Why and How I Stopped Trying to Control Everything in My Life
When I was a kid, I’d freak at the smallest little thing going wrong. I don’t know exactly what made me this way, but I was a huge ball of anxiety all the time. I had chronic insomnia and an erratic sleep schedule. I had digestive trouble and worried about anything and everything all the time. I thought everything had to be “perfect,” and I held myself and others to that impossible standard for the better part of my childhood and onward. It didn’t make for the most pleasant experience of life, but I honestly didn’t see it as much of a problem until I was a teenager and started to see my how lack of flexibility negatively impacted my relationships with others.
Right around my teens, I also started to have more relationships with other people who were similarly inflexible, and I started to understand how miserable it felt to be on the receiving end of such rigid expectations. I started trying to be more mindful of how other people might feel about the expectations I placed on them, and relaxed them just a bit.
My quest to be more flexible continued into college. I first heard the term “locus of control” in a college business class, which changed the way I saw things. According to psychcentral, “A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.” It made me wonder if I could become a person who believed I had some influence on my life, and whether I could stop feeling so out of control in my life if I changed my perspective.
Then I took a yoga class in college, which helped me to become that person with an internal locus of control. Through yoga, I learned mindfulness and breathing techniques that helped calm my anxiety. I learned how to listen to my body, and to pay attention to how certain situations or conversations affected me. Rather than looking outward to feel a sense of control, I began to seek my peace inwardly. I started to pay attention to how I was feeling, and connecting with myself helped me to stop imagining I was being slighted by everyone.
I did yoga regularly for a couple years, and I saw that I was able to release stress or worries in class. The simple act of focusing on my breath for five or ten minutes at a time produced a sense of peace and calm in me that I hadn’t really experienced before. After a while, I found myself feeling more at ease with life, even when things weren’t really wonderful. I began to have more empathy for others and more understanding of what others might be going through.
As a kid, I didn’t feel in control of anything. I couldn’t wait to be an adult and live under my own rules, to have a house of my own that could be my sanctuary from the world. When I grew a little older and left home, I started finding a peace I never thought I’d have. Through learning yoga, mindfulness, and active listening, I started finding that sanctuary. Consequently, I found myself being less and less reactive. I became more flexible and willing to “go with the flow,” which I found was greatly appreciated by bosses and friends, and I felt my relationships with others greatly improved because of this newfound ability to not allow mistakes or mishaps to completely crush me.
It’s been several years since I started intentionally and consciously changing my perspective on life. Though I’ve come a long way, I still often have trouble letting go of the need to be “perfect.” More often than not, though, I’m okay with “good enough,” and I think that’s just fine. I’m a lot happier in my daily life, and because I’m more able to let go of the small things, I’m more able to focus on the bigger issues that matter to me.
This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.