• Cheryl Sol

Are you a Control Freak?



Being called a control freak is an uncomfortable and annoying term for the person involved unless it is used jokingly by you about yourself. Probably others find it a problem and you do not. It is your norm and it is about how you create a sense of safety and predictability in your world.


Read below and see if any of these characteristics apply to you ……….


  • You find it difficult to just go along with things if you haven’t had a major hand in deciding/organizing them

  • You are particular about the way things get done and can’t relax if they are done differently by someone else, even if the outcome is the same.

  • While you may recognize there are more ways than one, your way is the best.

  • You don’t easily delegate tasks to anyone because to have it done properly you must do it yourself.

  • You don’t like to lend things out to others, even “reliable borrowers” for fear that they will spoil them or forget to give them back

  • Others can experience you as critical

  • You can tend to be a perfectionist

  • You always have to have the last say even if you don’t realize it.

  • Those who live or work with you might find your standards too high.

  • You don’t see a need to change. You would prefer others to change and get in line with your way of thinking and doing things.

Here are some examples :-

If you are going on holiday, it is not easy to let someone else organize even a part of it. Generally, if you have let others be part of it, you may change the plans later to be more comfortable that they are how you wanted them in the first place.


If you are a boss, you may need to know what everyone is doing and to be telling them how to do it. You might micromanage and be less democratic in your management style. That is, you may tend to make the decisions and expect people to carry them out rather than brainstorming and having others input.


If you have control issues, you may appear outwardly to others and yourself to be in charge, but you may have a strong underlying anxiety that is only apparent when things feel out of control. You may even experience this anxiety as anger or rage which calms down when things are back the way you would want them. That is when things feel safe and comfortable.

This anxiety could have many causes, but often it is about underlying, maybe unrecognized, fears of failure or inadequacy in some area of your life e.g. work, relationships etc.

Your anxiety might also be that if things are not perfect, they will unravel and be completely out of control. You will not need to recognize or experience this anxiety as long as you can keep up your achievements, be efficient, keep others co-operating and be assured that your partner or children are loyal to you and don’t challenge you.


Ways of controlling others, and hence your own anxiety, may range from inducing guilt, creating fear or insisting that you have your way one way or the other. There are many ways to do this.

A common saying of a control freak is “if you can’t do it properly, don’t bother to do it at all”. If you have control issues you are more likely to be an all or nothing person. If standards are not perfect there are no standards at all. There is a difference between trying to be competent, committed, organized and reliable and being obsessive about how things are done.

People with these kinds of values tend to very easily feels stressed, irritated and annoyed with others. It can be like being too thin skinned.


However, the means to maintain this control and the cost of doing it might be high. When some life crisis manifests that you have no control over e.g. you partner leaves you, your business fails, etc you may not have alternative coping skills to deal with this.


In reality, we can’t control others, but we can create the illusion for ourselves that we can.

It is more likely that you will lose someone by trying to control them than by loosening up. It is more likely that when your children grow up they will willingly come back if you are less controlling. It is more likely that your level of competence will sustain itself when you are being realistic and sharing the load with others. It is more likely that your employees will be loyal when you enable them to grow and be a part of decision making.


Some signs of good emotional health are :-

  • to be able to be flexible to others’ ideas

  • to sometimes be able agree to disagree

  • to enable others to grow and make their own mistakes.

Ultimately the most useful thing is to recognize the cost of control on yourself, your health, your relationships and to work on developing an understanding of its meaning for you and how to safely and slowly develop new skills.