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Are you in control of your life?

Seven concepts to help tackle the irrational fear of the unknown and the illusion of being in control

OK, confession. I watched ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ the other day. What struck me is how Kim was so worried about how she looked in one of the sneaky pictures snapped when she wasn’t looking. This woman, who wants (us) to believe she’s flawless, was aghast when she was actually presented to the world in her normal appearance, complete with flaws, just like you and me. To be honest, I have tons of unflattering pictures that I’d rather never show anyone, so I understand her initial frustration. And I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes! However her devastation over this was actually very painful to watch. She was so horrified that she didn’t seem to enjoy her holiday anymore. Which was, if you ask me, in one of the most idyllic and beautiful places on earth. Instead, she kept on obsessing over comments made and sulking over not being able to control the situation.

What a waste of time. What a waste of energy.

I continued watching that episode because I was waiting for that moment someone would shake her, wake her up, telling her to stop controlling what’s out of her control anyway.

But no one did.

And I’ve been there. Plenty of times! Telling myself I was in control of a situation, and then, guess what, life happened! Thinking I was in control gave me power. Understanding I wasn’t made me feel miserable. Not knowing what’s coming induced fear and was quite paralyzing. Fear of the unknown is probably the most irrational, yet one of the most common forms of anxiety I have ever experienced. Thankfully, I’ve come across some realizations that have helped me overcome this irrational feeling. So here are a few reminders and concepts that I want to pass on that hopefully resonate with you too.

1. Understand that your reality is an illusion.

Everyone on this planet has their own reality. There is not one universal truth; we are all individual beings thinking our individual thoughts. We all perceive reality in different ways. Whatever you think to be true, is just your own mind, and only your own mind. Whatever you are scared of, is in your head. Perception is reality, as they say. For more info on the subject, check out: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4450994/Reality-based-brains-expect-see.html

2. It’s none of your business what other people think of you.

My personal favourite. People don’t think nearly as much of you as you might be telling yourself. And what they think is completely out of your control. Whatever your actions, essentially what people think of that is up to them, and up to them alone. People will think things about you, or say things about you. Regardless of what you do. Understanding this will help with accepting this (and therefore not putting too much thought or care into this) too.

3. You can’t be friends with everyone. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

Be honest with yourself, are you always nice to people? Or do you judge people based on how they look, how they behave, etc.? Are you friends with everyone you know? From your neighbours to the dry cleaners to your co-workers? I bet not. And that’s fine, right? Thankfully we’re on this planet with many people. You don’t have to be an asshole, but you don’t have to be friends with everyone either. You can have differences of opinion and still co-exist. Just try to be mindful and respectful when acting and reacting.

4. Accept that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Fighting or resisting things generally won’t do you any favours. Don’t get me wrong; make plans, learn, grow, explore, try, try harder, live your dream. I am not saying ‘just wing it’ or don’t put in any effort at all. BUT, if for some reason things don’t work out, the worst thing you can probably do is resist. The key here is to accept that something has happened you didn’t quite plan for, nor you were in control of, and go on with life as best you can. Is it beneficial for you to keep sitting in a rut? Does that help move things forward? I bet you it is not. The whole song with more words of wisdom can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5BBEOjUKrI

5. How big is your problem really, in light of where you are right now, this little speck of dust within the whole universe?

Another way of understanding how your seemingly enormous problem really is quite small, is to physically locate yourself. Start from where you are right now, sitting in a chair. Then zooming out, visualizing the building you’re in, going to and seeing the whole street, the town, the state, the whole country. Going beyond the clouds and seeing this tiny little dot from outer space where you are sitting. And even further into the galaxies and beyond. Where are you now? How small are you and how small is your issue? Does it really matter?

6. It’s not about you.

This one was a bit of a painful realization for me. But you know, most things people do, they are not all about you. Yes, people’s actions may affect you, but think about it. In your mind, you are the center of the universe. All other people are just elements, additions or obstacles in your life that you need to navigate through. I don’t mean to say they are less valuable than you, but we often tend to think the whole world revolves around us. So when people do things, we often project that they’re doing something against us, in spite or despite of us. When in fact, most often it is not about you, it is about them. Realizing this can be very freeing.

7. Understand the difference between judgement, feelings, needs and requests.

Understand that a negative feeling is a result of an unresolved need or request. Once you identify where the unhappy feeling comes from (because you have an unmet need to be heard for instance) you have the ability to fix it. A happy state of being doesn’t need resolving, so you can simply move on. According to the principles of NVC (non-violent communication), objectively seeing the situation without blame or criticism (judgement) can help provide clarity and understanding and create a pathway to modify a certain negative feeling. Ask yourself what you observe (see/hear/remember, free from evaluations), how you feel (emotions or sensations, rather than ‘I thought’ which is judgement), what you need or value that causes your current feeling (e.g. you might have a need for connection, acceptance, to be understood, etc.) and what you would request to get your need met (without demanding anything). NVC has really helped me put things in perspective which has given me huge relief this past year.

Kim chose to be controlled about what loads of people she didn’t even know thought of her. Instead, she could have focused on her friends and family. It seemed like she was surrounded by a lot of people who cared for and loved her. She seemed to be in a beautiful spot. It was completely up to her where to project her energy towards. 

Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.

Further reading on this:
– https://www.huffingtonpost.com/eleni-makedonas/everything-youve-ever-wan_b_6869356.html
– https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/everything-youve-ever-wanted-other-side-fear
– https://tinybuddha.com/blog/finding-happiness-on-the-other-side-of-fear/

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