If you can relate with most of these signs of a control freak then you probably have Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Once you have recognized yourself as a control freak, it’s necessary that you take some steps to overcome your controlling and dominating behavior. But why should you change?
What’s wrong with being a control freak?
“Being a control freak isn’t all bad,” explains Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen. She adds “If you’re a control freak, you’re probably super competent and super-efficient. You have high standards. You’re a go-getter. You get things done right the first time.” But like everything else in life, too much of anything can be bad.
Dr. Hendriksen writes “But of course, there’s a dark side to control. Complete control can never be achieved, so you can never relax… No one else can reach your standards, which leaves you lonely. And when forced to collaborate, without quite meaning to, you use a collection of sharp, pointy tools – criticism, judgment, and micromanaging—to keep your anxiety at bay.”
Of course, being able to control situations and be certain of others’ behavior makes us feel safe and secure. So why is there a problem with that? Psychotherapist and counselor Sharon Martin, LCSW explains “Well, the problem is it’s not possible. Most things are outside of your control and trying to bend them to your will only create more resistance, stress, and conflict.”
Consistently demanding perfection from yourself and from others can be exhausting, both mentally and emotionally. It can leave you feeling frustrated, stressed and anxious. Moreover, it can also lead to various physical and mental health issues like –
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Neck or back pain
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation
- Anger or irritability
Being controlling and demanding perfection can also affect our professional and personal relationships.
As we become more judgmental and critical of others it leads to arguments and emotional distance. Psychologist Monica Ramirez Basco writes “The reach for perfection can be painful because it is often driven by both a desire to do well and a fear of the consequences of not doing well. This is the double-edged sword of perfectionism.”
In a paper, University of Minnesota psychologist Glenn Hirsch explains “Expecting yourself to be perfect sets you up for all kinds of uncomfortable and unsuccessful experiences.”
The fact is, being a perfectionist and having signs of a control freak can create a lot of unnecessary problems in your life and it’s crucial that you start taking some steps to stop being a control freak
How to stop being a control freak
Giving up a little bit of control can help you to a great extent. Not only will it be beneficial for your mental health, when you try to stop being a control freak, you will also save a lot of time and energy as well. In a Forbes article, international bestselling author & psychotherapist Amy Morin explains “Consider how much time and energy you waste on things that are completely beyond your control. Then, imagine how much you could accomplish if you put your efforts into things you have control over.”
She suggests to “Practice controlling your emotions, rather than controlling everything around you. Build confidence in your ability to deal with discomfort—and practice accepting that not all things will go as planned. With a concerted effort, you can regain control over yourself.” And perhaps that is the only thing that actually matters – having control over ourselves, our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and actions.
If you have certain signs of being a control freak and if you wish to transform yourself, then here are some tips that you can help you stop:
1. Bring awareness
To get started, begin by becoming aware of your controlling behavior. Observe yourself when you become dominating, controlling, micromanaging, being overly critical and showing tendencies of a perfectionist. This will help you identify triggers and situations that might make you controlling. Psychotherapist Sharon Martin, LCSW believes this can help you “plan an alternate response.”
According to an article by Erin L. Olivo, PhD, Asst. Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, “In order to change any behavior, you have to recognize that you’re doing it. Becoming a more mindful witness to your own behavior is the first step to making any behavioral change.”
2. Understand your emotions
Identifying what emotions, feelings and fears are driving your controlling behavior is a crucial second step. This will help you understand the underlying reasons. Sharon Martin writes “Start by asking yourself: What fears are driving my controlling behavior? When emotions are high, they can distort our thoughts.” But you also need to ask yourself if these fears are “rational.”
Asst. Professor Erin L. Olivo, PhD, explains “In order to change your behavior, you have to identify which emotion you’re struggling with. The emotion usually behind controlling behavior is fear. In order to feel less fearful and more in control, you try controlling everything around you.” Simply by understanding our fears and emotions, we can make it weaker and start changing our behavior.