To thine own self be true. (William Shakespeare)
Be brave, be bold, be beautiful. This is your life, don’t be afraid to stamp your name all over it.
To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance. (Oscar Wilde)
Controlling people pervade all walks of life. We may know them through business, social or even family connections. It is often difficult to recognise when someone is trying to exercise control over us and our choices, as their words and actions can be cleverly disguised as thoughtful advice or mutually beneficially recommendations. However, exposing our unprotected selves to the control of others can have an extremely damaging effect on our self-esteem, confidence and sense of identity. Over time, controlling people can erode our self-worth to the point that we begin to question our instincts and no longer trust or value our own judgement. This results in a very unhealthy state of being that can impact upon all corners of our existence.
Never compromise yourself
Spotting when someone in our lives is being controlling can be very difficult. We may have known the person our whole lives and have firmly established relationship dynamics with them. Contrastingly, they may be a work colleague, whose own lack of self-respect and dissatisfaction drives him/her to exercise a petty reign of control over others. This latter situation can be tricky to deal with, especially if we are new to a job and are trying to get along and impress. However, it is always worth remembering that nothing and no-one deserves compromising our self-worth for.
It is a fact that there will always be people willing to take their insecurities out on others, who try to stop others from reaching their full potential and who enjoy minimising others’ achievements in order to boost their own ego. It is therefore essential to recognise when people are behaving as such, so that we can flourish and succeed in our own right despite their resistance. By asserting ourselves against such people, we are reestablishing our independence as a free-thinker and autonomous individual, thereby defining boundaries which serve to protect our wellbeing.
Reestablish the dynamics
Controlling people are often jealous people. One way to spot them is by their unwillingness to “let” us organise and keep our own social engagements, to develop and maintain our own social networks, or to take responsibility for things that do actually concern us. For example, a senior work colleague not allowing us access rights to information or equipment that would actually help us to do our job better. Instead, they insist that we go through them every time we need something. This is a clear display of someone attempting to control the power dynamics in a relationship. A completely different scenario might be that of a close friend, relative or partner who chooses when to invite/exclude us to/from their social engagements, but insists on accompanying us to all of ours without first asking. These types of situation can lead us to feel alternately dangled on a thread and smothered, without us necessarily recognising that we are party to a controlling relationship.
When the controlling person is someone we are emotionally connected to, for example, a friend, relative or partner, it can be much harder to assert ourselves. Particularly when the dynamics of the relationship are already established, it can seem awkward or unnatural to start to voice our thoughts or objections. However, if we don’t stand our ground in the face of controlling people, we risk being taken advantage of, agreeing to things we don’t really want to do, that aren’t in our best interests, in order to maintain the status quo. It is our reluctance to change the flow and pace of the relationship, combined with their unwavering belief in their ability to always get their own way, that controlling people rely upon. Breaking any cycle of control, no matter how established the relationship dynamics, is therefore essential if we are to operate freely on our terms.
Protecting our reserves
In real life, controlling people cannot be avoided. However, we can be ever mindful that they exist, taking heed of the signs and developing strategies to prevent their intrusion upon our personal rights and sense of value and identity. Remember that the people who really care about us will respect our wishes and needs, and will be able to take “no” for an answer. Petty work colleagues who rely upon futile regimes of control in order to divert from their own lack of achievement should always be recognised as such, and exiled from our emotional reserves. Being confident in prioritising our own needs above the demands of others is one way of protecting ourselves from the claws of controlling people. Sometimes, simply saying “no, that doesn’t work for me” can be a powerful defence mechanism. Knowing that we have the right to our thoughts, opinions, decisions and actions, and having the confidence to assert that right in any given situation, is key to preserving our wellbeing, dignity and happiness.