Can you teach a control freak to become more chill?
Food and body issues are a manifestation of the underlying fear that everything is falling apart. It’s a way we try to mitigate the panic of being alive. If we don’t control and micromanage this, we’re all screwed. We can’t trust anything to work if we aren’t actively controlling it and tending to it. Disaster. Chaos. Destruction.
The idea is that by controlling the way you eat, and therefore (we hope) our looks and health and mortality, we can save ourselves from being powerless and/or mortified and/or judged or… fill in the blank.
We’re not usually fully aware of this panic, it’s still the thing running the show. We are afraid of being alive. We are afraid of dying. We are afraid we have to be the ones to fix and control and heal everything.
We are making the stakes for everything so extremely, unnecessarily high. And if we don’t ____________ then _____________ will happen and it will be all our fault. And we will live or die in misery, wishing we tried harder.
Taking action is great, but the panic, control, and worry is just not a sustainable way to live.
So the biggest advice I can give anyone who identifies with being a perfectionist or a control freak is to lower the stakes.
Unless you are performing brain surgery, or conducting a military coup, or … well, doing anything with legitimately high stakes… you are making the stakes too damn high.
Catching that train, looking amazing in your pants, making sure your children finish their yogurt, making sure you buy the right yogurt, getting the best seat in the restaurant, making them like you… all are things with low stakes.
Most of the things we do throughout our days and our lives are very low stakes, but still, we hype it up to feel like if this doesn’t go the-way-I-arbitrarily-think-it-should, everything is going to fall apart.
The underlying belief that things are supposed to go a certain way, and we are supposed to single handedly make them go that way, is crazy making. And so many of us are operating under that programming.
The (il)logic of it tends to go something like this: I have to make things go a certain way and make them think I’m doing so well, or else I am failing, and if I fail, I will become ugly and poor and nobody will love me and then I’ll die and people will roll their eyes at my funeral.
You can’t live your life to try and eliminate eye-rolling at your funeral.
And that leads us to another side of this: the illusion of control.
We have some control over what is right in front of us. And we can take action. And that… is about it.
Everything else is out of our control. The results? Other people’s actions? Other people’s opinions? We can’t do anything about it. Nothing.
So we can walk around with the stakes unnecessarily high, feeling like we have control over everything that is happening, worrying that we are letting it all fall apart, and failing, and letting everyone down. But we are just making ourselves miserable, stressed, and sick.
You can let go. You can lower the stakes. And you can let go of your control. You don’t much control anyway.