By Shefa Ali
If we have learnt anything in the last 12 months, it should have been that we have absolutely no control over of the external environment, but if there are any fellow perfectionists reading this, for us that is just such a hard pill to swallow.
I know, you know what it’s like: the constant need to control life and other people to make sure everything goes smoothly and everyone around you is okay. It’s such an exhausting habit, since deep down inside we know the only thing we can control is ourselves. Somehow we do it anyways — because somewhere along the line we learned this was the only way to keep ourselves (and others) safe.
Maybe you try to control your family, or your work or worst still every aspect of your life, leaving absolutely nothing on chance, because if everything’s predictable, we’ll never be caught off guard. We’ll never struggle. We’ll never fail.
Here’s why we need to get over it. In trying to create a perfect vision of how things have to be, we limit the future to only what we can imagine, completely overlooking that some of the best things in life take us completely by surprise. Only if our hearts are willing and open.
Not easy for you to trust and open up to the unknown? I get it. I know what it feels like to tightly control life, but I also know the freedom of letting go. Even though I do it inconsistently and imperfectly.
So, my fellow imperfect perfectionists, who want to control less and enjoy more, here’s a couple of things you can try. Identify the payoff of your controlling behaviour. We don’t do anything unless there’s an emotional payoff. The biggest one for me is the illusion of safety. Controlling my life allows me to feel more comfortable with the unknown — because it’s not as scary if I can make it into what I think it has to be.
Practice self-awareness and challenge your thoughts, beliefs, and fears. The goal is to be able to catch ourselves when we’re controlling and recognise the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that are driving us — and how this is negatively impacting us and the people around us. But I know from personal experience how hard it is to catch ourselves in a moment, recognise our behaviour, and make a different choice. So for now, as practice, think of a recent time when you tried to control a situation or person and try to identify the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that were driving you.
Challenging these thoughts, fears, and beliefs is the key to letting go. The reality is, we’ll need to challenge these thoughts and beliefs over and over again because they will pop up often. Letting go, for me at least, isn’t a one-time choice. But every time I do it, I feel relief. And in that moment, I stop pushing. I stop stressing. I stop stressing the people around me. And I create the possibility of actually being in this moment, where there’s a lot more right than wrong, and a lot to enjoy if I’m willing to recognise it.
* The author is a consultant and coach. Instagram handle: @miss_shefa, Website: missshefa.com
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