***First thing: It's that time! I am opening up the Winter 2016 Self Care 101 program. As a united group of women, we cover the basics of self-care--from setting strong boundaries to learning why you always get tired at 3pm--and make real breakthroughs. If you would like to apply, then please fill out this application and schedule a free 30-minute session with me. I’ll explain more about the program, and we can decide together if it would be a good fit for your own process. Every session fills up so please apply soon if you are interested!**
Now let's talk about control. Are you struggling with it too? I was talking with a few of my clients a while back about control. By the end of the conversation we said we wanted to make shirts that say "Control Freaks Unite!" Would you buy one? I know I would...
Control comes up often in this self-care work. So many of us think we just need to get ourselves "under control" and we will be ok. We are struggling to arrive an ideal version of ourselves that keeps evading us. We work harder and yet it feels further away. Why is that?
In my own journey, I've come to see control differently. Of course we all need a little bit of control to make sure we don't go off the rails. Yet I like to call this discipline rather than control.
This is because being overly-controlling shuts down the best parts of my life. It's sabotaged my diet and made relationships nearly impossible. It sucks the joy from my days.
Over the past year, I've devoted myself to working through my immense instinct to control. It's the hardest work I've ever done and has yielded the most amazing personal breakthroughs.
To celebrate a year of hard work, I wrote my Inner Control Freak a break-up letter. It goes like this...
My Dearest Inner Control Freak,
I've tried for so long to keep you hidden from the world. Convinced I was the only one who struggled with you, I became determined to make you go away. I studied yoga for years, hoping to put a calm face over the battle going on inside.
Although my triangle pose improved, I wasn’t healed. Not only could I not make you go away, I figured I was doing this practice of yoga incorrectly. It became one more thing I had to control.
Since I can remember, you have been calling the shots in my life. Looking back, I understand why I needed you so much. During my first few years of life, my family wasn’t so stable. People raged and drank and broke away from each other. I imagine that as I looked around for structure, I felt insecure and turned to you for help.
Learning that I could control a few things made me feel safer. It makes sense that I clung to you so much.
Oh controlling nature of mine, you’ve actually helped me so much. Growing up, I made the best grades because of you. You made me wake up early to study and always do the extra credit. I came to believe in my ability to work hard and survive tough situations.
You told me to do daring things, like join the Peace Corps and start my own business. This year you said I should write a book and we actually did it! It was a great moment for us. I’m still happy about it.
And yet, because of you I’ve also suffered so much. You tell me how much I should eat and what my body should look like. If I lose control, you tell me I better get back on track, or else…
When I’m in my controlling state, it’s hard to laugh freely. I hear the words but it doesn’t link up with my reactions. It’s hard to play, impossible to flirt, and when you are active in my head, I feel more like a robot than a human being. My house is clean and yet my heart feels empty.
Dealing with you when I’m in a relationship has been the worst. My inner desire for freedom clashes with the scared part of me that clings to another’s approval. My anxiety flares up and I try to push it down. I stop being myself. After a while, I even stopped being in relationships because it felt too painful to try to control myself or another person.
Over this past year, I’ve been so lucky to meet people who helped me understand you. They gave me tools to question your power and ideas for what else to trust, besides you.
Working on switching you off has been the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s meant facing my anger and grief that’s been pushed down deep inside. It’s meant crying big ugly tears and disappointing other people and feeling lots more “ick” than I ever wanted to feel.
You don’t go down without a fight. Every time I question you, you send waves of fear that knock me back. You tell me I will never climb this mountain. You obviously don’t want to let go of your power in my life. Maybe you are scared, too. I can understand that.
My fear is the success I’ve built so diligently could crumble away. If I drop the facade, maybe other people won’t love the real me.
I don’t think I have a choice. There’s no other path except up that mountain. Everything else has disappeared, and the next step up is the only one I can see.
As I climb, I still hear your voice loud in my head, but oh, Inner Control Freak, we are over. I hear you but you don’t call the shots anymore. I breathe. I drink water. I rest when I need to. I pray.
With self-care, I learn to choose differently. I make breakthroughs that feel like gulps of fresh air to my spirit. I’m learning to trust myself. This is both as easy and as hard as it sounds. I feel far less perfect and way more like myself. I’m still scared no one will like me.
I remind myself that it’s not who loves me but whom I love.
It’s the sound of my own dear voice soothing me when I wake up in the dead of night. It’s the reminder that I can take care of myself, no matter what.
It’s nature itself and how it holds us all without any kind of control. So I surrender to the elements -- the wind in my ears, the rock that holds me, this sweetly beating human heart that always whispers “yes, yes, yes” as I continue this never ending climb upward.