I have an issue with control – I like having it. Wayyyy too much. Or maybe I should say, I had an issue. I needed to have complete and utter ownership and a say in everything that happened in my life, whether it was my decision or not. And when something happened that was ultimately out of my control, I tried to do everything in my power to take back the reins. I’ve discovered though, life doesn’t really work that way. Sometimes, bad things (and good things!) happen, and no amount of willpower and determination will give you the opportunity to bring yourself back to a time when you COULD have changed things. That’s called time travel, and we haven’t been able to master the technology to make that a possibility.
In my efforts to psycho-analyze myself, I sat down one day and really tried to figure out why I was so hell-bent on controlling all of my life situations. Like most things in our lives, we can track it back to our childhoods. Childhood is such an important belief-shaping time period for us. Our minds are malleable and formative, and if we’re not careful, we can absorb habits that will become a hindrance to us as adults. I can recall moving a lot as a child. By the time I was 18, we had lived in about 13 different apartments. It was all in the same town, but a few times, I had to change schools, depending on what side of town I lived on. There was a lot of lost friendships, as well as cherished items that were left behind because of all of the moving. I can remember feeling so lost and helpless as a little girl, forced to live a life based on the decisions of others. As a result, I started focusing on all of the things I was able to control – my schoolwork, my public image, my talents. I was a great student, and I made sure that everyone knew I was one. I put on the personality of a responsible, conscientious young person, and found myself having to live up to that ideal on a daily basis. Exhausting, really. But at least I could control it.
As I got older, some of those controlling habits started to trickle into my interpersonal relationships with others. When I didn’t get my way, I would shut down, or feel hurt, have an “attitude”, or work my magic to manipulate the situation to my advantage. But guess what happened when I did that? I still didn’t get my way. And the end result was a lot of mis-communication, hurt and pain, and the eradication of my relationships/friendships. I was starting to be seen as someone who always needed to have her way, no matter what. That type of mindset erodes trust, and if there is no trust in any relationship, then there is no true relationship at all. I learned that I had to stop blaming my past for my future, and start working on ME. I stopped putting my impossible expectations on others – instead of expecting, I started accepting.
This isn’t to say that you stop having control of yourself or the decisions you make. That is still important, and you need to do that for your own growth. What I am saying though, is that at some point, you need to evolve and become more emotionally mature. You can only control your actions – people aren’t dolls to play with, or robots to program to do your bidding. You may not control the ultimate outcome, but who cares? As long as you know that you’ve done everything you could to be authentic, and that you didn’t manipulate someone to get your way, then you’re on the right path. Because in reality, “It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control.” (Epictetus). Focus on your attitude.