It’s important to maintain a certain sense of control in life. However, constantly seeking control can easily disrupt your emotional health and slowly destroy relationships. For example, it’s one thing to want to stay in control of a work presentation or to keep a sense of order during a family vacation, but when you always want everything done your way in every aspect of your life, problems can develop.
If you’ve ever been called a “control freak” or find yourself becoming anxious or frustrated in circumstances you can’t control (such as being invited to a place where you can’t easily oversee the coordination and planning of meals and activities), odds are that your controlling behavior is wreaking havoc on your relationships and even harming your own mental health.
Experts say that constantly trying to control all aspects of life—from romantic or work relationships to a simple coffee outing with friends—can create or intensify perfectionist behaviors within you. Always trying to make everything “just right” in your life puts an immense amount of stress on you, so you’re more likely to be hard on yourself if something in your plan goes awry. You may also come down hard on those around you, inwardly “blaming” them for an unexpected shift in plans that set your hoped-for course of action off-kilter.
In reality, no one did anything wrong; it’s just that a slight hiccup in your plans tends to make you feel incredibly uneasy. Frustration, anxiety, and feel personally responsible for every single event throughout the day can destroy the inner calm that you need to emotionally and physically thrive. Here are some tips to help you let go of some of this need for control.
Become aware of your controlling behavior
To let go of these behaviors, professionals advise first becoming aware of the situations in which you most likely to want to exert control. Awareness is often an important first step in creating life changes and making personal improvements.
Are you typically trying to create order at every family meal? Are you finding that you gravitate towards trying to control one or two key people in your life, while you treat others with more leniency and compassion? Explore these relationships and take the time to ponder what about them may make you feel the need to control them. In every instance these feelings strike, take note. Become more mindful of the situations that you feel the need to control.
Don’t blame others
Experts also suggest owning a sense of personal responsibility for your behavior. Rather than blaming others for a meal that didn’t come out as you planned, for example, remind yourself that the demands you place on others likely stems from grappling with issues of your own. Anxieties at work may make you more inclined to try to control a family member’s way of speaking or behaving—many times, controlling behavior others is an attempt to make right a bothersome situation (whether it’s past or present).
It’s unfair to blame others and try to control people who have nothing to do with those circumstances; do your best to hold yourself accountable and, if necessary, speak with a counselor to help ease your worries.
Let go of preconceived notions
From social media and friends’ stories to movies and even television shows that seem to glorify a so-called ideal life, it’s easy to succumb to perfectionist tendencies. Mental health professionals urge those with controlling behavior to do their best to rid their long-held thoughts that every life event—no matter how large or small—should always fall beautifully into place. Life is filled with twists and turns; let go of preconceived notions that encourage you to believe that every aspect of your life must flow with precision and in accordance with your desired outcomes.
Prioritize your life
A messy house, bills, work deadlines, and an upcoming party are all areas of life you probably want to have complete control over. However, in order to let go of your need to control things right down to the nitty-gritty, ask yourself what matters the most in your life. While at first, you may think that “everything” matters equally, it’s essential to prioritize.
Your relationship with your spouse, for example, is more important than a house that is overdue for a dusting. By focusing on the truly pertinent issues and people around you, you’ll begin to gain a better sense of what warrants immediate attention and what can be put aside.
You’ll soon notice your stress levels decreasing and your mood improving when you become mindful of your controlling triggers, accept responsibility for your life situations, and gradually rid yourself of a “do it all” perfectionist mentality.