Hello, I’m Gio, and I’m a control freak.
I have this obsessive need to plan every minute of every day to avoid unpleasant surprises and maximize efficiency. I like to be in charge of everything. I know the right, quickest, most effective way to do a task or solve a problem.
Delegating? I was never that good at it. When I ask someone to do something, it’s never done
my the right way. So, I have to do it again. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”, has always been one of my mottos.
Since I was a little girl, I strived for perfection. I had this crazy idea that if I became Little Miss Perfect, people would love me. As Little Miss Perfect, I’d be able to help them with all their problems and tell them how to improve their lives. I’d become indispensable to them, so they wouldn’t leave me.
But they did leave. Because Little Miss Perfect wasn’t helpful. She was annoying and bossy. She didn’t take into consideration other people’s feelings and opinions. She was more interested in having her own way. It was the best way, right?
I may have thought so, but they didn’t. I learned that everyone has their best way to do something. It may be different from mine, even seem crazy to me sometimes, but it’s the right way for them.
So, I learned to bite my tongue, and offer my advice only when asked. I learned that, when I’m open to other people’s ways of doing things, I discover something new. I learned that being happy is better than being right. I learned to tame my inner control freak.
Oh, she still rears her perfectionist little head sometimes. But, for most of the time, I manage to keep her under control. It’s not easy, but it’s made my life a lot better and happier, and improved my relationships too.How did I tame Little Miss Perfect, my inner control freak? Here are five steps I took (and still take) every day:
The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. Clichè, but true. And so difficult to do, especially for us perfectionists. Our ego gets in the way. “Just because I know the best way to do something doesn’t mean I’m a control freak”, it says. “Wanting something done right is not bad,” it argues.
And no, there’s nothing bad in wanting something done right. Until right because your way, and your way only, and you try to impose it on others, without taking into consideration their thoughts and opinions. That’s when you know you have a problem.
2. Let Go Of Little Miss Perfect
Once I realised I had a problem, I asked myself why I acted the way I did. After a lot of soul searching, I realised that my perfectionist tendencies were an armour I wore to protect myself from pain.
If I became perfect, everyone would love and appreciate me. No one could ever again bully me for my imperfections. But that’s nonsense. Like Dita Von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
And being the ripest, juiciest peach in the world is hard work. I was constantly striving to reach an unachievable ideal. Spending energy on a goal I’d never reach. And beating myself up for my inevitable failures. It was exhausting.
When I let go of these unreasonable standards, and learned to focus on doing the best I can, I became a lot happier. I learned not to hold myself and others to impossible standards, which made me more relaxed and pleasant to be around. I learned there’s beauty in imperfections. I shouldn’t have feared them so much.
3. Learn To Go With The Flow
I like to be organized, and plan my day the night before. When I wake up in the morning, I know what I have to do, and can get right down to work. But for a long time, I planned a lot more than my day.
I planned everything. My week. My year. My relationships. My future. My life. Except, you can’t really plan any of those, can you? But that didn’t stop me from trying. I firmly believed that if I left nothing to chance, then nothing bad could ever happen. There just wouldn’t be the time for it.
But bad things happened anyway. It’s life. You can’t plan everything. Control is an illusion, a safety blanket we wrap around ourselves to protect us from our powerlessness in the face of uncertainty.
But it’s not uncertainty that harms us. Our fear of it does. We get so worked up imagining all the things that could go wrong, and finding ways to prevent them before they even happen, that we don’t have time to enjoy life, and all the little pleasures that brighten it.
I still like to plan my day, but now I live some room for flexibility. I deal with problems when they arise, not before. I listen to what people think and say, and try new things they suggest. Or just let them take charge. I never know what’ll happen, but I always learn something new and have fun.
4. Focus On What You Can Control
I still let my inner control freak take charge, but only of the things I can control. Like my thoughts. My behavior. The effort I put in what I do.
There is something we can control in every situation. And a lot more that we can’t. A lot more that depends on other people. Our control freaks want to control them too. We want them to conform to our expectations.
But, truth is, we shouldn’t have those expectations in the first place. Everyone has their way of, and their reasons for, doing something. If they don’t want to change, they won’t. Getting all stressed and worked up about it won’t change anything, and won’t do us any good.
We can’t control other people’s actions. But we can control our own. We can control how we react to what happens to us. So, rather than pointing the finger and blame others, or argue with them to get them to do things your way, ask yourself, “what can I do about it? How can I deal with this problem?” Own your part in it.
I thought meditation was a load of crap. I just didn’t see how lying still, listening to the sound of my breath, and emptying my mind could do anyone any good. But it does.
When you stop and smell the roses, as the expression say, and are completely present in the moment, you’ll find balance more easily. Your whole body calms down, and your stress and anxiety disappears. You develop clarity and peace of mind. You see life in a new way, and learn to appreciate what really matters.
I don’t always lie down to meditate, though. There are so many ways to practice mindfulness. I like to take long, slow walks. I inhale when I lift my foot, and exhale when I plant it back firmly on the ground.
If I don’t have time for that, I’ll meditate at breakfast. I’ll just sip my tea really slowly, feel it roll over my tongue, and focus on its flavour. If that doesn’t appeal to you either, try yoga. Or listen to some instrumental music. Whatever works best for you.
Are you a control freak too? How did you learn to let go?