In my recent blog, I mentioned that 2022 was an unexpected year of self-discovery. Since then, we’ve already started off with a bang by realizing one part of myself that I need to unlearn in order to live life in a way that better serves me:
I need to learn how to let go of control, and get comfortable with the “gray areas” of life.
What does this mean?
It means that I need to allow myself to navigate through situations and times in my life that aren’t clear-cut and don’t have specific answers or directions.
For example, I had a situation last year in my career that I needed to face. I had to have a difficult conversation with my boss that I had never had before with any superior at work. When I realized that this conversation needed to happen, my brain started spinning at 150 mph…
What if he gets mad?
What if he can’t help?
What if I don’t clearly express what I need from the conversation?
I couldn’t stop replaying different scenarios in my head – both good and bad. Oftentimes, bad versions would catch hold and would trigger a deep fear of rejection and failure, resulting in a LOT of stress and anxiety.
Now, I’ve dealt with rumination and intrusive thoughts a few notable times in my life, but never related to my career. The stress of dealing with this need for control in the situation, and lack of clear-cut instructions for how to handle it (there were SO many options I could have chosen), started really affecting my mental and physical health.
My hair was shedding more than normal, falling asleep was difficult, and my menstrual cycle was all over the place. (I also was later diagnosed with PCOS, which was…fun lol)
Thankfully, I’ve been in therapy with a wonderful therapist for over a year, and she, my loved ones, and my past knowledge of how to manage this level of anxiety helped me navigate through this tough time.
My perfectionist mindset simply cannot handle something not being black and white.
If I don’t know what to do next, or how to solve a problem immediately, I have officially lost control.
And if I lose control…well…you’ve just read what can happen.
Granted, that’s a very extreme situation. This tends to happen when I’m dealing with a lot of stressful things at once, and one specific area breaks the ever-growing list of responsibilities I’ve put upon myself, because I’ve stepped back on self-care routines that help me manage those stressful times with more ease.
A few weeks ago, I started having similar whirling anxious thoughts again about a different area of my life, because I’m currently juggling embracing quite a bit of potential upcoming changes and life decisions. I bury my stress deep inside, and convince myself that everything is fine without even realizing what I’m doing, until I hit a breaking point.
An old trigger will set me off and catch me off guard, and it takes quite a few weeks to bring myself back to my equilibrium and sort through what true emotions need my attention. (Huge shoutout to Sheryl Paul from Conscious Transitions and her work with anxiety as a whole – even though my anxiety has shifted from the original reason I found her work, the tools she provides in her courses to this day still help me immensely.)
This brings me back to the original lesson of this month – letting go of control and navigating through the gray areas of life.
When I was sharing with my fiancé what was happening in my head and how I’ve been struggling, he recognized immediately the past habits that I explained above. With this in mind, he kindly suggested, “I think your resolution for 2023 should be letting yourself get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
And damn, is he right.
I mean, after all, an enneagram type 1 and perfectionist’s worst nightmare is letting go of control. And that control comes from a fear of failing or getting hurt.
After this conversation with him, I went to Google to find some insight about what it’s like to let go of control, and found this lovely article from Tiny Buddha that really resonated with me, and helped me feel understood. The main points that I took away from this article include:
Control is rooted in fear
If we can control a specific outcome, then we can avoid any unwanted outcomes that could happen to us (or the people we love).
We assume WE know what’s best
We want a specific outcome because we THINK it’s the best outcome that can happen. When I was seeking control over the gray area of the pending conversation I had with my boss, my brain was trying to find every possible strategy that would lead me to have the specific outcome I wanted from the conversation. But the reality is, there’s no way I could control that, because there were so many other factors at play that would affect the result.
There’s freedom in letting go
My therapist keeps reminding me that after I deal with a difficult situation that was causing me stress because I was seeking control, everything worked out fine. In fact, most things did work out the way I wanted or expected, but even the ones that didn’t still work out fine in the grand scheme of what I needed at the time.
Plus, to quote the article’s author, when I’m trying to control a situation, “My mind shifts from topic to topic and from past to future very quickly, and I have little concentration, poor memory, and almost no present-moment awareness.”
There is SO much beauty in enjoying the present moment. Shifting into the mindset of trusting yourself, going with the flow, and appreciating what you have right now rather than dwelling on what could be, is one of the most freeing acts of love you can do for yourself.
This is what I’m actively working on right now. If you’re looking to do the same thing, these are the activities and habits I’m working on that have been helping lately:
- Journaling – brain dumping what’s on my mind to help process what I’m feeling
- Exercise – getting regular movement in some way helps release the stress from my body, and overall feel more confident and healthy
- Meditating – using the free Insight Timer app to follow guided meditations that specifically help navigate anxious thoughts, embracing change, and letting go of the need for control
- Talking to trusted loved ones – your ego will try and tell you that you’re alone with how you feel, but there is likely someone in your life that you can turn to that either can relate, or empathize and provide support to help ease the burden you’re experiencing in your mind
- Therapy – can’t stress this enough, when you find a good therapist who really understands you, it’s life-changing.
Monthly Reading Nook
A summary of all of the books I’m currently reading, recently finished, or unfortunately couldn’t finish. Plus, my general opinion about each to help you decide if you want to add it to your own reading list!
- A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas – Surprise, surprise, I’m reading the next book in the ACOTAR series. I’ve barely started it (I like to take a little break in between books I read), but can’t wait to continue the story and see how these characters develop.
- A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas – This is the third book in the series, and I’m not disappointed in the slightest. The beginning was a bit off for my taste with how the main character was navigating her situation, but SO much happened throughout the rest of the book that it makes up for it, and then some. I’d say so far the second book as been the best (and I believe I’ve seen that as a popular opinion from other readers), but I do really enjoy the action, buildup, and interactions between characters as well in the third installment. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys fantasy, adventure, and romance.
Journal Prompt of the Month
Featured from my latest book, Your Self-Discovery Journal:
When you’re feeling scared or uncertain about something happening in your life, what do you do to find strength? Is there anyone who gives you the courage you need to take on a challenging task? Is there a practice that makes you feel empowered, like working out at the gym or dancing to your favorite upbeat songs? Think about a few times that you’ve felt fearful about trying something new or taking a risk. Who or what did you pull from as sources of strength?
Want more journal prompts like this? You can find over 100 more in Your Self-Discovery Journal: A guided journey to identify and actualize your passions, purpose, and whole self.