I don’t know about you, but I like to stay on top of things. I like to be in charge and I like to be in the driver’s seat. It feels somewhat safer to rely on myself than on others. Friends used to say that I was a woman with power who liked navigating the ship through stormy seas – fearless and so full of energy. Thanks to my friends for their words of kindness, but looking back with the benefit of experience, I see things much more clearly today, and I have a confession to make. I am an almost recovered control freak.
Lenin once said: “Trust is good, control is better.”
I could not disagree more. Women tend to take on so many duties and responsibilities, hoping that more involvement will give them more power to control the situation. They hope that they can control outcomes and stay ahead of others by making sure that everything is done exactly the way they would do things.
Let me give you a few examples of how women try to control their families, environment and lives. I truly apologize if you do not recognize yourself in one of these examples, but I doubt very much that this will happen.
Here are typical stories of control that can happen anywhere at any time:
When you come home, you like the house tidy, almost picture perfect. It disturbs your sense of order and harmony when things are not where they belong. You regain control by quickly cleaning up the place before you start to fully relax.
You invite friends or family to dinner. The menu is planned, the table is set and everything is prepared to make it a perfect evening. Then something unexpected happens. An additional guest shows up and now there is not enough room at the table. Everything looks so beautiful and you don’t even have another matching place mat. This upsets you for a moment until you regain your control again. Then the conversation among your guests moves towards politics or some other topic and the so beautifully planned evening turns into a heated discussion among friends. This is not supposed to happen and you try everything to regain control and recreate the evening the way you had planned it by trying to change the topic.
You are a single woman and you meet a man who seems to be dating material. You are very careful, because you don’t trust him yet. You make sure you are dating him on your terms until you feel that you can trust him. You don’t want to get hurt, so you keep your emotions under control. How do you think the guy feels? To have a chance with you, he must play by your rules and keep you in charge of situations and emotions. You want him to show you his emotions, but then you feel that you better wait a little longer – it seems safer! What does control have to do in a relationship anyway? Nevertheless it is there and messes up relationships and in extreme situations can even lead to violence and abuse, all for the sake of keeping control.
You are a manager and your sense of responsibility makes you think that you are irreplaceable. You hate delegating and sharing your duties with others. Nobody at the firm can be fully trusted. You insist on staying on top of projects, making sure they are done perfectly. And who can do it better than you? Nobody, of course, so you don’t let go. That way you then know that everything is in order. You feel that you are in control, but the result is that you diminish others and overload yourself. Control has a price: It can make you very lonely and very tired.
Keeping control prevents us from trusting others or simply trusting life and situations to unfold. Seeking control in all life situations takes away spontaneity, fun and the enjoyment of the moment. On top of that, control is a myth! There is no way you can control your own life or especially other people unless they want to be controlled and you move your focus from the present moment to the future. Control necessarily leads to planning the future, making sure everything develops as intended. Maybe you are lucky and everything turns out as you planned, but usually life is full of surprises that quickly make any plan obsolete.
Don’t let the unexpected throw you off your game. These little surprises are like salt in the soup. They turn an otherwise boring walk into an adventure. Why would you want to deprive yourself of this excitement by clinging to the myth of control? Being open for the unprepared is so much more fun than fixating on what is not going to happen as planned, anyway.
Lenin, an ultimate control freak, got it wrong. You and the people around you will do much better when you recognize: Control is a myth, trust is better.
Be a woman and act like one.
If you are living in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Sacramento or elsewhere I would love to hear from you.