Stop being a control freak

Trying to control everything and everyone around you is counterproductive

woman arguing with her husband

People often confuse controlling with caring. Tamanna didn’t approve of her best friend Sneha’s boyfriend.

She thought Amit was demanding, irrational and immature. While Sneha did have issues with him, the two were trying to sort things out.

Nevertheless, Tamanna would spend hours every day trying to convince Sneha that he was not the guy for her.

The discussions soon led to heated arguments, fights and eventually a strained relationship. While Sneha and Amit are happily married for four years now, Tamanna is no more a friend.

“We often hear of parents who don’t let their children live their own life. It’s not the child but his mother or father, who takes his career decisions, what kind of friends he should have and what extra-curricular activities he should participate in.

Not just parents, we regularly hear of domineering siblings, spouses, friends, even neighbours! Such people strongly believe that they are just being ‘selflessly’ caring, not quite realising that care never means bossing over the other person,” says New Delhi based psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh.

Beyond a point, it’s difficult to keep up with such people. As a result, they lose friends, suffer break-ups, and have bad family relations. Their inability to accept people or adapt to situations ruins their professional life as well.

Sooner or later, they become social recluses. “Overassertive people see themselves as victims and can be heard as saying, ‘nobody understands me’. They fail to understand that it is they who often fail to understand or appreciate people, their views, and their problems,” says Brahmakumari Sister Shivani.

Such people insist on having their way in all interactions. Lurking within the fabric of such know-it-all personalities is a poor self-image.

Understanding the psyche…

Underneath the strong and mature appearance is a cloud of unhappiness, anxiety, doubt, fear, insecurity and low self esteem.

“An exaggerated need to control is part of a cluster of behaviours that are understood as compulsive. They are generally characterised by perfectionism, orderliness, workaholic tendencies, an inability to appreciate others, and an intense fear of having their flaws exposed.

Deep down, domineering people are quite vulnerable. They tend to protect themselves by being in control of every aspect of their lives, including their relationships.

In psychiatry, we believe that control freaks have a poor image of themselves. They cause stress to others so as to maintain a sense of order or dignity,” says psychiatrist Jitendra Nagpal.

We now understand that trying to control others is a negative trait that only leaves you friendless and anguished. Becoming a prisoner to your sense of order is unhealthy and wide off the mark.

Here’s how to lighten up..

Accept that there’s a problem: It is important that you first realise that being controlling and critical is not normal. And that the problem lies within you and not with those around you.

Know that no one thinks about you as much as you do: Don’t be so conscious about what others might think of you. It is to better your image in the society that you tend to be a rescuer all the time.

As you are not the centre of the universe, people don’t spend the whole day thinking positive or negative about you. So stop working on your social image all the time. The flip side is that your being too involved [read interfering] in people’s affairs does attract negative attention.

So be comfortable with who you are. Don’t get too anxious by the happenings around you, time and again. Be contented within and let the inner calm reflect on your face and in your personality.

Understand that there is no such thing as ‘perfection’: Nobody is perfect. And this is absolutely fine. Says author Edith Schaeffer, “People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.”

Be comfortable in your skin and let people be comfortable in theirs. While it’s good to be attentive to details, don’t get so obsessed with issues like cleanliness and mannerisms that you gradually begin pushing your dear ones away from you.

Look for virtues in others: From a tiny toddler to an octogenarian, a below-average student to a street vendor, each one of us has some unique qualities.

Instead of teaching others, appreciate people for their positive aspects. This will help you accept them as they are.

Don’t give advice unless asked: Don’t just assume that everyone needs your advice. Keep your opinions to yourself unless somebody asks you to share them.

Even when you are asked for advice, don’t expect the person to do as you say. If you genuinely want to pass on a piece of advice to someone, do that politely. And be done. Ultimately, she is free to take her own decision.

Don’t take personal responsibility for others: To each his own. It’s not a great idea to volunteer all the time to make a positive change in someone else’s life, especially when the person doesn’t find anything wrong with it.

If you really care for a person, be there for him, when he truly needs you. Let each person be responsible for his or her own actions. And let each person find ‘or not find’ solutions to her own problems. The best way to stop thinking a lot about others is to start thinking about yourself. Remember: you are responsible for each sphere of your life, and nobody else’s.

Learn to respect others’ viewpoint: Before participating in a discussion or expressing a notion, keep an open mind. People may have opinions different from yours. Respect everybody’s individuality and rationale.

Don’t try to prove your point over and above others’. This way, you are only making people avoid you on future occasions. Even in general, don’t forever judge everybody’s lifestyle, attitude, nature, or actions. At times, it’s good to be less perceptive and observant.

By trying to control others and trying to get things done your way, you are only pushing your loved ones away and adding to your inner complexes.

As a famous saying goes: “Don’t take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive, anyway.” Loosen up. Life’s a bumpy ride, enjoy and let others enjoy too.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. Do I rush to rescue people of their ‘supposed’ problems and miseries, even if they haven’t asked for help?
  2. Do I have an opinion on everything in other people’s lives and get angry when people fail to look at things my way?
  3. Do I immediately befriend someone who is emotionally broken and try to fix broken things in his or her life?
  4. Do I feel the need to involve myself in other people’s affairs because it makes me feel important and needed?
  5. Do I feel insulted if someone strongly disagrees with me on any issue?

If you have answered these questions in the affirmative, perhaps you are a ‘fixer’ and might need help.

Try This

  1. Make a journal and prepare a list of all the people for whom you are a ‘fixer’.
  2. Make a list of the various issues that need fixing.
  3. Now ask yourself in whose opinion these issues are a problem, yours, other person’s or both of yours?
  4. Next, focus only on those issues, which the other has admitted as problems and has sought your advice on.
  5. Now answer: How well has the other person tried solving his issues? Why hasn’t he succeeded? If the answer is that he or she is not so serious about his problems or is quite unwilling to solve them, know that you are just being over-responsible.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Shilpi Shukla
Shilpi Shukla is a writer, spinning features for publications in the US, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and India. Based in New Delhi, her eight year stint as a journalist has had her work with major publications. Shilpi loves to pen articles on her frequent travels, celebrity interviews, health, fashion, films, real estate and any other topic that catches her interest.


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