I have a confession – I am a bit of a control freak. Okay, some who know me may argue that it is more than a bit. However, being in control gives me a sense of security. It is a safety net in a big scary uncertain world. Or so I’ve always thought.
I finished up the Brené Brown book I’ve been reading (Gifts of Imperfection) last night. She mentions being in control is “about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.”
I knew I had a bit of an issue with control and I thought I knew the reasons behind it. However, this is another aspect I had not considered before. I realized Brown hit it right on the nail as I read these final chapters.
I do have a need to know what others think of me. And a need to control it. The problem is, no matter how much I try, I can’t control other people at all, especially their thoughts and feelings.
This need in me though causes a lot of anxiety. When I believe someone is not getting me or understanding my true intentions I have an overwhelming need to fix things. At least in my mind I’m trying to fix it, but really I’m trying to control them.
I start to get defensive because they are not understanding what I really meant or what my intentions are and I want to clear things up with them. The reality is, it is a total waste of time. People are going to think what they want and trying to explain myself usually just makes it worse. It often will make them start acting defensive as well or make me just look desperate. This just escalates the situation which makes me more determined to fix/control things and the cycle is soon running full force.
I realized it is like my dog, Bella. We can have a house full of people who love her and want to give her all the attention she desires. Yet she will gravitate towards that one non-dog person in the crowd. She realizes on some level that this person does not like her the same way everyone else does. So she expends all her time and energy trying to get close to this one person. It is like she is saying, “Please, please like me! See how nice I am!”
But that non-dog person only sees a 125 lb ball of fur with stinky dog breath getting in their face and trying to sit in their lap. They don’t see the adorable, snugly ball of fur who is so lovable. And the problem is, they never will, no matter how hard Bella tries to win them over. The best thing she could do is just stay away from the person.
I need to learn the same lesson. Even if someone does not “get” me or misunderstands my true intentions, I need to let go of that need to
fix control their thoughts and perception of me. I think this is going to be one of the hardest lessons for me to learn on this journey.
Brown asks a question that really stuck with me and may help.
What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think or letting go of how I feel, what I believe and who I am?
As long as I am focused on how others perceive me and trying to
fix control how they perceive me, I won’t have the energy or ability to really get in touch with who I am. I will always be trying to mold myself into who I think I need to be in order to get others to perceive me the way I want. We are right back to those “supposed to be” ways of thinking and living. And the bigger risk is not what others think of me. The biggest risk is not truly being ME!
Another question Brown asks is “When can I stop proving myself to everyone?” As long as I am focused on how others perceive me, I am still trying to prove my worth to everyone else.
I want to take this one step further and ask when can I stop proving myself to ME? When do I start worrying more about who I am and who I want to be rather than worrying about how to control what others think of me? Rather than trying to defend who I am? When do I realize that I am enough and I matter just the way I am – no explanations needed?
WHEN? My answer is TODAY! I start this TODAY!
The truth is that meaningful change is a process. It can be uncomfortable and is often risky, especially when we’re talking about embracing our imperfections, cultivating authenticity, and looking the world in the eye and saying “I am enough.”
~Brené Brown (Gifts of Imperfection)
I’ve recently been introduced to a poet who has really spoken to me. Today I read this poem.
the magic that occurs
when you give a person
to just be themselves
This is what I want to do for myself. To see the magic that occurs when I allow myself to really express the real ME. And that means making this journey one day at a time. The journey of letting go of the need to control others. It is false anyway – so why hold on to it any longer?
So I’m making a commitment today to give up the false security of control. To stop focusing on how everyone else perceives me and instead focus on Me. Stop worrying about whether others like me and start worrying about whether or not I like me. It is time to be uncomfortable and take a risk to meet the REAL ME!