“Selfishness is not living your life as you wish to live it. Selfishness is wanting others to live their lives as you wish them to.” ~Oscar Wilde
My mother is a huge control freak. I am told she got it from my grandmother, who basically ran everyone’s life.
Regardless, growing up, I noticed that she really struggled with relinquishing control of what we were all doing with our lives.
It was partly out of love because she just wanted what was best for us, and partly because she feels a sense of panic when she doesn’t know what’s going to happen if the person chooses to go in a different direction than she envisions as the “right” one.
I inherited my own need to be in control of everything and everyone from her. It took me a long time to learn how to surrender to what was and let go. Not just of the things happening in my own life, but what others close to me were doing.
I know that when I am outside of somebody else’s personal situation I have much more perspective because I’m not emotionally invested in their drama the way they are. At least, I think I’m not.
See, that’s the big fallacy! I have come to realize that I do actually get emotionally invested, and I hold onto an expectation that the person will take my advice and do what I so clearly think is the right thing for them.
Let’s be real—do we really know what the right thing to do is for another person?
I recently had a great conversation with a close friend of mine who is incredibly advanced on his spiritual path. We were discussing a mutual friend of ours who is currently in a relationship with a woman we know is absolutely wrong for him.
We have pointed out all the warning signs we see. He has also admitted that he sees them himself and senses them, but still he cannot walk away from the relationship.
I was expressing my sadness and frustration over my friend not taking my advice or hearing me. I said, “What else can I say to him so he gets that this is a huge mistake?”
My friend calmly replied, “You’ve said everything you need to. Now you need to relinquish control over the situation and allow his soul to have the experience it wants to have. Maybe his soul needs to have a horrible, destructive relationship to get him to the next level of his learning.”
Wow. Why hadn’t I seen that?
It is true that we don’t know the journey that each person’s is on. And we need to allow the people in our lives to make choices that feel right to them—because what is right for us may not be right for another person.
When I started to relinquish control over what everyone in my life was doing, I started to feel a huge shift in my energy.
I realized that by just “holding space” for people, which, according to Heather Plett, means “being willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them or trying to impact the outcome,” I was able to be of better service to them, and in turn allow them to follow their own path.
Letting go of others' decisions and any expectations we have of them has a number other benefits. Some of the ones I found were great motivators for me.
1. You have more energy to focus on yourself.
What a difference I felt when I stopped obsessing and worrying over every single friend’s problem and trying to figure out how to fix it for them.
I didn’t realize how draining it was for me to take on everyone else’s “stuff.” When I started to let go of what other people were doing to fix their own problems, I found I had way more energy to focus on me.
2. It can be more empowering to just listen rather than “fix.”
People don’t always needs us to “fix” things. What they need when they come to talk to us is to feel heard. Nobody likes to be told what to do.
Releasing control of what the people in my own life decided to do enabled me to be a better listener since I was spending less time thinking of ways to “fix” their problem.
3. We develop trust.
When we can surrender to what is, allow things to unfold, and realize that every experience serves a purpose, we start to trust that whatever happens may really be for the best.
Relinquishing control and allowing things to play out without our interference can reveal some surprising outcomes that we never could have planned and ultimately be the best for everyone involved.
4. It strengthens our relationships with others.
When my mother started to release her tight grip on everything I did, we became closer. I understood how difficult this was for her to do, and I had a lot of respect for her.
By not telling people what to do all the time, we are essentially saying to them, “I trust you to make the best decision for you.” This really strengthens our relationships with them when they believe there is a mutual trust and respect for their judgment and choices.
5. We learn something new when we watch how others do things.
I always thought I had all the answers. Clearly not since my life has been in shambles many times over. There is so much we can learn from others when we observe the way they do things. The next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, we may find that their way was the better way.
When we reflect on all of the reasons it serves us to let go of controlling others, it’s a great excuse to allow the people in our live to follow their own path. Whether it’s the right path or the wrong path is not for us to decide. It’s simply their path.
Letting go image via Shutterstock