Teaspoon of Happy How To Tame Your Inner Control Freak Sarah May Bates

Control is an illusion in that you never really have control over what happens in life. We can prep, plan and anticipate things that could potentially happen, and then steer things in a favorable direction. But the outcome is still out of our control. And for many of us, that is torturous.

Being a control-freak also comes with a great many benefits. It means you’re organized, an attentive host, you know how to throw good parties that are always well planned, and you’re able to take on stressful and chaotic situations with much grace. The downside is, you’re rarely as “present” as a person without a need to control things. Your mind is still in the anticipation of things to come, and immersed in the studying of what is happening vs. the full participation in it. What this really means is, you do not allow yourself to savor things and really relax because your muscles never stop working.

The most painful effects of being a control freak really come when things do not go according to our plan. It can feel devastating, because our expectations have been set on a goal and therefore exaggerated and heightened in the process. Our expectation is for things to work out, because we have done so much work to support that outcome and in that process, we invested. Enough so that we sometimes lose sight of the reality that things might not work out as we planned.

This need for control of the uncontrollable future usually comes from a time early in childhood: a role taken on, based on our family dynamics. When you grow up with these qualities/tendencies/skills/habits/beliefs, they are a part of who you are and that’s a good thing, not to be resented. It helps you to excel at a lot of things in life. But it must be kept in balance. Brains like this have a tendency to go into overdrive. They plan and think and solve and drive us mad. They also remove us from fully enjoying our friends and our experiences to the fullest. They keep us “occupied” and always slightly disappointed at the parts of the plan we missed.

So how to soothe these mental circles? Effort and practice. We must acknowledge to ourselves as often as possible, what is out of our control. It’s an illusion that we usually cannot see through until something shocks us into a harsh reality. But as scary as a lack of control feels, uncertainty is not dangerous. It does not hurt us. What hurts us, is our fear around uncertainty and our resistance to letting go. We fight acknowledging our powerlessness and in turn make ourselves feel scared and crazy.

Try to remind yourself constantly when you see your expectations begin to build around a specific scenario. When that story begins to write itself in your head before it has happened, stop and acknowledge what is out of your control. Let go of the outcome and accept that you are human, and what will be will be. You are not God. You are not psychic. You cannot control what people do or what happens in the future. It’s not so scary to not know what will happen. That feeling is coming from inside you, and it’s not based in reality. Work on calming down and reminding yourself of what is out of your control. When you can see what that is, decide to let go of your expectations surrounding that thing. Try to remain open to what may come, and be humble about the range of possible outcomes. Know that you will be okay no matter what happens. All you can ever do is try, and past that you have to let go.

Remember to forgive yourself readily when life doesn’t follow a perfect plan. Let go, move on, and know that you tried your hardest in the conditions you were placed in. With a little bit of work in this area we can enjoy our lives and our experiences and our selves a lot more.

Happy Sunday xox Sarah

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  1. Very well said :)

  2. THANK YOU FOR WRITING. I can’t tell you enough how refreshing your words are to me. You reiterate what I am already thinking but didn’t know how to organize the thoughts in such a beautiful way. I have been someone to jump around always looking for something better, never settling, and am afraid to stay close to anything because i’m afraid it will lead me away from my ideal outcome. I’ve been a musician since I can remember anything and I keep looking for something and I don’t really know what it is. It’s really becoming apparent that i’m living my life almost backwards and now that I just moved to New York, i’m looking at all the things I didn’t appreciate back home. I am ready to let go and appreciate my life and every “mistake” I feel like I made, i’m looking at it as a lesson. Learning to forgive myself seems to be an ongoing race. Thank you for reminding me that I need to stop being a crazy thinker in overdrive. slow down and just be.

    • “I keep looking for something and I don’t really know what it is”. Just wanted to let you know, you are not the only one! Good luck with everything! x

    • Wow Kevy thank you! Easier said than done but I can say – being a similar person – that it gets a lot easier with effort and practice, and it makes life so much more enjoyable. Remember your life is nothing more than it is today. Make it always a good one. i wish you luck!! xox

  3. its like you know me or something sarah haha. but no seriously, you always seem to write certain posts when I need them most in my life. the controlling thing has been such an issue for me and I work so hard at it because the overthinking kills me. but i would def say i have gotten better in certain aspects of my life. but what i really love what you wrote, is how u said its a part of who we are, and its a good thing that should not be resented. i think thats the most important part, is learning to love your flaws and not necessarily getting rid of them just like you said finding a balance really. so i really appreciate this post. xoxo <3

  4. I am like this & am just now starting to realize how disturbing this can be. It took having panic attacks to finally get it. Balance is definitely key! Very nice blog :)

  5. Guys can use this advice too! Well written! I have seen people get down when things don’t work out and dwell on it. It is not easy but we have to strive forward and do the best we can.

  6. I always relate to the things you write, but this one, this is for me. I am an ABSOLUTE control freak. I have to plan everything, to have a schedule, a direction at the very least. Well, I can be spontaneous too, but it kind of goes against my natural insticts, although that’s a rather depressing statement. I stress out over so many things, even if they’re minor and stupid, and although I never panic or shut down when in destress and can handle a tough situation decently, I am in constant fear that I’ll find myself in such a situation. If that makes any sense.
    What I’ve learned from my experience is that the only way to tame your inner control freak is to give them hell. To make them face what they hate: uncertainty, stress, chaos. I had to go through many stressful situations to start worrying less, but I think it’s working now. I’m starting to get a little used to it. It just takes a lot of work.
    But I think it’s also important to accept your inner control freak as well. It’s a part of who you are. Don’t try to change yourself, just keep it to a point where it doesn’t get unhealthy and bad for you.
    “Remember to forgive yourself readily when life doesn’t follow a perfect plan” goes up on my noticeboard!
    Thank you Sarah, have a great week! x

    • Thank you Amalia!! You and I are a lot alike. :) I totally agree, you gotta embrace what your experiences bring you and just make sure they don’t cause you pain. Love to hear that you have a notice board of quotes – I might make one of those too… xoxo Sarah