Controlling Your Inner Control Freak: The Art of Inefficiency

Meditating Man

“Being right is highly overrated. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” ~ Unknown

I’ve always been a control freak. But I've learned to control it!

I was born with the ability to quickly envision the most efficient way through a task, activity, project, problem, puzzle, or challenge. This has made me useful to many people, especially in my workplaces.

But it can make people crazy, too. Especially when I’ve expected others to buy into the approach I knew would work best, fastest, most efficiently.

My partner sometimes reminds me, “It doesn't always have to be about being efficient!”

I was never good at delegating. I’d rather get the job done right. If I delegate a task to somebody else, it won't be done the “best” way, will it! I'll probably end up re-doing it anyway, right?

I have always strived for perfection. “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” That phrase was nurtured into me as a child. It’s a good philosophy, but sometimes I’ve taken it too far.

Yes, it has affected relationships. Debating about my partner’s housekeeping style. Often being bossy. Being controlling. Wanting things my own way. Commenting about how others were doing things. “Hey, I know a way that would work better…” Sigh.

I always thought I was being helpful!

It turns out I really wasn’t, not always, not for some people. I finally began to understand that some people found my controlling persona annoying.

I came to realize that everybody has their own “best way” of doing things.

This was a key discovery in my path to letting go of my Control Freak—finally hearing that my ways were often not the most enjoyable ways for other people. Perhaps my way was very efficient, but not necessarily ideal. For them.

How about that!

How I Let Go of Little Miss Perfect

At the end of my first marriage, I reluctantly had to acknowledge that my “I know the best way” attitude had probably contributed to its demise. I began a personal challenge to unlearn that old behavior.

I found a new thing to be perfect about—being perfectly imperfect.

First, I lovingly acknowledged my Control Freak persona for all the good she’d been to me and for me. Then I accepted that she was officially in my past. I finally let her go.

Honestly, that was a moment of great relief.

I used to be all about “my way or the highway,” and now I’m more like, “My highway has all sorts of new twists and turns to explore.”

I began to enjoy being a passenger when the person driving went the long way to our destination because they didn’t pre-plan the route. Alternate routes can be delightful. Literally, and also figuratively.

I began to “let” other people do things their way—and to observe and learn, while staying silent about the “better” way they might be doing it. (Laughing at myself here about saying “let” and “better”—the control-freak phrases still lurk within!)

Yes, I still often envision a “better” way, but I began to appreciate alternate ways just as much.

I became open to hearing about and trying other people's way of doing things. Now I stop and listen, rather than jumping right in with my solution.

Housecleaning is now entirely my partner’s task. I’ve learned to patiently await his next cleaning day, even when the cute little dust-bunnies jump out from the corners to mock my lack of caring about their presence. I used to remind him, but I let go of doing that, too. When to clean house is entirely his decision, not mine. I can co-exist with an occasional unmade bed. I can even stand putting away inside-out socks and t-shirts after laundering!

It’s amazing the things we can discover when we’re not trying to go from A to B in the most efficient or direct way.

I’m getting good at hearing Little Miss Perfect when she tries to take over my thoughts. I can now laugh at myself and move on, without meeting her demands. She is no longer in control, that well-intentioned control freak.

To be honest, for me this is not necessarily a more relaxing way of life—yet—but it's certainly better for relationships and for going with the flow.

Some days I actually focus on not doing things efficiently.

This is a good retirement attitude, and these days I’m all about learning how to be retired. The good news is, I don’t need to do that “right” either. Instead, I read and listen to what other people say about being retired, and I give their ways a try. It’s working out great!

My partner says, “Everything I need to know about retirement, I’m learning from my cat.” I like this feline way. No controlling. No efficiencies. Just relaxed enjoyment.

But I still get to have control over some things.

There are still many things that rely upon me if they’re ever going to get done. Now I focus my control-freak persona on only those things. Sometimes they are things I’ve promised to do. Mostly, they are things that nobody else cares about, nobody else will even notice whether they get done or not.

I’ll admit it. There are still times when I crave that I’m-in-control feeling. I’ve reframed that craving. I’ve decided that, for me, it’s really a craving for getting something done.

A craving for control is actually a craving for that feeling of accomplishment we all get when we complete something and/or do something well.

When that craving arises, I put myself to work on a current art project or go out for an invigorating walk. Or I tackle a few items on my to-do list. That list is special because I’m the only person in control of whether or not (and how) those things get done.

And yet, it feels so good to cross something off the list. Job accomplished. In exactly the way I wanted it done.

A pleasant side-effect of satisfying my control cravings in this way is that I don’t procrastinate any more. I take control over my avoidance and tackle my lists.

So, in fact, it’s still okay to control whatever I want to control, as long as it’s about me and my own activities. My control freak no longer negatively impacts anybody else. It’s win-win.

Things I’ve learned on my path to No More Little Miss Perfect:

1. Listen to what people think and say. Their ideas are just as important as mine, if not more important.

2. “Anything worth doing is worth doing.” Period.

3. Be completely open to alternative ways of doing things. There’s always something new to learn.

4. It’s absolutely okay to not be a perfectionist. In practice, perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not if I care about my relationships.

5. Expecting perfection in others is a good way to lose friends and alienate colleagues.

6. “It doesn’t always have to be efficient.”

7. Purposefully seeking out an approach that I wouldn’t normally think of can lead to adventures and discoveries and playful enjoyment.

8. Just for a change, plan to not make a plan. Just forge ahead and see how it goes.

9. Listen first. Think. Listen more. Only after that, it’s okay to speak my mind or give my opinion.

10. Sometimes my way is a good way. But other people can decide that on their own, without my help. It’s okay to present my ideas; it’s not okay to be forceful or insistent about them.

11. I don’t have to be in charge of getting things done. I can gracefully accept when others step up to take charge. In fact, I enjoy encouraging them forward.

12. I will absolutely learn something new when I observe how others do things. I enjoy following their path as a change from my own.

13. Go with the flow.

14. I’m not perfect, never have been, never will be.

15. Working with others is so much more interesting than working to control them.

16. I’ve never been hooked on an outcome, just on the process for getting there. I’m now enjoying not being hooked on the process either.

17. Relinquishing control is as rewarding and as powerful as taking control.

18. Cats have all the answers.

What have you learned about giving up control?

Meditating man image via Shutterstock

About Kate Britt

Kate is a retired teacher, editor, and technical writer living in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She blogs sporadically at

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  • Claudia

    Great post, thank you very much

  • Shannon M.

    Totally agree with everything you wrote. It describes me perfectly. I especially love #18!

  • Thank you. This is perfectly relevant to me now. I need to let go of my need to control and perfect things – hopefully these guidelines will help. 🙂 

  • Wow. Sounds like you were truly annoying. Specially because, as you point above, there’s more than one way to do things right -or wrong. There are no absolutes.

  • Robin kilburn

     I admire your being able to do this. While I never was a control freak, I was a passive aggressive, negative person, to the point where people really did not like spending time with me.I truly believed that to be invisible, non committing, hiding in the shadows, was a safe way for me to slide through life.It was only after I spent time in a class where 15 of the other students told me that ” I am so glad I met you, because I never never want to be like you”I was devastated of course, until I realized exactly what I was, and immediately worked towards changing myself, as I am glad I will never be like that either. 
    I now always try to be assertive, and balanced.
    I find it hard to believe I was such a person, but I was and I thought it made me a good person.
    Excellent Post  Kate, truly enjoyable and informative.

  • Perfect timing, for you to be writing this and for it to have caught my eye on today of all days. The day after I went through my umpteenth phase of surrender.

    I’m glad to see that “Listen” shows up more than once on your list. This is the paramount lesson I’m learning at the moment. “Soften to receive” is my current mantra. Easier said than done never had deeper meaning than it does right now.

    This is a very tough lesson. Lots of emotion, red puffy eyes, frontal lobe headaches, tension in the  shoulders and lower back. But I have the tools and I’m using them.

    The funny and cruel reality is, ultimately we are not in control of our lives because we really have no idea when and where we are going to die. And the sooner we accept the truth, the sooner our life becomes truly light, free and easy.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.
    Sarah, one curious yogi

  • Kate

    Claudia, I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Thanks for being the first to read it and post a comment!

  • Kate

    Shannon, I’m glad my article seems to ring some bells with you. Yes, our cats (or any pets) do have some good lessons for us, don’t they! 🙂

  • Kate

    I hope they do help you, Analyfe. I think the first part is the hardest — recognizing that we do have that “need to control and perfect things.” You’ve obviously made that first step, good for you, so keep up the good work!

  • Kate

    Daniela, thanks for the laugh. At least I CAN laugh now at how annoying I was (and probably still am sometimes, as the work isn’t done yet for me). Before, I’d be annoyed at anybody who thought I was annoying. Well, they say we’re drawn to people who are mirrors for what we need to work on.

  • Kate

    Robin, how awful for you to hear those words. Truly devastating. It’s so hard to hear the truth about ourselves. Even when we’re open to honest feedback, the truth can hurt. Your reaction, though, was awesome — beginning your work towards change. “Balance.” I like that you brought that word to the table here. It’s such an important aspect in all our relationships and dealings with people. Good on you for finding that within yourself!

  • Kate

    Sarah, I *really* like that mantra: “Soften to receive.” I’m going to adopt that as a theme for a while and I’ll think of you and be grateful every time I think of it. A wise person once told me that to be able to receive (anything) with grace is one of the greatest gifts we can give other people in response to what they choose to offer us. For example, I used to poo-poo compliments; now I gracefully accept them and that truly pleases those who offer them.

    You know, I too had years of the headaches and tension in those areas. But they’ve faded now… hmmmm, you are probably spot-on in associating those with control vs. surrender. Thanks for that observation, too!

    Keep on using your amazing toolkit, Sarah!

  • Hi Kate! I’m new to your blog and I really like this post. I used to be a huge perfectionist, but I’ve learned how to stop being one too. Life is so much better now! 😀

  • Hi Maaike!

    My name is Lori, and I am the founder of Tiny Buddha. This is actually a community blog. I publish posts from writers from all over the world. If you’d like to read more about it, you can find information here:

    I also really enjoyed this post. Kate’s really quite insightful and talented!


  • Kate Britt

    Yay for both of us, Maaike, for finding how much better life can be when we don’t focus on perfection! Who knew! (Well I guess lots of people knew ;P. I appreciate your comment because it helps me feel supported in my ongoing efforts to let go of perfectionism. For me it’s like an addiction, it keeps coming up from time to time> But gradually I’m developing the tools to sidestep it. Catching myself “at it” is number one.

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  • Anonymous

    I have a history that parallels yours. 🙂 I’m going through my most poignant letting-go-of-control healing phase RIGHT NOW! It’s hard, but I’m growing to really love it.


    Thank you so much for this post! It was absolutely incredible & TRUE !! I could totally relate with it & I, myself endorse & practice the ideas put forth.. Keep up the great work.. Looking forward to more of such great thoughts.. 🙂

  • Kate Britt

    Yes, it’s hard. So, good for you, Ariella, for working on it! You seem to already be getting a sense of the rewards that will be there for you when you come out the other side of the healing phase. Control issues might always be there (well, they always are for me), so what’s important is finding our own personal ways to transform these urges into something creative and healthy. Find ways to make “control” a fun word in our lives instead of an unhealthy internal need.

  • Kate Britt

    Thank you, Umang, for the encouragement and praise. It truly helps to know that other people are on the same journey as I am and that our truths match up in the internal work we’re doing.

  • Anonymous

    It’s starting to get fun. 🙂 The control detail I’m healing right now is letting go of material wealth as a sense of security. I’ve often tried to control my happiness by having things and I want to be better at being ok with less. The latest insecurity that stimulated my self-examination comes from the fact that between 2008 and 2009, I lived out of a suitcase as life did a big re-org on my life. I had a divorce, changed country, had 4 different addresses in the span of a year, depended on the charity of others to be able to afford the divorce and all this change etc. It was hard on me and I discovered that I’ve anchored myself too much in “having stuff” as a defence mechanism. 

    I’m undoing that now! Telling myself, “I am fine, no matter what happend! I have not been harmed and can cool it!”I don’t need things to be cleaned a certain way or whatever, but I do remember having been frustrated with a spouse if they left clothes on the floor for 2 weeks. I don’t care for clutter.

  • Kate Britt

    Wow, you’ve been through a lot! It sounds like you’ve been meeting this challenge head on for nearly 3 years. Isn’t it weird how sometimes we resist our hardest lessons until something forces us into a situation where resistance is futile. Hard way to learn, but perhaps effective? I totally relate to your ideas of “stuff” giving us a sense of security and surrounding ourselves with “stuff” being a kind of defense.

    I hope you can find your way clear to the freedom (vs false security) and openness (vs needing defenses) that will surely come with letting go (of stuff, of the need for material wealth, of ex-spouses, of anything that becomes an anchor in your life). I wish you the best in your current self-work!

  • Anonymous

     Thanks Kate! Yeah, big changes is what my life does. 🙂 It’s the pattern. I’ll have years of predictable days, then a big wham followed by accelerated growth, then some years of enjoying myself as that new person, then a big wham followed by accelerated growth haha. 

    I’m so glad you understand! Keep up with the flow that we don’t have to steer!

  • Kate Britt

    One might say, “Holy cow, your life sounds like a real challenge and hard to deal with.” Or one might say, “Aren’t you lucky to be given so many opportunities for growth.” Either way, you seem to be facing it with courage and learning much. Awesome. I do like your last sentence; what a way to look positively at what’s happening in your life!

  • Anonymous

     I feel lucky for sure. I may grumble mid-stream mind you! 🙂 Still human!

  • Anonymous

    This post hit the spot.  I have always struggled to be “Lil Miss Perfect” to the point, where I would agonize of what I said, did or how I looked, and for what?  Nothing!! But now I have realized that the more you try to “control” the more you don’t have that control you seek.  So like you said, we just need to go with the flow and life is so much easier!!

  • Kate Britt

    Welcome to our unofficial ex-LMP support group. 😉 I like your idea about trying to control leading to diminished control. I’m going to think about that more.
    I just checked out your website and twitter feed. Interesting!

  • Sarah

    Oh yes I recognise Little miss perfect! I think she’s already taken a step back but I have no doubt she can reemerge at any time. Nice to have her so well defined! Thank you! I’m sure this will help relationships.

  • Kate Britt

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Sarah. You’re right, she likes to pop in for a visit now and then so it’s good to have ways to recognize her so we can send her packing ASAP. 😉

  • NL

    Ok woah. That article sit so close to home it’s crazy. As a working artist, this is something that working with other artists has been teaching me about myself for years, albeit the hard way. Having it spelled out like that is amazing for me. The only thing that contradicts this idea, for me anyways, is the fact that the super successful people in the music industry seem to be people who completely immerse themselves in this need to find the best way to do things, and once found, make sure this is the method applied to the task. So maybe this mindstate creates a great artistic approach but a failed one in many other aspects of life. Either way, thanks for pointing out what I’ve only ever subconsciously noticed in the past.T

  • Kate Britt

    Wow, thanks for the feedback and some great insights. I’m glad my story hit home for you. Your observation that it’s a good quality for artists
    makes utter sense. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been immersed in this “best
    way” attitude myself. And perhaps what you’re saying is a partial
    explanation for why many artists in all fields are often interpreted by
    others to be loners, independents, aloof, introverted, even weird.
    Artists live in a unique headspace, always creating their next thing in
    their minds, often not paying attention to the details of other people’s
    worlds and headspaces. We can observe, sure, and we can find
    good/direct/efficient ways to get our creative (and other) tasks done, but we don’t always relate or mix in well with other people.

  • Thank you for this post!  After reading it a week ago, remembering the advice was a huge help when I was gardening with my boyfriend.  I tried to jump in and do things “efficiently”, but I would have missed out on a fun afternoon.  I also would have missed out on seeing his ideas for design, and the whole process.

  • That’s so great, aurora! I’m glad that remembering the ideas in my post helped you have more fun. It’s great to hear that.

  • Jennie S

    This post really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom!

  • I’m glad it meant something to you, Jennie. I hope you found some insights and/or solutions for your own inner control freak. 😉

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  • Hi Kate. This is uncanny. I too am Kathryn Britt. I could have written this article, as it seems to describe me personally (apart from the marriage breakup – still on my first marriage and my partner is the neat freak!). I found your advice at the end very intuitive and sensible and I’m going to take some of those lessons to heart. cheers, Kathryn

  • OMG!!! I’ve seen many Kate Britts online, but never a Kathryn Britt besides me until now. Hi Australia from Vancouver, BC, Canada! This is so fun!

    Kathryn, I’m glad my article hit home with you, that the notes I made about what I’ve learned might prove helpful for you. I’m happy for you that you’re able to make your relationship work living with a neat freak. Maybe reading about things from my control/neat-freak point of view helped a little too?

    Anyway…. I clicked your name and got your twitter page so I’m following now. I’m @skyhome. Also clicked to your company page. The Kathryn Britts are taking over the world! (oops, a little control freakism popped out there 😉

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  • Kim

    Really enjoyed the article. I stumbled upon it as I have just been told by people close to me today that I am a control freak. Thankfully it was not an intervention, just comments that coincided on the same day. I appreciate what you said about listening to others, considering what they like, the ways they like to do things and learning from them. I truly never thought of myself as controlling or difficult in my relationships but I am thankful that I was loved enough for them to be real with me. Thank you for sharing. It is a comfort that no matter what we are like, we are not alone.

  • Hi Kim, Thanks for posting. I’m glad you had the “coincidence” of finding this article and enjoyed reading it. (I’m of the “no such thing as coincidences” way of thinking.) I too find it a real help to know I’m not alone in my quirks and foibles. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about “I never thought of myself as…” — we controllers think we’re doing nothing but good, being oh so helpful, don’t we! Unfortunately, as you and I have discovered, other people don’t always see our actions and words in that light. Still, we need to be true to ourselves, all the while learning how to live happily with our dear ones. I’m glad some of my ideas might prove helpful for you.

  • Kobster

    This has blown my mind! It is exactly like me! My husband is laughing and wants to print it off as a reminder! Very confronting. I’ll just have to go and tidy and write a list before having a second look. By the way my husband calls me mrs righty pants!

  • Hello mrs righty pants :). I’m glad you found the article and that you and your husband are enjoying it. It is rather a funny situation if taken lightly and it sounds like you two have that approach. Thanks for posting!

  • Ree

    I loved your comment about putting away inside out t-shirts! About a year ago, I stopped caring. I figured if my husband wants to wear it properly, he’ll right it before putting it on. It was a lot easier than harping on him to put it in the laundry right side out or resenting that I HAVE to do it. I enjoyed your article and am glad I ran across it. I spent many years trying to control everything (down to how each hour would be spent on vacation!). I came to realize much of it was because I felt the world was out of control, so my anxiety got out of control, and therefore I needed to organize my life against “surprises”. I never wanted to be caught off guard. It became very difficult as my son became a teen and fought me every inch of the way. He taught me a lot, bless his heart. Finally, thankfully, I just got plain worn out. I had to give it up. Like you, she served me well but it was time to let her go. Some things I still prepare for and try to control (I love my lists) and I will probably always be a work in progress, but mostly, letting go has been rewarding. Not feeling responsible for everything ever is a relief. Interestingly, my very laid back husband is starting to pick up the slack and take on some of the same traits I gave up; we just laugh about it.

  • Hi Ree,
    Thanks so much for reading and posting. I’m glad for you that things are working out better as you’ve learned to lessen your feeling of needing to control everything, while still maintaining your much-loved lists. It’s a good compromise, isn’t it! I think it’s wonderful that your husband is adopting some of the better aspects of your previous ways. Meeting in the middle, or should I say, learning various methods of coping from each other, sure adds to a relationship. It sounds like you’ve got it all together. Way to go!

  • Giulia

    Great Article!
    P.S: The opening quote is from a Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho.

  • Sash

    Thank you what a great article!

  • Thanks, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading it, Sash.

  • Dana

    This has certainly helped me. I notice so many of these things in myself. Today… It’s time to let go!!

  • I’m glad my article has helped, Dana. I wish you great success as you begin to let go!

  • Danielley

    Hi Kate,
    So much in this article resonated with me. For a long time I have struggled with mild depression and recently I have realised that this is manifesting by me trying to ‘control’ most situations.
    I have tried to self analyse and I think it may stem from periods in the past when I found myself in upsetting situations, I believe that I am trying to micro manage my environment to prevent me feeling hurt again.
    I hope that I can begin to make some changes using your guide to ‘no more little miss perfect’, as I do find myself in a constant state of frustration and irritability with my loved ones, friends and colleagues when they are not willing to bend to my will, which is not a good place to be at all.
    I dont think it will be easy, from time to time I find people do rely on me to be the ‘organised – in control one’ and I love the validation that it brings in these positive situations, but I know that right now I am not happy and I need to change things.

  • Hi Danielley,

    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences surrounding control. You have clearly done some deep self-explorations around your own frustrations and unhappiness with the way things have been going for you, especially in relation to how your control impulses seem to affect your relationships with others.

    Here’s something that helps me through exactly those kinds of interations. It’s the thought “I’d rather be happy than right.” When I adopted that as my go-to thought when I get frustrated with others, it began to really help. That’s because it’s absolutely true for me. Yet in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget. So I constantly have to remind myself of that truth. Maybe using that thought frequently will help you diminish or expel the hurt your are afraid of and avoiding?

    talked about discovering that my craving for control is actually a craving for a feeling of accomplishment. As you put it, a feeling of validation. I completely understand that! I hope you can somehow discover your own personal ways to find validation in validating the efforts of others, especially in situations where you’d normally be inclined to take over and do the controlling. There’s a great feeling that comes with seeing our favorite people accomplish things, especially if we’ve been in their cheering section.

    When people ask you to do something and rely on you to get it done, go for it! It makes you feel good! You could start by incorporating more listening to other people’s ideas along the way. AND once in a while, try replying that you’ll help THEM do it their way. Then all the way along, celebrate THEIR successes with them. I feel certain that you’ll soon feel great about that too.

    Kudos for recognizing what you said in your last line. Change is tough and sometimes necessary. You’re on your way! And the bonus is, YOU get to control your own changes. 🙂

  • partynapper

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I am trying to be less of a control freak at home as well as at work and it is hard at times not to go back into my old, do it all myself, ways. It’s interesting to see how much of what I thought were ‘quirks’ and not related to my control freak ways are actually part of that, too! My love of plans, for example. Thanks again! x

  • I can relate to your feeling that how we are is merely a set of ‘quirks’. I totally get your love of plans and planning. You’re right, it’s part of the package of needing to control how things unfold. Planning makes things efficient, right? and then stuff gets done and we can move on…. LOL, to more planning and controlling outcomes. It’s hard to let go of that entirely, so it’s good to be selective about which situations might need our help more than others. What things can we resist planning for, just to see how they unfold without our controlling input? It can become a fun game, especially when the stakes aren’t too high about getting a thing accomplished sooner instead of a little later.

    I’m happy you found my article and that you think it’s helpful, partynapper. I’m rooting for you as you work at letting go of parts of your ‘control freak’ tendencies.

  • Asheera

    I just found out I am a control freak. I have decided to study this article to help me let go of trying to control other people. It’s been the reason why all my relationships have failed so badly all these years. I have a lot of work to do but I believe that it is worth it.

  • Thanks for reading and posting your note, Asheera. Yes, I agree, it’s definitely worth taking a look at our own control issues and also exploring what makes our relationships work or not work. Good for you for deciding to begin this change! I wish you the best as you begin to let go. One small thing at a time is a good way. I hope you can find a way to do it in joy and let go of self-criticism about having been a control freak. I feel sure you will enjoy the process of gradual change.

  • Collene Leigh Okun

    So I typed into Google, “Help I’m a control freak!” And this is the first article I stumbled upon. I hate that I am one because I upset people. I try over and over all the time to stop but when things don’t go my way I get this instant feeling inside me and then I get mad. My thing is punctuation and food (it’s weird I know) I hate being late. So I hate having my husband drive. He drives soooo slow. I try to let go.. he says I’m doing better at the passenger seat driving not so much with the crabby attitude.
    People ask me all the time “what are you scared of that makes you such a control freak?” One day, I may have an answer from then. I can’t pretend to be retired though. I’m only 20… yeah I’m this bad already and only 20.

  • Hi Collene, and thanks for reading and sharing your story. I was a control freak at your age and earlier too. I believe we can grow and change at any age if we’re willing to dig deep and be open to new ways. You have a head start because you’ve had this self-realization early; it took me a few decades to recognize my inner control freak.

    One suggestion: Drop the self-talk like “I’m this bad”… Instead, you might say things like, “I’m learning about myself, I’m growing, I’m willing to change, I’m happy to let go of my need to control others.”

    It sounds like you’ve discovered a couple of aspects of control that you can focus on as you work for change. You’ve recognized when you get that “instant feeling inside”, so that’s a great help! Next time that happens, take a big breath and say to yourself, “I’d rather be happy than right.” (see #5 above). Say it as many times as you need until you feel like you’ve bypassed getting mad (#13 and #15). Then, just this one time, try putting yourself in the other person’s headspace and heart. Internally (or even verbally when you feel right about it), honor them for being in charge of whatever it is and begin admiring how they do things (#11), especially when that’s different from how you would do them. Find a part of it that you might learn from (#12).

    Then go through that same process the next time you get that feeling, and the next, and the next. To build a habit, we first have to keep doing a thing consciously and with effort. Eventually it becomes second nature.

    It won’t happen fast, but yes, it can happen. You *can* tame your inner control freak. Look forward to experiencing #17… you *will* get there, with some willingness, openness to change, and of course doing what it takes.

  • WJ

    Dear Kate,

    I searched for “fix control freak” and came upon your page.
    My family and I have been dealing with my mother’s controlling “habits” for many years. She is the age that will soon require care and I just cannot picture myself on how I would deal with her. The best option is for her to go through the similar process like you did.

    Being in her 70s, is there a hope for her to “let go” at that age?

    I know you are not in a business of counseling but I would like to hear more in detail, in person or by phone if possible, on how you did it (or did you get help from others etc.) You mention about your divorce but I am sure it was not a one step process.

    I will definitely find a way to pay back for your help.

    Thank you very much,

    ps. I think my email address will be visible to you since I had to input it to post here.

  • Hello WJ,

    You’re right, I’m in no way qualified as a counselor — I wrote this article just to tell my own story, hoping it could help others who are struggling with similar issues. So it’s not appropriate for me to connect with you outside of this forum or to presume to offer solutions for your and your mother’s situations. I can only offer my own observations based on your message.

    I admire your concern for your mother in her upcoming change of situation. I also recognize your concern for your family and yourself about how you might help her with the transition.

    Being close to my 70s myself, I have to say that it’s never to late for change. However, as we get older, change becomes more difficult and less appealing.

    I believe change must come from within. That is, from within your mother herself. She would need to see the need for change (see it herself, not be told there’s a need) and also have the willingness to work in that direction.

    There’s also an opportunity here for you and your family to consider your own willingness to change from within yourselves. That is, can you see any path for yourselves that would lead to a greater acceptance of your mother’s ways, “habits”, and approaches to life? This acceptance could help heal both you and her with regards to the situation and concerns you mutually share.

    From close family experience, I know that when people move into a full-time care situation, they can feel a loss of control over their own lives, living arrangements, abilities to care for themselves, and much, much more. They have to give over that control to the caretaker(s). Things she feels she can control now will no longer be in her control. Changes to all sorts of control issues will come about, both externally and internally.

    Think about how you and your family’s need to “fix” her, to adjust her attitudes in terms of controlling things/people/etc. might feel to her at a time when she’s already having to give up so much control over so many things.

    My personal belief about relationships is that it is never a good thing to try and change a loved one. Acceptance is a healing approach. Support and encouragement grows the love and expands the relationship. Even when a loved one makes choices we don’t like or wouldn’t choose for ourselves, if we don’t like those thigns, we need to look inside ourselves and try to understand why — why they bother us. In other words, the only person we can truly work on for change is ourself. Trying to change another isn’t going to work to create that change; it’s only going to diminish the loving relationship we would prefer with that person.

    When you describe what you call “the best option”, I think you are describing what you and your family want. Is that *her* best option? One other option for you would be to start a conversation with your mother about her feelings, her wishes and needs, and how she feels about her current and future situations. An open heart and a willingness to be with and support a family member from *their* point of view can go a long way toward healing a difficult situation.

    I do wish you all well as you move forward. I feel for your mother, and I feel for you. This is not an easy time of life for any of you, nor an easy transition. I encourage you to seek help from a professional counselor if the conversations feel to difficult for you and your family and your mother.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post above and my response here.

  • Danny

    In the first part of this article you could have been writing about me! I will definitely be following some of the points at the bottom in my pursuit of letting go. Great piece of writing!

  • Thanks for your comments, Danny. I’m glad you discovered this page at a time you needed to read it. Getting notified about your comment was also a great opportunity for me to re-read what I wrote and remind myself of this way of thinking. Little Miss Perfect still lurks, maybe she always will, so it’s good for me, too, to re-read this now and then. I wish you the best in your pursuit of letting go!

  • Doing it better

    I really enjoyed this. I can relate to all of the tendencies listed. I believe my issue is a bit more difficult to solve. First, I work at a government job. Second, I am an assistant. I am always hearing coworkers marvel at my speed at getting things done or how fastidious I am about organization, filing and labeling. I spend my days suppressing the urge to eye roll or repeat my sarcastic catch phrase “really?!” I don’t really know how I will get around the feeling of being annoyed by others who don’t do their work efficiently especially because their work ends up becoming mine. I always try to give my very best each day and my boss seems to recognize it (or may be stringing me along – only time will tell). I have the dangling carrot of having a better position open to me once the current employee retires (date was 2016). I’ve explained in the most tactful way that my desire is to move away from assisting and into a transitionary role in the nearer future. If this were to happen, it would leave a substantial hole of my current role since I am caring for the entire executive staff. I’m just dying inside to be in charge of my own little efficient corner and not have to feel exasperated on a daily basis. I wonder if you have any thoughts or helpful offerings for me since you’ve likely lived through similar feelings and situations. Oddly enough as an efficient person, I am also very self deprecating so being persistent at requests for promotion prove a very uncomfortable and difficult challenge for me.

  • Although I didn’t elaborate on workplace situations in my article, the same principles and solutions I described to change my personal life’s control issues applied for me in every one of my workplaces.

    I believe our personal experience of life, events, surroundings, and the people around us is completely based in our own mind and emotions, so I also believe that we can transform our experiences by working on ourselves to change our minds and emotions.

    The thing to consider is this: you ARE “in charge of your own little efficient corner” no matter what work you’re doing or what level you’re at in the organization/company. Perhaps you can’t switch your current role at work just yet, but you CAN change how you feel about it. It sounds like that’s where your personal efforts need to be directed.

    Your frustration does seem to be based in a lack of ability to control your co-workers and your job advancement. The change you seek must come from within. Believe you’re doing well at work – you know it! If you continue being great at what you do and are suitable for positions that come available, you will advance. Pushing persistently for it may go against you. Also, work on letting go of judging co-workers’ performance because clearly that’s not changing them, just affecting your own peace of mind. Rather than eye-rolling (judging), work at becoming more giving to co-workers. Can you switch your focus from their inefficiencies to noticing what things they do well? Praise them for those things! Perhaps make it a weekly goal to learn and acknowledge something new about each co-worker, about their personal skills and methods, even about their thoughts and feelings. This approach of looking outward at others rather self-focus can only add to your qualifications for advancement.

    Keep improving your skills AND working on your confidence that you have them; that’s your personal road to self-advancement.

    Most importantly, enjoy your work each day, enjoy how good you are at it, and focus more on what IS and less on what COULD be.

  • Ani

    Wow! I feel so identified with your article! Just came across it when I typed “control freak” in google. Being 21 years old and discovering how much of a control freak I am explained many aspects about my personality and why relationships didn’t last. What crosses my mind is the fact about how my eagerness to know more about this (need for control) makes me more of a control freak. In other words, my effort to discover how to balance my control about everything actually makes me more of a control freak.

    I have grown up to be disciplined and meticulous, and have criticized others, as much as myself, about how things should’ve been done or said. Although this attitude has helped me get through a lot of difficulties in life, this is the reason that makes it so hard to let go. I want to change into being more assertive in my decisions, and grow to make a better version of myself each day, but I’m scared of losing all the benefits that controlling brings. I figured out that
    whenever I feel like I’ve lost control of a situation, I become anxious to
    recover and pull everything back to the way it was. My ways to deal with anxiety are mainly by eating more and eventually happen to strengthen my control freak behaviors.

    I’d like to share this phrase: “Take a breath, and let the rest come easy.” I love how it suggests breathing as a precise way to start dealing with perfectionism.

    Perhaps you have more suggestions I could learn about and use. Glad I came across your blog too, it’s very interesting!

  • Hi Ani, I’m glad you found my article. It’s great that you’ve become aware of your need for control, because I think that’s a huge big step forward. Knowing ourselves and our issues lets us stay more aware as we work to find the balance you talk about, a balance that’s so essential for a happier Self.

    There’s only one suggestion that occurs to me beyond those I’ve written about above. You shared a phrase that sounds very wise to me and could be your key for change. The hard part is to remember our key phrases when we most need them, right? So my suggestion is that you figure out something to use as a reminder… a button or favorite crystal in your pocket or around your neck, something that you can finger whenever you realize you’re being too controlling… train yourself to say that phrase to yourself whenever you touch your reminder-object. Just an idea.
    I wish you the best as you begin your work to let go a little. From personal experience, I can say that when you do let go of the controlling, all those “benefits that controlling brings” will be transformed into even greater benefits.

  • kdmgr

    Hello Kate,
    I want to thank you for this article. I found it really helpful. I “saw” myself in many of those spot-on lines!
    It’s not easy being a control freak but it ain’t hard either!
    I hope I turn into action your tips!
    Thanks again!

  • I’m happy you found my article helpful. I wish you the best as you work to turn my tips into action!

  • Dragonfly1

    Thank you, Kate, for the article. My situation is I’m a person with an “invisible” disability who has been an overachiever to try to compensate for my disability, and after I got my doctorate I didn’t know what to do. I am slowly releasing my need to overachieve, control or whatever and am embracing my inner desire to be an artist/writer, etc. I also feel it’s important to embrace the inner child and remember to have fun.

  • I’m glad you found and read my article, Dragonfly. (I really like your handle!) It’s good
    that you have clearly done some self-analysis about the source of your control issues. I really like your final comment! Thank you for that — it’s such a wise approach, especially for us creative people. OK, here’s a wee challenge for you – rather than “embracing your inner desire to be an artist/writer”, how about simplifying that: embrace your inner artist/writer. I bet you’ll find that she comes hand in hand with your inner child, or perhaps she IS your inner child? 😉

  • JK

    Thanks for posting this! My sister called me a control freak yesterday, and after mulling over it all day, I came to realize that I often can be! I told her this morning I totally agree with her, and she said “it takes a control freak to recognize a control freak.” I had a good laugh, and we both have agreed to help each other work on this.

  • Thanks for reading, JK. I’m glad you found my article at this turning point between you and your sister. I hope it proves helpful! Your reaction to your sister’s comment was a wonderful first step to take, rather than resisting. Having a laugh about it together is a door opening toward your next steps as you work on this together. It’s good to have support as we begin a journey of change, isn’t it!

  • Frieda

    Dear Kate,

    thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I’m currently going through a very rough time in my relationship. The thing that drives my partner insane is the fact that I complain about EVERYTHING, especially the little things like the way he hangs up the laundry or the way he vacuums. After some reading and self-reflection I’ve realised that I’m a control freak. It influences the way people see me, it destroys my relationship and worst of all: it makes me unhappy. Your post gives me hope that I can change that in the future. So thanks so much for that!

  • Glad you found the article helpful, Frieda. I notice you said “change that in the future”… so I’m wondering… how about starting right now? 😉 Because Yes You Can! If I can make that kind of change (I’m resistant to change), then you can too!

    It’s hard, I know, to realize the problem lies with us and not with the other person. It’s so common and so much easier for us to want to change the other person in a relationship than to change ourselves. The first thing to recognize is that it’s “me” who wants him to do things differently; it’s actually “me” who needs to make a change within myself.

    A little off topic, but this might help too. Once I heard a woman say that she really missed her husband’s snoring. He had passed away and she said she’d give anything to have his snoring beside her at night. That really hit me in my love-place. Ever since then, I’ve learned to love every little thing about my partner, even the parts that might otherwise have driven me nuts (and especially his snoring, which is now just SO cute!) because I’d rather have all those minor “issues” in my life than not have him at all.


    Thank you! I might be worse than you because I get violent and angry as well but I will need a lot more of practice for this wisdom. It is helpful.

  • Jenny

    As a college student, I face this every time I need to complete a group project! I’m still learning how to interact with people without trying to control them, but it’s certainly difficult. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • syke

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you for taking the time to share this.
    This is something I will have to print and read again from time to time 🙂
    From someone younger, it’s comforting to read a “solution” so to speak, from somebody with a greater scope of perspective and experiences.
    I look forward in continuing to work on this part of my person, with these thoughts as a tool for my journey.


  • I hope it works out for you, Jenny. Group projects are indeed a certain challenge for us who like to control the way things get decided and done. On the other hand, if/when we decide we want to make a change to reduce that tendency in ourselves, those group projects can be excellent self-training opportunities. Difficult, yes, but worth the effort, I promise!

    Although the mark you get personally for the group project is at stake, try some of my tips and see if you can switch your contribution away from controlling toward ensuring that everybody’s input is heard and considered by all, including you. Good luck!

  • I’m pleased that you find my notes to be a helpful tool. Thank you for your lovely comments about my perspective and experiences. It feels great to be honored in that way by somebody younger! It sounds like you are wise for your years, too, Syke.

    I wish you the best as you work on this aspect of your personality. I admire your willingness to be open to change now that you have noticed something in yourself that has a potentially negative impact on others. Change isn’t easy, but it always seems to advance and grow us in ways we can’t anticipate before doing our personal work on those changes.

  • Barbara E Hughes

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve been dealing with anger issues that stem from not being in control of every little thing. My mom told me I was a control freak, and the shame I felt about that led me here. Your article helps me so much. Thank you again!

  • Ah, moms… the only people who tell us the truth about ourselves…. but I’m sorry that it made you feel shame. There’s no shame in needing control. And there’s no shame in expressing anger, if it’s done in a healthy way… i.e. does not impact others negatively.

    If your control-based anger is impacting others, it will be healthy for you to have a look at how to improve the ways you react when facing your own control issues. I hope your mother will be open to some constructive conversations about this as you work through this. It might help to make it clear to her that this is your own internal work, not hers to fix… but say this within the context of a constructive chat.

    I’m glad you’re finding my article helpful. It’s wanting a change in ourselves that leads to being able to accomplish it. Your awareness of your own issues is a great start, Barbara! I wish you well!

  • Elloxida

    Thank you Kate for sharing this article. While reading your experiences I identified with lots of those things. Things that I never sat to consciously consider even if in existence in the back of my mind. I enjoyed reading it a lot, and hopefully will help me in my way to being a better persona.

  • Dario

    Kate! this was an awesome coincidental article, the last months I was trying to figuring out why I was feeling so much anger and boredom at workplace mainly because things were stuck. I didn’t have so many things to do at work, I was dependent upon other guys, so I was trying to find out the origin of those feelings and trying to find ways to find patience and make other things at work but it didn’t help with negative feelings and started to affect my behaivour. However, I just figured out I was wrong in my quest for patience, I didn’t realize I am a control freak and YES my past work environment had developed my efficiency. In my current job, work environment is in another pace, I was conscious of that but I was blaming it. I didn’t realize my efficiency was the problem and my craving of accomplishment too. Just today, after googling “bossy” and “freak control”, i feel some kind of relief finding a deeper answer to my problems. I learned the hard way, my boss didn’t renew my contract despite my efficient and good work, but I know now what was generating all those negative feelings. THX.

  • Thanks for reading, Elloxida. I hope with you that some of my ideas might help you. You’re right, sometimes we don’t spend time considering things that dwell in the back of our mind in a somewhat bothersome way. It’s good to get those things out of the closet, dust them off, and check whether we still want to “wear” them. 🙂

  • You’ve had quite the breakthough, Dario. I’m glad for you, although I’m also sorry for you that you had to lose your job contract during your self– examination. Well you’ve begun the work now with your realizations and can move forward to coping better with various difficult (and boring 🙂 work situations that come your way.

  • Lance Avery

    Love the article, as many others have said, it is very relevant to who it is that I am… VERY critical of others; subsequently destroying my identity and quantity of friends. One thing I would be interested in asking you would be, how do I prevent this control freak surfacing when I am under stress/pressure? I am currently in my last few weeks of university, not having much of a life outside of studying unfortunately, but usually I aware of this behavior and attempt management of it. Yet lately, I have created confrontations and feel an idiot or the only way to survive is to be stubborn and lie to myself (which obviously I am not doing ha). Any thoughts would be highly appreciated, Thanks Lance.

  • Hi Lance. I’m happy you’ve found my article to be relevant to who you are. You’ve done well to observe something within yourself that you’d like to manage. You’re watching yourself “create confrontations” – it’s excellent that you can see that it’s you who is creating these situations. We can’t change others but we can certainly work on ourselves.

    Now that you’re aware of your behaviors, things will begin to improve. You ask how to prevent it surfacing when you’re under stress. None of us react well under stress or pressure, but this controlling aspect of ourselves can’t be turned off at will. What we can do is work on it gradually. It’s one of those one step at a time things. If you can make one conscious change today or this week, that’s a step forward.

    When you feel this negative/destructive behavior happening, take a deep breath and remind yourself about your working for change. Make an “affirmation” – perhaps use one of my points above, beginning with the one that feels best for you personally. If you’re with another person, apologize and talk to them about it. Apologies go a really long way to repairing anything that has happened! If you know them well, explain your personal work on this aspect of yourself. If you’re feeling brave that day, ask them for *constructive* feedback and/or suggestions from their point of view. Then *listen* rather than defending yourself. (See #s 3, 12, and 15 above.)

    You can do this. It will take time and tiny steps forward. In the meantime, don’t be hard on yourself. When you see your controlling behavior happen, tell yourself something like “I’m improving, I’m working on it, I’m happy even if I can’t control this situation / this person.” (Make up your own *positive* statement to pat yourself on the back.)

    I wish you the best. Congratulations on reaching out and getting started!

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  • Gavin

    Hi Kate,

    I’ve just read your article and feel a sense of relief now. As a kid, my parents (mother in particular) were extremely controlling and, on becoming a father I found myself doing exactly the same thing. Ironically, as a child I swore to myself that I’d never treat my kids the way that my parents treated me. To make matters worse, when my son didn’t do things the way I wanted I became very irritated and often angry. That has continued for twenty years and over that long time span, I have gotten even worse. When my kids question me or my motives I sometimes fly into a rage. The other day, I had a shouting match with my eldest son that ended up with me punching a hole in his bedroom door. This was the second time I had punched a hole in something. About six years ago I had another argument with the same son and punched a hole in the side of his drawer chest (and broke my little finger in the process). All because he didn’t do what I told him. Needless to say, my wife can’t stand being in the same room as me and I think that deep down she would like to be rid of me altogether.
    I swear, I have really tried hard to change – and it works for a few months but then, before I realize what’s happened, I’ve done it again. I then wish that an inner voice, or someone, had said something to me beforehand like, “Calm down, you’re getting worked up over nothing,” or “Go out for a walk and calm down.” I honestly don’t like being this way and don’t want to be this way but things happen so quickly that, before I have time to stop myself, the damage has been done.
    Reading your article has helped – I’ve been looking also at anger management articles because obviously in my case the two are closely connected.
    I’m gonna print out your article and read it every day, if I can. I’m on my very last chance with my wife now so I can’t afford a relapse. Wish me luck…

  • Gavin, I’m happy you think my article will be helpful. You seem to have come to the realization that any self-change is up to you, that you need to own your own responses and actions, and that your control issues are just yours and have nothing to do with anybody else’s preferences or ways of going about their lives.

    I’m very glad you’ve also decided to address your anger issues. Wanting to control others is one thing; our reactions to other people’s actions is another. Your reactions do seem somewhat extreme when others con’t behaving as you wish them to. I hope you explore this anger with a wider perspective too; I sense that you get quite angry over other things as well as how people behave.

    I wonder if you can share your thoughts and concerns with your wife, along with letting her know what you are doing to try and change some of these things in yourself. You might go even further and ask for her support. Between the two of you, you could come up with ways in which she could be helpful. Keep in mind that your work towards self-change is entirely up to you, and her encouragement for good changes in behavior is the best approach rather than reminders or advice from her if/when you slip and fall as you work towards improvements.

    I wish you the best as you proceed. Give yourself time and kudos as you go ahead. Change won’t happen instantly and it *will* take work. along with constant reminders to yourself about your goals and telling yourself that you *can* do it.

  • Debbie Kirkland

    Omg! I’m 56 and just realized what my problem is. I’m so embarrassed. I couldn’t figure out why no one cared about me. All I want to do is help others. I can’t even help myself! Help!

  • Vienna

    I realized I am a control freak over some people so I found this article. It really helps a lot.

  • Vienna, I’m glad you found Tiny Buddha. So many helpful articles here! I hope what I wrote about myself here does continue to help you. I myself come back and read it from time to time as a reminder-to-self. It takes an ongoing awareness to change aspects of ourselves that we want to improve upon, especially if the goal is to improve our relationships with people we care for. I wish you well.

  • Hon

    Ugg. My sister is a control freak. I think because her family is so lazy and rely on her for everything. She spills this over into my life. Always trying to improve or get me to do things I have no interest in. Often, when I resist, she has a tantrum, making me out to be a grouch or mean. I am a realist, I cannot find joy in things that dont appeal to me. I also cannot pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend. I know this about myself, but my sis refuses to accept the way I am. It has become a destructive force in my life.

  • Barbara

    Thanks so much for this. I know I’ve always has a tendency towards being controlling, but I’ve had lots of positive reinforcement for it in my career world (I’m a project manager – a perfect fit for our kind!), so never have been very motivated to change. But now I’m facing retirement and realize that if I don’t change my ways, I may very well alienate all the people I’m hoping to spend more time with. I had wondered whether it even was possible to change, so I am very grateful (and relieved) to read your article. Thanks again!!

  • So glad you found it helpful, Barbara! I wish you well as you work on your changes, and I wish you a very happy retirement!

  • Rerimoi Limo

    Thank you for the post Kate. I recently found out that I am controlling. Never in my wildest dream have I thought I was like that. I hope it hasn’t messed up things with my girlfriend. The best out if it is that I have seen my mistake and now it’s more about letting other do things their own way and enjoy the ride.

  • Congrats, Rerimoi, for being willing to work on yourself to starting making your relationships better. Your girlfriend will no doubt appreciate it; perhaps you could share your journey with her, even solicit her help. I wish you well as you begin making changes — one small step at a time.

  • Nicole

    This made me cry because I can relate. I’m really trying to let go of my control freak persona. Thanks for sharing.

  • You’re very welcome Nicole. I’m glad my words and experiences were able to touch you. I hope you can also find my “things I have learned” list helpful, just as a basis for building your own list as you work through your own control issues. I wish you the best on this new journey!

  • trekgrrl3

    I guess its no coincidence that I found this post, either. I have never really thought of my self as being overly controlling (maybe at times, overly), but maybe a ‘light or gentle controller’. I had some really bizarre, controlling behavior overcome me this weekend and I am ashamed for it. Thank you so much for this post… it brought such self realization forth, I cried. I feel horrible (and yet thankful that there are people who love me) about my controlling ways, regardless of my/their perceived severity. Bless you!

  • Thanks for your response, trekgrrl3. You’re right — I don’t believe in coincidences, so I’m glad you found my post helpful at a time you feel like you need it most! It’s great that you are loved, that any of us are loved despite our flaws, and certainly we all have them. Now that you’ve got a few ideas about how to proceed, perhaps you can lessen the impact of your lightly-controlling ways on those around you.

  • D Richo

    Hi Kate. Great article. I do have a question though….As a perfectionist/control freak myself I find I frustrate my partner too. We have many fights of him telling me to stop “nagging” him. I like how you said your husband controls all the housework however I doubt mine would agree to that. I would find that easier as I also have an all or nothing approach to a situation. So you can let it go easy as you are not dealing with half finished jobs (I say that loosely as what I call a finished job and what other people would call a finished job are too different things). How would you go dealing with still having to help but not as you were before when in total control

  • Abbey Wallace

    Hi Kate.
    Great article.
    I too am a control freak/perfectionist.
    I like how you said that your husband does the house work. That would be great however I doubt mine would be so keen on that agreement. I would find it much easier to ‘let go’ if I could completely turn a blind eye about the housework, but I have to find a way that doesn’t drive me crazy or him. So how do I stop being a control freak when Im the one that likes a tidy environment and he couldn’t care less? I see the mess and he is completely oblivious. He would wonder why we had no clean clothes or cups before he would think about doing a load or some dishes. We fight about my perfectionist ways a lot and I am worried it will go down the same path as your first marriage. I love him though and would love to hear your take on how I can help my end of this problem. Thanks

  • When I mentioned my hubby does the housework (note: I think that’s quite different from saying that he “controls the housework”), I meant that it is his choice to do it, not something I got him to agree to. I do some of it too sometimes, but not necessarily because he asks (he doesn’t), just when I decide to, to lighten the load when there is lots to be done. So there’s no “control” stuff going on. I don’t think of it as “having to help” but rather as an optional choice I’m making.

    No, I didn’t “let it go easy” and I am always “dealing with half finished jobs”. In my case, I worked on *myself* to learn to see those as not being half-finished, but rather as the way it is sometimes when he does the housework. Before, I was like you — my standards for the housecleaning were different. Please read that paragraph again, please… I made note of the ways in which I have had to adapt for this arrangement to work. That’s the important part of this particular control issue (the housecleaning).

    Hope that helps clarify for you.

  • Abbey, your comments are similar to those of D. Richo directly below, so please check out my reply there.

    I completely relate to “I’m the one that likes a tidy environment and he couldn’t care less”. I believe the key is right there in your own words. You want it done, or done in a certain way, and he doesn’t need it done or at least done in that way.

    To stop being a control freak, I learned that I needed to work on *myself*. If I want something clean, I need to do it, not try to get somebody else to do it. If I need it done to a certain standard, or at a certain time rather than later, etc., and if the other person doesn’t care whether it gets done or not, or when it gets done, that tells me that it’s me that has to do it. OR it’s me who needs to learn ways to adapt to a different schedule of when it gets done, and/or adapt to a lesser standard of completion than I once had.

    It was my choice to take that direction because I wanted to maintain and enjoy a good relationship with no control problems. To accomplish that, I had to learn and accept that it’s simply not fair on another person to expect them to do what I want done, especially when it’s only me who wants it done.

    It seems to me from my own experiences and watching other relationships that there can be a give and take in all of this. Starting from the premise of “no expectations” (on either side), a reasonable discussion can happen without fighting. Each of you could talk about what needs to be done and what doesn’t… and when it needs to be done or not.

    You could try the housecleaning thing his way for a while (no clean clothes or cups) and see how it works out. He will see how it works out too — you won’t need to point it out, so don’t. Avoid the “I told you so” stuff; that’s another control type of statement. Do it his way in an honest attempt to show him that you’re working on yourself, you’re willing to go part of the way in this, you’re learning to see what it’s like to do things a little differently. Work on yourself to find ways that the lower standards of housecleaning won’t drive you crazy.

    If it starts to feel unacceptable again, ask yourself — would I rather have a great, loving, non-controlling relationship or a cleaner house? One of my favorite sayings, and I can’t remember the source, is: “I’d rather be happy than right.” It applies to SO many things in relationships!

    I can’t emphasize it enough — releasing ourselves from the need to control is all about working on ourselves, and nothing about working on others to get our own needs met. Make sense?

  • jrpieces

    I haven’t had this personality all the time. I been getting worse over the last few years. I am getting worse and worse and I hate how I act towards people especially my Mother. I think it has to do with loss on license and not driving. My parents driving me everywhere. That’s only thing that I can think of.

  • Laurenne

    I’m a recovering control freak and I found this very helpful. The part “A craving for control is actually a craving for that feeling of accomplishment we all get when we complete something and/or do something well.” made a lot of sense to me, since I started becoming more of a control freak after I gave up my career and started traveling. And let me tell you, it took all the fun out of it!

  • I’m glad you found my article helpful, Laurenne. I hope you can find a way to both continue your travels and continue your personal growth and goals. Look for ways to find the feeling of accomplishment as you travel. Compared to career-based accomplishments, the daily little things may seem minor if looked at individually, but collectively they can form a pattern of “Yup, I did that, and that, and that!” I hope that helps you get the fun back in your travels!

  • Sally

    This is a timeless post that will hold true, possibly even more so in the future when the next generation find themselves in a highly exposed world that they may not feel they have control over.

  • Thank you for your kind words, Sally. I hope you’re right, that this post does help some people going forward. Seems like none of us has any control over so many things in our world these days. We can only control our own reactions and responses, and that takes constant practice! 🙂

  • Beca Gingerich

    I LOVED this article. My SO is so controlling and critical and it gets worse the more stressed he is. Its going to ruin us. I decided to go in serach of some tips we both can implement. I really think he will enjoy this and take from it.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Well I’m glad you found us here then, Beca! I hope your SO is feeling open to some of my ideas here. Based on my experience, can I suggest that you don’t push it while he’s thinking about all of this… for a person in the “control” state of mind, pushing and suggestions can make the need to control get stronger. Well, you probably know that already, right?

    Your SO will need to be self-motivated toward making a change. And if he’s willing to try a few of these ideas, It won’t make an overnight difference, so I hope you can be gentle, work it through together with him, one small step at a time.

  • fyrftr

    I just came across this article. Thanks for sharing. There is so much of me in this article. The real value for me was in the letting go part. The understanding for me is that everyone has different standards and values, that may not match my own. For example, I am obsessed with doing a job “right” but more relaxed about everything being in its place.

    I definitely have a penchant for efficiency. I cringe when I see someone doing something in a way that I think could be done more easily. I still struggle with unsolicited advice to others, though I am definitely more aware of how people may view it as criticism.

    Again, thank you and hope you are enjoying your retirement.

  • Prabin Sapkota

    Except for your personal stuffs, its just like you read my mind. I stumbled onto the work CONTROL FREAK as I watched FRIENDS season 2 today and Monica character was a control freak. I found myself similar to Monica and researched about control freak over the internet for details. Turns out, its what I am. All this time, I thought I am a selfish person. But, actually I am a control freak. I have only progressive people in my friends circle and I have only done works that mattered. I have always wanted to achieve great things and in doing so I was just focused on myself that I did not ‘wander around’ and just took the straight part. I think I have missed many major experiences of life like I gave up on sports to pursue only academics. Trust me the list goes on. But the strangest part is as I look back at past few months, I have unknowingly started making amends to make up for that lost part. I have been involving in different programs and making casual friends just for the heck of doing them. It seems not all things that we need to do have to be purposeful and not all people we meet have to be useful to us. Life is so great when it is imperfect. Even perfection is incomplete without imperfection. I am definitely gonna get this ‘control freak’ thing out of me now. I have already missed a lot of things in life. I have to catch up on them. Thank you for this day and thank you Kate.

  • You’re very welcome, fyrftr. I’m glad you’ve found something to identify with in my article. You’re right about the letting go part – so important in this process. And also, as you said, increasing awareness of how others feel about what we do and say.

    Yes, I’m *really* enjoying retirement! Thanks!

  • You are very welcome, Prabin. Glad I was able to help you reach a realization. I had to laugh at your comparison with the Monica character – so right on! Also, I wonder, as I read your comments, if there’s a direct correlation between selfishness and being a control freak. I mean, based on our self-defined characteristics of being a control freak, it’s pretty much thinking about ourselves, our own approaches, and wanting things to happen our own way. Something to think about?

    I’m impressed that you’ve found yourself already making amends and getting involved in new ways with people. All part of the process. And I really appreciate an important point you made… a statement that could be part of my list above! so I’m going to retype them here in their very own paragraph….

    “Life is so great when it is imperfect. Even perfection is incomplete without imperfection.”

  • Maria Surcel

    I am really struggling to get hold of this tendency. It’s mostly affecting my relationships, while making me very successful in my job as an executive (not as a manager though…). This is eye-opening and I know it’ll be hard to undo this behaviour but I am willing to try and push through. It is bringing me down sometimes, as I feel happiest when in control, when doing things, when achieving…and taking a step back means frustration for me at this point. but i know it’s because i’m not in control of my control freak 🙂 thank you for your words of wisdom.

  • I know exactly what you mean by “affecting relationships while making me very successful in my job…” I’m glad you’re at the point of being willing to make changes because rel’ships really are more important than any job stuff. Yes, some of us can feel happiest when in control – in fact, maybe all of us! – but believe me when I say there IS happiness of a better quality when you move away from the tendency to want to control *others* and group situations. Even as an executive, there are ways to achieve what you want, while empowering others to take control of some aspects toward your mutual goals at work. This self-change/growth project WILL take some self-Control (LOL), but I know you can do it because you sound very motivated. Don’t give up along the way, because there will also be a few not-so-successful times as you work for change. I wish you the best! You can do this, Maria!

  • Iamnot Tellingyou

    I know this article is fairly old now, but I’d like to thank you for candidly sharing your story and for providing such great suggestions. I realized today that I am a control freak and that I really need to change. Your article helped me to look beyond the shame that I feel about my behavior, and towards some solutions that will aid in my reflection and growth. Thank you.

  • Thank you for releasing a part of that shame you say you feel in order to post your comment here. First step toward acceptance and a willingness to change! It will take a while to work through this, finding solutions that work for you. I’m glad you found my personal list of what works for me.

    Yes, an older article, but people still find it regularly, I suppose because so many of us deal with this issue. So I’m glad Lori Deschene, Tiny Buddha Founder, keeps the article here on the website. I try to reply to everybody who comments because I do want to keep this page and my article top-of-mind for myself too. A lifetime reminder of who I was, who I am, and the daily journey I am on. Bookmark this page and keep coming back!

    P.S. What a fun ID “handle” you have! 🙂

  • Sway

    Sounds like you were an Alpha woman in a man’s world and finally decided that placating was better for relationships. Too bad men (and other women) can’t handle a strong woman leader. I presume you were not rude or overbearing, therefore, being that you were correct, you should’ve been ‘allowed’ to lead since you were clearly the better one for the job. Gender roles at play here big time. I do get that every once in a while its okay to go with the beta’s ideas if you aren’t looking for a job well done, or efficiently, timely, well thought out, but you shouldn’t have to do it as on-going as this article makes it seem. If you were a man, you never would’ve come to this same conclusion, not in a million years! You’d be respected among peers for being that Alpha male that others look to for direction, advice, and acceptance.

  • Austin G

    Like a guidebook to be at peace with myself. I often find myself at war because I’m constantly in control of everything . God willing, I will let things unravel themselves and just enjoy every moment for what it is rather than wanting to manipulate it.

  • Wonderful approach, Austin! It sounds simple, doesn’t it, and yet takes conscious practice ongoingly to be in the moment, to just see what comes along and let it unravel, as you call it. Keep at it, and I can tell you’ll succeed. You seem to have good instincts and inner wisdom.

  • Jon M

    The fix in this article seems too idealistic. I don’t believe she did it that way. Sorry. The author describes how she just “let her old self go.” Hmmm, I can’t imagine she just… let it go. Control freaks don’t do that, do they? I hate control freaks, and perfectionists. Maybe the title of this article should be “How a control freak cannot stop from controlling and is now trying to control herself from being a control freak.” Anyway, thanks for trying to help this problem out there.