One woman came into my office asking, "How do I get my husband to stop eating so much junk food?" Her husband had been diagnosed with several health conditions, including high cholesterol. Yet, he refused to change his diet.
So she constantly nagged him about all the junk food he ate. She lectured him about his health and sometimes, she threw away his snacks when he wasn't looking.
Although her intentions were good, she was treating her husband like a child. And that was doing more harm than good. Rather than change his eating habits, her husband was starting to sneak food. And they were fighting more than ever.
My work with her wasn't about changing her husband. Instead, it was about teaching her how to control her anxiety. She had to accept that she could change her behavior and influence her husband, but she couldn't force him to change if he didn't want to.
Of course, not all control freaks try to change people. Some simply want absolute control over external circumstances. And that can cause many problems too.
Here are five big problems control freaks experience:
1. Increased anxiety.
Many control freaks experience constant worry. But rather than controlling their inner turmoil, they insist on trying to control the events around them. This approach backfires since they can't control everything all the time--and ultimately, they end up causing themselves to feel even more anxious.
2. Troubled relationships.
If you've ever worked for a boss who micromanaged everything you did or you had a parent who was a control freak, you'll know firsthand how difficult it is to be around a control freak. Trying to control other people damages relationships and is the root of much family dysfunction.
3. Severe self-criticism.
Control freaks believe they are 100 percent in control of their success. They deny that luck or timing play any significant role. So whenever things don't go as expected, they excessively blame themselves. They call themselves names and beat themselves up on a regular basis.
4. Harsh judgment of others.
Control freaks lack faith in other people's abilities, which makes them less likely to delegate tasks or ask for help. And since they believe success stems solely from a person's effort, they have little compassion for other people's shortcomings and failure.
5. Wasted time and energy.
Control freaks waste their finite resources (like time and energy) on things they can't control. It drains their mental strength and makes them less productive.
How to Stop Focusing on Things You Can't Control
It's important to distinguish between the things you can control and the things you have no control over. Sometimes, you have to accept that the only things you can control are your effort and your attitude. But when you stop trying to be a control freak--and you put your energy into the things you can control--you'll see much better results.