Having an efficient routine is great because it helps you stay highly organized. However, when you become a slave to systems and routines, it creates a problem for you and the people around you.
No one enjoys being around a control freak. And while the behavior might not be obvious, you are being controlling if you are too demanding of yourself and others or obsessed about everything going according to plan.
The behavior can leave you feeling upset, highly stressed, and even angry when things don’t turn out as expected.
You’ll find this article quite helpful if you are fed up with causing pain to yourself and others because of your controlling behavior. Keep reading to discover how to stop being controlling and be more accepting of people and situations.
Being Controlling Is Unhealthy
At its root, controlling behavior is simply a sign that the individual wants to feel safe and secure.
That said, controlling behavior is a negative trait and an unhealthy way to cope with and underlying issue like anxiety and fear. Trying to control people and situations using perfectionism, demandingness, and rigidity often causes stress for the individual.
You’ll easily get worked up when things are out of your immediate control. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we can’t truly control a lot of things. This means your inner control freak will put you under constant stress since you can’t control everything, and that’s not a healthy way to live.
But that’s not all.
The behavior can also strain your relationship with romantic partners, children (especially grown-up children), work colleagues, business associates, and friends.
True control means taking charge of your thinking pattern so you are less likely to react uncontrollably to fear-based thoughts.
Putting an end to controlling behavior might seem like giving up control, but that’s not the case at all. If anything, it gives you control over the most important thing that drives your entire life – your thoughts!
Signs of Overly Controlling Behavior
Figuring out how to stop being controlling begins with identifying the signs of a controlling personality. Here are some common indications that you might have a controlling tendency.
You Are a Perfectionist
Do people often refer to you as a perfectionist? While striving for excellence and flawlessness is okay, perfectionism is hardly a positive trait.
You might be showing signs of perfectionism if you’re always critical when evaluating yourself or overly concerned about what others think about you.
You Hardly Deviate from Routines
Controlling behavior makes you want to do things in a specific way or not permit others to deviate from established routines. You easily get upset, anxious, or angry when things don’t go as planned, and you’re highly uncomfortable in unpredictable situations.
You Are Not Open to Change
You fear the unknown and often think the worse will happen if things don’t turn out as expected.
You Don’t Trust Others to Do a Good Job
One obvious sign of controlling behavior is feeling uncomfortable delegating tasks. You want to handle things yourself because you don’t trust that others will do it the way that meets your standard.
You Micromanage People
Breathing down people’s necks when you assign tasks is a sign of a controlling personality. It shows that you don’t think they can do a good job, so you must constantly tell your family member or partner what to do or not do.
You Hardly Relax
You find it difficult to let down your guard, relax, and enjoy your moments because you assume that things will go horribly wrong if you are not constantly in charge.
You want to always be “on top of the situation.” This is the only way you are sure that your world won’t come to a grinding halt.
You Find It Difficult to Accept “No”
Controlling people hardly respect people’s boundaries. You often pressure people to do what you want, even when you know they’ll rather not.
You often engage in all-or-nothing thinking. You see things from only one viewpoint and always want to pressure others into considering your perspective. You imagine the worse if things don’t toe the line of your thinking.
You Want to Be Right All the Time
Controlling people think others should do as you say and feel hurt when they don’t. You assume you are always right, even when no one knows it all.
You Have Unrealistic Standards
You are extremely demanding of yourself and others and expect people to meet your standards without giving any leeway. This can ultimately lead to a toxic relationship with others.
6 Effective Tips on How to Stop Being Controlling
1. Identify the Behavior
The first step to stopping controlling behavior is becoming aware of the problem. This means noticing if any of the above signs show up in your life and writing down the scenarios they occur.
This gives you a heads up on the type of situations where the behavior is likely to reoccur so that you can checkmate it.
Here’s what I recommend.
Get a special book and start journaling. Every evening before retiring to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on the activities of the day and your responses to different situations.
Ask yourself questions that help you identify areas where you probably allowed your inner control freak to surface during the day. Here are a few questions you might want to ask:
- Was I too hard on myself or someone else?
- Was I focused too much on something going wrong while discounting the positives?
- Did I give unsolicited advice?
- Did I complete all my tasks myself because I wasn’t comfortable letting others help me?
2. Determine the Underlying Causes of the Behavior
Another key component in putting a leash on controlling behavior is self-reflection. If you must make any headway in checkmating your inner control freak, you must heed Socrates’ famous quote, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Practice mindfulness to help increase self-awareness. Stop to notice your behavior when you get into a control freak mode and try to determine what thoughts were running through your mind that triggered the controlling behavior.
Another way to examine your thought patterns is by spending time in silence or meditation. When you get nervous or anxious about a situation and feel the urge to be in control, take that as your cue to go into silence for a few minutes.
Obverse your thought patterns, the resulting emotions, and how they make you feel. Do this non-judgmentally – the goal is to merely observe whether or not the thoughts are helpful. You’ll discover that fear contributes to the thought patterns that lead to controlling behavior.
Next, try to find out what you are really afraid of. What are you nervous about in a situation that makes you feel the need to be in control? Why do you think things will go terribly if you don’t do something about it or if someone steps out of a predetermined cause of action?
Here’s something you should remember, though.
Don’t criticize yourself, the behavior, or the reasons for your fears. Instead, be kind to yourself as you try to determine the underlying cause of the problem.
3. Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs
Limiting beliefs are fear-based, causing them to distort your thinking and leading to controlling behavior.
Discovering how to stop being controlling requires re-programming your mind; in this case, it means challenging or questioning fear-based thinking patterns.
Understand that anxiety is another major cause of controlling behavior, and anxiety is often associated with distorted thoughts and heightened emotions. Challenging these distorted thoughts can help you calm your emotions and think more rationally.
Let’s paint a scenario to see how to challenge limiting beliefs that drive controlling behavior.
You’re heading a team to complete an important company project. A team member is slightly behind schedule, and you start to get all worked up. Your anxiety stems from catastrophic thought patterns suggesting the project will fail woefully, and you’ll probably lose your position.
You don’t want to mess up, you detest failure, and you don’t want to be embarrassed or belittled because, deep down, you have a fear of rejection.
Your inner control freak kicks in, and soon enough, you’re breathing down everyone’s neck, barking orders, and reacting uncontrollably to the fears driving the behavior.
Learning to pause and question your thinking pattern when you sense anxious thoughts is crucial to preventing this type of reaction, which is why self-awareness is important (as discussed earlier).
In our hypothetical scenario, when you catch yourself feeling nervous or anxious, pause and ask yourself:
- Can thinking this way solve the current problem, or will it increase tension and lead to more mistakes and delays?
- Is it true that the project will completely fail because of this slight delay?
- Are my emotions getting the better of me?
Questioning your thinking pattern allows you to shift your focus from the problem to finding practical solutions that do not involve being hard on yourself or anyone else. Challenging limiting beliefs and fear-based thoughts can prevent anxious thoughts from spiraling into controlling behavior.
If you struggle with limiting beliefs, I strongly recommend reading my post on understanding the thought pattern and overcoming it.
4. Use Thought Redirection
Once you recognize that anxious thoughts and emotions are trying to becloud your judgment, gently remind yourself that things can be better, even if you are not in control.
Remind yourself that you’ve been down this path many times in the past, and you no longer want fear to drive your responses. Remind yourself that you don’t want to cause any more hurt to yourself and others.
Shift your focus to something else, preferably something unrelated to the situation. You might want to make a list of what you are grateful for.
This is known as thought redirection.
However, if you must deal with the current situation, it is best to calm yourself down by reframing your racing thoughts and then looking at the situation more objectively.
5. Be Easy on Yourself and Others
Everyone has flaws; no one is perfect, always right, or always wrong. We are humans, and screwing up is part of being human.
You might think that being too domineering is the greatest character flaw, but being a pushover is not an admirable trait either.
Acknowledge that you have flaws but don’t be too hard on yourself. Recognizing that you have a problem is a huge step in the right direction, and you should give yourself credit for that. Not every controlling person can easily see that their behavior is problematic.
Next, accept others just as they are without trying to change them to suit your standards. They have flaws, but so do you.
Think of it this way: if everyone in your circle is exactly like you without contrasting views, there wouldn’t be any growth or progress.
In other words, let people be themselves around you. Recognize that it is okay to make mistakes, and be ready to forgive yourself and others for any shortcomings.
6. Make Peace With What You Can’t Control
Are you familiar with Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer? It goes like this:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This prayer is an excellent summary of what it means to make peace with what you can’t control.
Give up the need to force outcomes or make people into what they are not. Be open to differing opinions, and accept that it is okay for you and others to be imperfect.
When you feel the urge to give advice, pause and ask if it is unsolicited. Let others make their choices, even if they are different from what you would prefer. Recognize that it is okay for people to be different.
How to stop being controlling can be challenging, especially if you’ve lived this way all your life. However, you can get a handle on the behavior if you follow the suggestions in this article.
I strongly recommend learning some positive thinking prayers to help you when you feel anxious. You can find many of them in this article.