Emily had always been a perfectionist. She had a strong desire to ensure that everything she did was flawless and that everyone around her was happy and safe. Emily worked as a project manager at a large corporation, where she was responsible for overseeing multiple teams and ensuring that projects were completed on time and to a high standard…
Need to Let Go of Control, because the Habit Made Me Exhausted
Fellow perfectionist, I’m guessing you know what it’s like: micromanage every aspect in work, make sure that everything was done exactly as wanted it to be. This can create a tense and stressful work environment, as coworkers may feel like they are constantly being watched and judged.
Similarly, perfectionists may feel the need to control their family and loved ones in order to keep them safe and ensure that they are making the right choices. This can manifest as constant advice-giving, intrusive questioning, and attempts to micromanage their loved ones’ lives. This behavior can strain relationships and create feelings of resentment and frustration.
This habit is exhausting and maddening. In fact, controlling behavior often backfires. In our attempts to ensure that nothing painful happens, we create a lot of pain, for ourselves and the people around us.
When we attempt to create a rigid and fixed vision of how things must be, we restrict the future to only what we can envision — forgeting that life’s most incredible moments can catch us completely off guard, and that some of the best things in life are unexpected. If we are open and receptive, and if we let go of control, these surprises can lead us to opportunities that we never imagined were possible.
not easy for you? I get it.
I know what it feels like to tightly control life, and I know the freedom of letting go. Even if I do it inconsistently and imperfectly. I’m a work in progress, and I’m guessing you are too.
So, my fellow imperfect perfectionists, who want to let go of control and enjoy your life more, this is for you:
How to Let Go of Control People and Life
Learning how to let go of control in a relationship and life is a spiritual journey, and everything you cannot control is teaching you letting go.
Assessing your controlling habit
Assessing your controlling habit requires self-awareness and honesty with yourself. How much of this sounds familiar to you?
- you developed a tendency to control your environment and those around you as a means of protecting yourself due to growing up in an unpredictable or unsafe environment.
- You may also struggle with perfectionism, feeling anxious when things don’t go exactly as planned and blaming yourself when they don’t.
- You prefer to have a clear plan and schedule, and feel stressed when you don’t know what to expect.
- You often imagine worst-case scenarios and expend a lot of energy trying to avoid them.
- You hold yourself and others to high standards, and may feel disappointed when expectations are not met. You prefer to work alone rather than as part of a team, and believe that you know what’s best for yourself and others.
- You may try to micromanage others and offer unsolicited advice.
- You feel the need to make things happen to ensure success, and have a rigid definition of what success means.
- You may feel pressure to present a certain image to the world, causing you stress.
- It’s challenging for you to relax, as you constantly look for problems to solve and worry about things going wrong.
- Others may feel suffocated around you and be cautious in their interactions with you, anticipating criticism or an attack.
Understand the negative consequences of your controlling behavior:
- Strained relationships: Your need for control can put a strain on your relationships with others. People may feel suffocated, resentful, or frustrated by your controlling behavior, leading to conflicts and distancing.
- Increased stress and anxiety: Constantly trying to control situations and people can be exhausting and lead to increased stress and anxiety. You may also feel anxious or worried when you are not in control of a situation.
- Decreased creativity and innovation: When you are focused on controlling every aspect of a situation, you may limit the creativity and innovation of those around you. People may feel hesitant to share ideas or take risks if they feel that their input will be disregarded.
- Missed opportunities: Your need for control may cause you to miss out on opportunities that require flexibility or a willingness to delegate tasks to others. This can limit your personal and professional growth.
- Negative self-talk: If things don’t go according to plan, your tendency to blame yourself for the outcome can lead to negative self-talk, decreased self-esteem, and feelings of inadequacy.
- Inability to adapt: When you are used to being in control, it can be challenging to adapt to situations where you are not in control. This can lead to inflexibility and difficulty dealing with change.
- Unfulfilled expectations: Your high standards and expectations, both for yourself and others, can lead to disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. This can cause you to feel let down and dissatisfied with your life.
Recognize the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that drive your controlling habit.
- It’s essential to recognize and challenge these underlying thoughts and beliefs to overcome controlling habits and improve well-being and relationships with others.
- “If I let go of control the situation, something bad will happen.” lead to anxiety and a need to control every aspect of a situation to prevent something negative from happening.
- “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done right.” lead to a belief that others cannot be trusted to do things correctly, causing a need to micromanage and do everything yourself.
- “I need to be perfect and have everything under control to be successful.” lead to perfectionism and a need to control every detail to ensure success.
- “I know what’s best for everyone involved.” lead to a belief that your way is the only right way and a need to control others to ensure they follow your advice.
- “If things don’t go according to plan, it’s entirely my fault.” lead to self-blame and a need to control situations to ensure that things go exactly as planned.
- “I can’t relax until everything is under control.” lead to an inability to relax or enjoy the present moment, as there is always something to be done or controlled.
- “If others don’t meet my high standards, they are not worthy of my time or attention.” lead to a judgmental and critical attitude toward others, causing strained relationships and isolation.
- Controlling habits can be driven by underlying fears that influence our behavior:
- Fear of failure: If X doesn’t happen, everything will fall apart, or things will get worse than they are now.
- Fear of loss of control: If they don’t do what I think they should, they’re going to get hurt (or hurt worse than they are now).
- Fear of rejection: If things don’t happen as I believe they should, I’ll be abandoned or rejected.
- Fear of being vulnerable: If I can’t make this happen, I’m going to get hurt.
- Fear of the uncertainty: If I can’t control the future, I might not be able to handle it.
Practice self-awareness and let go of control:
- The goal is to be able to catch ourselves when we’re controlling and recognize the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that are driving us—and how this is negatively impacting us and the people around us.
- For now, as practice, think of a recent time when you tried to control a situation or person and try to identify the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that were driving you.
- Challenging these thoughts, fears, and beliefs is the key to let go of control. And that looks like this:
- Challenge yourself:
- ask yourself if they are based in reality?
- Are they logical, or are they based on assumptions or beliefs that may not be accurate?
- If there is evidence to support them?
- Are they limiting your potential?
- Tell yourself:
- We don’t have to do anything. There are always multiple options available, and accepting this is the key to finding them.
- Even if we don’t move in until after I give birth, everything will be okay,
- Maybe I don’t know what’s best. Maybe we’d enjoy the interim plan we choose. Maybe something amazing will happen that would only have happened because of this change of plans.
- Challenge yourself:
What Did Emily Do to Let Go of Control?
After some reflection, she realized that her behavior was not only affecting her colleagues but also her own well-being. She was constantly stressed and exhausted, and she knew that something needed to change.
Emily began to work on to let go of control. She started delegating more tasks to her team members, trusting that they were capable of completing them to a high standard. She also made a conscious effort to step back and allow her team members to work independently, only stepping in when necessary.
To her surprise, Emily found that her team was thriving under this new approach. They were more engaged and motivated, and they were producing higher quality work than ever before. Emily was also feeling less stressed and more energized, as she was no longer carrying the weight of the entire team on her shoulders.
Is there someone or something you’re trying to control now? What’s behind it? What are you thinking, what are you afraid of, what beliefs are you feeding into? What would you do differently if you thought differently? And what would change around you if you made this change within you—and acted on it?