“I’m not really a control freak, but can I show you the right way to do that?”
“I’d call myself a bit of a control freak.”
“I prefer to be in control of things.”
The phrase ‘control freak’ gets tossed around all the time like it’s no big deal, that fighting to stay in control is just a normal part of life. We kinda brush it off as if we can’t really do anything about it. Of course ignoring it also allows us to ignore the impact on everyone – ourselves included.
The truth is the need for control limits our ability to truly experience the joy life has to offer; we get so caught up controlling that we forget to have fun. And that’s such a waste since control is really just an illusion!
What if the truth is: your need for control is directly related to your inability to trust?
I’ll say it again, the more you feel the need to control things – people, situations, outcomes – the more limited your ability or willingness to trust other people.
And what if….
Your inability to trust other people actually comes from the fact you don’t really trust yourself?
Whoa! I know right!!?? That’s a pretty provocative theory don’t you think? I mean because if it’s true, then it would mean that once again I am the root of my struggle in life… and in turn, only I can do something about it… and that also means the fix doesn’t come from an external source – it has to come from within ME!
Ok. Well. Don’t lose hope. Stick with me as we delve into this a little deeper.
Let’s start at the end and walk backwards through it so you can see how it all starts with you. With any luck you’ll see some things along the way that you can do to start shifting the balance of power within yourself away from the need for control and towards the ability to trust.
Let’s start with the idea that you just don’t trust yourself.
For most people, the reality is we don’t trust ourselves at all. We don’t trust ourselves because over the course of our lives we’ve made choices and taken actions that prove we can’t be trusted. I’m sure you can think of a few times in your life when you’ve made a bad decision and the results were less than desirable. Sure those situations cause problems for our sense of self-trust…
The bigger problem is it’s actually the daily little things we don’t even consider that have the broader and deeper impact on our belief in ourselves, in our ability to know we can count on ourselves to show up with our own best interests in mind.
Just think of all the times you’ve said yes when you really wanted to say no. Or all the times you said no and your heart and gut wanted you to say yes. All the times you’ve kept your mouth shut and disregarded your own feelings for the sake of someone or something else. All the times you promised yourself you’d do something (go to the gym, follow an eating plan, stick to a budget) and you just didn’t do it…
Regardless of the reason why you were doing those things, you were sending a message to yourself that you couldn’t be counted on – for yourself. Then add in the things that happened when you really thought you were doing your best with pure intentions and things still ended up in a little (or a lot) of chaos and drama.
Couple that with all the daily stuff and you have enough proof and evidence to put yourself away for a loooooonnnggg time. Trust me… you punish yourself with your past mistakes by reviewing them over and over in your mind. It’s time to forgive yourself, learn from the mistakes, and get responsible for taking different actions – actions that you can be proud of in the future.
So if you can’t trust yourself, how can you trust other people?
If YOU don’t even have YOUR OWN best interests as a priority, how could you possibly trust other people to show up for you?? (Now let me say here that 9 times out of 10, the reality is the people in your life will show up for you all day long – you just wont believe (trust) it. And I’m getting ahead of myself…)
Sure you might have examples of times that people have let you down and you can use that as proof to support you can’t trust others… and I think that deserves a deeper look. In those situations it’s usually one of two things happening:
- You shouldn’t have put your trust in that person in the first place. Part of you knew that from the beginning and you ignored that voice and went ahead with ‘trusting’ them anyway. Things turned out badly and now it’s easier to point the finger at them than take responsibility for ignoring yourself at the outset.
- You really can trust the person; they have proven over and over they are trustworthy and you can trust them. They just made a mistake (that they’ve taken responsibility for) but it’s easier for you to hang on to the hurt than it is to forgive and trust them again. As a side note: wouldn’t you want that forgiveness when you’d f’d up??
In order to get to the bottom of this part of the explanation about the need for control, you’re going to have to get really honest with yourself. Look at where you’ve been placing your heart in the hands of those you know better than to trust, and where you’ve been punishing those trustworthy sorts that simply made a mistake… that truth-pill might be a tough one to swallow.
The thing is… it’s not even that stuff that has the biggest impact. It’s all the little ways that you stop trusting or withhold trust from the people in your life who deserve it, that steers you towards trying to control things.
A few years ago, I had an experience at a coffee shop with a few girlfriends. It was really crowded that day and we were all jammed in like sardines. I had my purse slung over the back of my chair and every time someone walked by, I was checking to make sure they weren’t trying to steal it or steal some of it’s contents. Talk about paranoid!! That in and of itself is an example of not trusting the people around me. Then one of my GFs said to me: “You can stop freaking out about your purse you know. I’ll see it if someone tries to do something.”
I was blown away… It had never even occurred to me that I could trust her to keep an eye out for me but was unconsciously choosing not to.
When I stopped to think about it I realized that I did that a lot – stopped short of trusting people in all kinds of ways and instead would just put the burden of taking care of things on my own shoulders. Because I was trustworthy for myself of course (which we’ve just talked about how that’s not true) and that brings us to how the need for control is connected.
I’m not a control freak – am I?
If I can’t trust myself to consistently take action in my own best interest, and I avoid truly trusting others, then my only option is to try and control situations as best I can to get the outcomes I want.
If we go back to the crowded coffee shop example, you can see that I was trying to control what was happening by eyeing my purse constantly instead of trusting my friend.
If you consider more common examples – like the way we try to control other people by threatening a consequence: getting angry, picking a fight, or leaving (or whatever other behaviour you choose at the time) you’re trying to control the outcome. You’re trying to do that because you don’t trust them to take care of your heart.
Is that because you know you shouldn’t? Or because it’s easier not to?
That’s a short, sweet, and basic explanation of how the need for control is directly correlated to your inability to trust yourself.
Obviously this is a HUGE issue with complex solutions and we’ve only just looked at the tip of the iceberg. There are other complicating factors that certainly weigh in here and I still think this first cut is an important perspective to investigate.
Now the question is: What can you do about it? The first step is to start getting honest with yourself about where you are ignoring yourself thus proving you’re not trustworthy to yourself. After that you get to get in action! You get to start taking steps towards proving yourself as trustworthy for yourself and over time, build up that reliability for yourself.
What action do you need to take?
What do you need to forgive yourself for?
What do you need to forgive another for?
How’re You Doing?
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