Many of us feel “controlled” by another person periodically, and maybe even on a daily basis. Other people can have an extreme impact on our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. The truth is, each of us is allowing that person to take that control. We give them power over ourselves and our functioning, and this can greatly impact weight loss efforts and staying on track, as well as truly disrupt our lives. We can say “He made me so mad.” “She didn’t let me exercise.” “He made me feel guilty so I couldn’t do it.” etc.; but, truthfully, we each impact our own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors by how much we let others impact us.
Sometimes the amount of emotion we experience based on other people becomes debilitating to our own functioning, in minor and major ways. You may physically shut down, become depressed, isolate, develop anxiety about monitoring your behavior, go against your values/desires/goals, and not live life in a way you choose. You may blame others for not meeting your goals, such as why you cannot lose weight or eat healthily. You may become angry and resentful, more negative in your overall presentation, and begin to feel more dreadful about life in general; or become complacent about change or believe change is not possible.
Even as a psychologist with pretty good self-insight I am aware there are certain people in my life whom I allow the ability to take power over my emotions and behavior. It takes ongoing recognition of this, self-observation, and positive self-talk to talk myself down from the heightened emotion, and try hard not to let it impact my choices, my day, my week, etc. It is the people we care about the most who have the greatest ability to impact us in these ways. And, don’t fool yourself, when you find yourself saying you “don’t care” about someone or something, but your mood/choices/thoughts are continually impacted by them, you do care – even if that emotion is severe disdain. It is when we are neutral and experience no emotion, positive or negative, about someone or something that we truly “don’t care.”
Allowing others to take power over us comes from a multitude of factors. This may be an expression of your lack of self-confidence, feeling controlled throughout your upbringing, continuing to allow parents/friends/family to assert dominance in your life, feeling controlled by a partner, disappointment in yourself for failures along the way, baggage from past relationships continuing to control you now and also impacting current relationships… the list goes on. The problem is that, whatever underlies it, allowing others to have control over our thoughts, feelings, and behavior only intensifies these negative emotions, and we can turn into depressive and negative beings. This type of attitude will pose great difficulty with creating lasting, positive, healthy change within yourself.
In Amy Morin’s book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” she talks about people allowing others to assert power over them in chapter 2, titled “They Don’t Give Away Their Power.” This entire book is a terrific read for establishing personal positive change in any area of your life, and I highly recommend it.
In her book, she provides examples of “Empowering Other People to have Power over You.” Ask yourself these things…
- Are you deeply offended by criticism or negative feedback?
- Do other people make you feel so angry you say and do things you regret?
- Do you change your goals based on what other people think?
- Does the type of day you’re going to have depend on how other people behave?
- When other people guilt you into doing something do you do it, even when you don’t want to?
- Do you work hard to be sure other people see you in a positive light because your self-worth depends on how others perceive you?
- Do you spend a lot of time complaining about other people and circumstances you don’t like?
- Do you often complain about all of the things you “have to” do in life?
- Do you go to great lengths to avoid uncomfortable emotions, such as embarrassment or sadness?
- Do you have difficulty setting boundaries, but then feel resentful toward people who take up your time and energy?
- Do you hold a grudge when someone offends or hurts you?
If you answered yes to one or more of the items above, you are allowing others to take power over you and control your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Not allowing for this takes self-confidence, understanding your values and goals, having a plan for how you want your life to look, and working toward your goals regardless of what others may think.
Disclaimer: of course, asserting ourselves and living in terms of our values and goals should not hurt other people. It is merely important we do not allow others to get in the way of healthy goals, let negative emotions stop us from engaging in positive behavior, accept responsibility for our lives, and stop blaming others for our failures. Sometimes your positive changes may disrupt the household, or somehow impact another person in your life. Be cognizant of this, but do not let it stop you. Problem solve with others, communicate your needs, and be assertive as you need to. Just because anyone else does not like your choice, even a partner/child/family member/friend/employer, it does not mean it is not the right choice.
Stopping yourself from allowing others to have this control over you takes identifying personal values, goal identification, understanding of why these things are important to you, clarifying order of importance in your value system and goals, developing greater self-awareness, and perseverance despite negative emotions, situations, thoughts, days, weeks, and interpersonal stress. More on these topics in future posts!
Be true to yourself, be real, be confident, and be assertive!
Amy Morin, LCSW… http://amymorinlcsw.com/
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do… http://amymorinlcsw.com/mentally-strong-people/