You Just Might Be A Control Freak (In Recovery)

Ever wondered if you're too controlling? Here are (some of) the signs.


Confess and be healed. Indeed. My confession for the day is that I used to be somewhat of a control freak. As with most things in life, there are layers of reasons why.

Many of my relatives are/were control freaks. I also suffered abuse which can make you fearful and fear can turn into control because you never want to feel like someone else is violating you again. I also have a pretty strong personality, complete with very strong perspectives and opinions; when those are not balanced by temperance and respect for others' views, that can also come across as being controlling. I used to not be the most patient person on the planet; impatient people can also come off as being pretty controlling individuals. And, according to my mom, after the standard "dada" and "mama", my next words were a full-on sentence—"I do myself, Mommy." So yeah, there's that. Plus, I can relate to a lot of what Janet Jackson was talking about in her song "Control".

When you feel like everyone is trying to run your life, in order to feel empowered, sometimes you can become consumed by that; that too can make you pretty controlling.

The reason why I'm sharing all of this is because we don't come out of the womb being super-controlling folks. Life happens and it turns us that way. That's the bad news. The good news is, if you happen to be a control freak yourself, just like you've been using all of your energy to try and run everybody and everything, you've got the power to redirect it so that you can control the only thing that you should be controlling—yourself.

How do you know if you are someone who is more controlling than you probably give yourself "credit" for? It's a lot easier to spot the signs than you probably think, sis. And, if you do recognize that you fall into some of these habits, I've included a recovery tip for each of 'em. There's no time like the present to break free!

You’re Always Right. Everyone Else Is Usually Wrong.


There are three things that I think social media has created more of—trolls, narcissists and control freaks. On the control freak tip, it's like so long as you're agreeing with someone, it's all good. Oh, but the moment that you have an opinion that is contrary to theirs, suddenly it's time for you to be berated, denounced and canceled.

There's not enough time or space today to get into the fact that if you can't handle an opposing view without going on the attack, it tends to come off as a form of insecurity more than anything else. But what I will say is it is its own form of being a "mean girl" and extremely controlling if you somehow believe that you are the one who is always right and everyone else is always wrong. For one thing, that perspective is steeped in a profound level of delusional thinking. Secondly, not everything on the planet garners a right or wrong. Some things are just…different. And all of us are just that—different.

Recovery tip: Learn how to listen. Accept that not everyone is going to agree with you and that's fine. Oh, and if you're a pop-off on social media, take a fast from time to time. Sometimes it's better to grow than to be right. Hearing others out will help you to do that.

Everyone Should Respect Your Boundaries. Meanwhile, You Can Railroad Theirs.


Is it just me or are some of the nosiest people on the planet also the most private? It's like they have no problem asking you anything and everything about your life, but the moment you inquire about theirs, on any level, suddenly they are cryptic and vague (if not flat-out annoyed). This is one example of what it means to deal with someone who wants their boundaries respected, even though they choose to totally disrespect yours.

Boundaries are limits. Control freaks couldn't care less about them because any limit that stands in the way of them saying or doing what they want is one that they will totally ignore.

It's basically like they have a sense of arrogance and entitlement simultaneously. They also tend to be pushy and overbearing. An example of this would be our current president. If that visual doesn't make you want to do some quick reassessing, I honestly don't know what will.

Recovery tip: One of my favorite quotes is something a writer by the name of Anne Lamott once said—"'No' is a complete sentence." If someone tells you "no", respect that (this includes respecting that any explanation they give you beyond the "no" is privileged information; you are not owed it). Also, if you have been railroading people for so long that you don't even know what a boundary is, cop two boundaries books by two of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The first read is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. The second one isSafe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't. They both are total game-changers for you, and those who have been putting up with you all this time (just sayin').

You Are a Perfectionist. (Even Though No One Is Perfect.)


Signs of a perfectionist include the following—freaking out over making a mistake, being extremely critical of other people, setting unrealistic standards, having an "all or nothing" mentality about everything under the sun and being uber defensive (and that's just for starters!).

While it's OK to want to do things well, the problem with having a perfectionist mentality is you tend to leave no room for error with yourself or those around you. The problem with that is it's basically a form of self-sabotage because the reality is that you and others are going to make mistakes, you and others are going to disappoint one another on occasion, and you and others are worthy of mercy and forgiveness because of that.

Non-control freaks are fully aware of this, which is why their life tends to be a lot more peaceful and drama-free. Control freaks think that everything I just said is totally ridiculous. And that is why they are miserable (and oftentimes lonely) a lot of the time.

Recovery tip: When you or someone else makes a mistake, take a moment to assess if it's an honest misstep or a toxic pattern. Choose to forgive either way and then make decisions from that space. You'll be calmer, so you'll be able to better trust how you choose to handle the matter.

You Tend to Micromanage EVERYTHING


Is there anything worse than a micromanager? Personally, I can't think of too many things. Micromanagers are the kind of people who let you think that they trust you, but they really don't, because they've got to stand over you—whether literally or symbolically—until a task is done.

It's kind of easy to detect how a micromanaging employer acts, but if you're wondering if you have this issue in other relationships, a helicopter spouse definitely comes to mind. These kinds of people are overprotective (to the point of being possessive). They are constantly delegating and being hypercritical. They think it's their job to double-check every little thing that their partner does from cleaning the bathroom to paying a bill. In short, they act more like they are their spouse's parent than their partner (for the record, helicopter parenting isn't much better either).

Although micromanagers are pretty annoying, the root cause of their issue is typically tied to fear. Either they were raised by a micromanager who used fear in their disciplinary tactics, or they have taught themselves to believe that if they are not hovering over everything, it won't be done right or, at all. What a terribly stressed out way to live—for them and everyone around them.

Recovery tip: Work on developing trust with others. If you trust them enough to be in a relationship with them, trust that they want everything to go well and smoothly too. Also, it's time to implement some mutual respect. If you don't want anyone "helicoptering" over you, don't do it to them. It's annoying. Very.

You Don’t Know How to Relax. Neither Do Others Whenever They’re Around You.


I've got a male friend who alerts me to when the control freak monster in me is trying to rear its ugly head. When I'm about to go on some sort of tangent, he simply says, "Relax." Relax indeed. When someone is relaxed, they are calm and chill. Everything is not so rigid and tense. Their temperament tends to be pretty mild and they are flexible with things. They can compromise. They can listen. Their stress and anxiety levels are lower. They exude ease, composure and tranquility. Relaxed individuals are truly a breath of fresh air.

Control freaks are the opposite of all of this. This is a part of the reason why they might be a bit self-conscious about whether or not folks want or like to be around them. The answer is simple. If you could choose to be tense and anxious or relaxed all of the time, what space would you choose? Right and exactly.

Recovery tip: Be intentional about self-care. A lot of control freaks are like that because their minds are constantly spinning and that's because they don't implement self-care or rest. When your body is in a state of zen, it's easier for the rest of you to follow suit.

You’ve Been Told That You Are. More Than Once (or 10 Times) Before.


Remember how I said at the top of this that I was "somewhat" of a control freak? Here's another confession—the more that I've been releasing my controlling tendencies, the more I realize that being "kinda controlling" is like being kinda pregnant. Either you is or you ain't. And believe you me, controlling people are so irritating, so draining, so suffocating that no matter how much others may love them, eventually someone will rise up and say, "You are really getting on my nerves. Something has got to give."

I know more and more that we seem to live in an era of "I don't care what anyone thinks" and all (SMH), but wisdom will teach you that accountability is a lifesaver. You know what they say—if one person tells you that you're controlling, that may be a random perspective. If five or more do…yeah…exactly.

Recovery tip: Ask your true friends if you've got any controlling tendencies from their perspective. If they start off their reply with "Well, umm, see…", don't get defensive, hear them out. People who truly love you, they want what's best for you. And as a control-freak-in-recovery, there is nothing good, right or beneficial that comes from trying to run—sometimes over—any and everything all of the time. So, release some of that control and…don't.

Featured image by Unsplash.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

The Power Of Letting Go Of Your Need To Control

Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members

Breaking Up With Toxic Friends Won't Be Easy, But It's So Necessary

Newsflash: Your Circumstances Have Very Little To Do With Your Happiness

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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