be okay. 

 

Kisses & Meows, 

G

 

Perfection is Unnecessary

This past Monday night, I decided to make cupcakes to bring to my class potluck on Valentine’s Day. I was feeling a little creative and yet a little lazy, so I decided to just by box cake and ready-made icing from my local Harry Teets. So I made the cupcakes–mixed it up, poured it in, baked them, and iced them. I topped them off with those little sugar hearts that have the weird messages on them. They ended up looking quite adorable and I was genuinely proud of how they turned out. And me being me, of course I just had to try one! And to my surprise, it tasted extremely sweet. “Eughck,” was the expression I used at the time. Then I said to myself, “I can’t serve these to people! I absolutely can’t!” I wanted to throw out the entire batch right then. They were ruined. Tainted. Unacceptable. So I sat on the couch trying to figure out what to bring to this potluck that wouldn’t take too much time. And since I had a class right before this one, I didn’t have time to run out and get something. “Should I just buy them all chicken nuggets from McDonalds? How would I keep them fresh over night? What if they judged me if I brought McDonalds?” And on and on and on.

But eventually, I gave up. I had no more time to run and get something. I had to serve these horrible cupcakes. As I was driving to class, I envisioned myself leaving them out on the table for them to set up and running away. When it was time for the potluck to begin, I set them out on the table and tried not to make a big fuss about it. Everyone else seemed busy with their own things, so I managed to do it without anyone commenting on the cupcakes. However, when everyone circled around to grab the food, someone commented on how cute the cupcakes looked. And later, someone came up to me with an enthusiastic look on her face and asked, “You made these? They are so good!” I smiled and said thank you. And that was it. I laughed at the idea of myself throwing these cupcakes away when they were perfectly fine to begin with. And then I realized how much of a high standard I put on myself. On this one super insignificant thing that doesn’t matter. Yes, I wanted them to enjoy these cupcakes, but I wanted them to be perfect. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they had to be perfect in order for them to enjoy it. Some appreciated my icing work. Some loved the taste. And others just appreciated the fact that I had brought something to share with everyone. The thought of me going in circles last night about what to bring instead now just seemed silly. This little episode taught me to see the good in everything I create and contribute, despite it not being what I had originally wanted. Those good aspects are ALWAYS there and sometimes we just don’t have the eyes to see it. Thankfully, the wonderful people around us can bring us back and remind us of the things we cannot see in ourselves.

Man, now I want cake.

Kisses & Meows,

Gretchen ♥♥♥

On Dreading Things We Have To Do

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to handle for the past few years is going to school. It’s not something that I feel goes well with the way I want to live my life. Constant deadlines, inflexible schedules, worrying about grades, having homework, and studying for exams creep into the weekends–the weekends that are supposed to be for relaxing and having fun! I’ve learned a long time ago that school just isn’t my cup of tea. However, I’m still here pulling through. Why? Because it’s something that I saw was essential for me in order to get to where I want to be in life. It was the best way for me to mature and feel confident about putting out my own work into the world. It served as the intermediate transition zone from dependence to independence–which is a scary step to take.

However, going through the process of school with the type of mixed feelings I had, made a lot of what I was doing seem very taxing. I was working towards the goal of doing what I love (nursing!) but I hated some of the steps to get there. I seriously dragged my feet through countless projects, exams, and assignments. But somehow, it all worked out. I was somehow successful with all the projects, exams, and assignments. There were times where things got really tough and it literally felt like it was hurting my soul. But I got through it all. And now here I am, at my last semester of nursing school.

And this is where the Universe comes into play. I believe, without a doubt, that I am meant to be a nurse. It just feels right in all the right ways. And I’ve relied on this feeling for so much of the things I’ve had to do. Whenever finals would come around at the end of the semester, the task of studying for all those exams was so daunting that I would completely surrender all of it to the Universe. I knew that if I was truly meant to be a nurse, then I will be a nurse and nothing can stop that force of the Universe. And if I’m not meant to be a nurse, then the Universe will flow me into the career is perfect for me in every way.

So when you’re stuck in a situation like mine, I think the best thing you can do is to lean on that feeling of “what feels right”. You don’t even have to call it fate or the Universe or whatever. Just suspend your old beliefs for just a moment and open your mind. What is the the goal or result that absolutely feels right? That wonderful feeling is a guide that will take you to where you could never even dream of going. And all the things that seem to stand in your way, like exams or projects, will either flow out of your life OR won’t be as difficult as they initially seemed. This is a lesson I constantly re-learn and re-learn throughout the semesters because it’s so easy to forget this feeling when you feel like you’re buried in work. But if this path is meant to be, it will flow to you effortlessly. And if it’s not, then something more marvelous will take its place.

Kisses and Meows,

Gretchen

 

The Best Way to Turn Things Around When You’re Stuck in a Negative Situation

This past week was pretty high pressure for me. Being in nursing school, we’re constantly given exams throughout the semester and unfortunately, I had to spend my break studying for this big exam that was basically one of the last few chances to bump up my grade.

Earning anything less than a 78% average of all your exams at my school means you fail. For this particular class, I was pretty much hanging on a cliff, just hovering at a 79.2%.

When you’re in a high pressure situation like that, studying can be so stressful. On the night before the exam, I had an episode of self doubt and anxiousness, wondering if I had studied hard enough. The horror story in my head kept building: “If I fail this exam, I would have to re-do this entire class, and I would have to spend even MORE money on summer tuition, and then I won’t be able to graduate until next September rather than May 2017. I’m so screwed! I’m already in so much debt and I need to move out of my parents house!”

Sitting there for a good 5 minutes as I projected fear and horror into my future, I caught myself. I realized that I had adopted this low vibe story and I was making it my reality. I then recognized that I could just as easily adopt a more positive story, and decide to make that my reality instead.

I asked myself: “How do I want to feel?” And suddenly a thought swept through my mind that said: “I want to feel like success follows me wherever I go!” This statement absolutely resonated with me at that moment, and I decided to take it on as a new, more loving story.

I said to myself repeatedly,”Success follows me wherever I go! Success follows me wherever I go!” And I decided to believe that whatever the outcome was, I would still be successful. If somehow I did end up failing this class, or I fail out of nursing school, I know that it’s because there is something even better out there for me.

This shift in beliefs changed everything for me. Realizing that all this talk in our minds are just stories and that these stories can either be fearful or loving, was a blessing. So at any moment, we can choose what story we decide to live in. Will we live in a loving and joyful story? Or will we live in a tragic horror story? Either way, it is up to you. Initially, I chose to experience this situation as stressful, until I decided to experience this situation as peaceful instead. There is so much power in this concept. You can change your life when you change the way you decide to perceive things.

As for the exam, well—it ended up being a piece of cake! Half way through, I had to sit and just be so grateful that I was able to tap into this inner confidence. I believe if I had taken that exam while still living in that highly stressful story, things would have been much different. I would have questioned and doubted my own knowledge too much.

So I just wanted to share this story with anyone who feels like they’re trapped in a negative situation. Take your power back and realize that you have the ability to decide how you want to perceive things in your life. Two people can look at the same picture and walk away with completely different interpretations of what they saw. It is absolutely possible to shift your vision in a more loving and positive direction.

Kisses and Meows,

Gretchen