Do you get highly irritated when people are late to meet you? Does it drive you crazy when other people’s inefficiencies waste your time? Do you hate asking for help or having to depend on someone else? Do you take offense to the term “control freak”?
You might be a control freak.
There’s nothing wrong with being decisive, organized and on top of your game. But like all character traits, those associated with a controlling personality can easily veer from strengths into weaknesses if you do not check yourself.
Control freaks want everything to go their way all the time – and they’re usually very good at making this happen. They expect to be right about everything – and they often are. But when life doesn’t go the way a control freak expects that it should, the results can be disastrous.
Despite our ability to influence certain events, plans and people, the only things we can control in life are ourselves, including our actions, our behaviors and our thoughts. Because control freaks often do exert a powerful influence on the world around them, they often mistake this for control.
Notice the italicized words at the top of the page: drive you crazy, highly irritated, hate, take offense – these are the emotions and situations that control freaks experience whenever life evades their control. Control freaks tend to fall into three categories: those who like to control themselves, those who like to control others, and those who like to control both.
Signs that you may have taken your desire for control too far include:
- Your personal space is excessively organized.
- You despise it when plans change at the last minute.
- You usually prefer to drive.
- You have no problem being bossy if the situation calls for it.
- You like to have the last word in arguments.
- You love to plan, from daily schedules to yearly goals.
- You’ve never said, “I don’t care, whatever you want to do.”
- You don’t like people touching/messing with your stuff.
- You notice little mistakes, poor construction and mismatched things.
- You correct others’ pronunciation.
- You don’t think anyone else can load the dishwasher correctly.
Issues with control stem from anxiety. Deep down, control freaks are highly anxious. They fear that things will turn out badly and even worse – that they will realize their powerlessness over most situations.
Control freaks often have trouble simply kicking back and relaxing. An obsessive need for control can lead to stress-related health issues, damaged relationships and an inability to enjoy the unpredictable beauty that is life. But you can learn to let go. Here’s how:
Admit you have issues with control. Knowing your weakness can be your greatest strength.
Start small. Pick one situation that regularly annoys you to the point of irritation, and that you have no control of. Such as: traffic, slow supermarket checkers, automated phone systems or lines at the bank. Pick one situation to be your “teacher” and use it as a cue to relax – which is probably the opposite of your normal reaction. Realize that everyone around you must also deal with traffic, slow supermarket checkers, automated phone systems and lines at the bank. When you get upset, you aren’t helping anything – in fact, you are hurting your health AND annoying anyone who happens to be around you.
You will fail at first, but you will learn to recognize it when the usual unpredictabilities of life are pissing you off. Little by little, you will learn not to react to the situation negatively. You will notice the traffic, shrug your shoulders and remain calm.
Celebrate your small victory, and use it to bolster your further attempts to let go. “Traffic doesn’t get to me. Neither will the crooked painting on the wall.” Once you experience a little success and the feeling of freedom that comes with letting go, you will go further and further and further.
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