By the time I turned 22, I learned to fear heartbreak from my ex. I learned to fear touch from my rapist, and I learned to dislike my body from illness. By the time I turned 23, however, I realized my beliefs had claimed control of my life, and that was not okay! Because these beliefs, this lack of control, was MY doing. And in seven incredibly freeing steps, I made it my mission to reclaim control of my life. So can you!
1. I gave myself permission to make the hard choices.
Listen, no one needs to tell me what time I should take my shower or what song is best for today’s workout, but the same goes for the big decisions. Should I quit my job? Should I keep trying to make this relationship work? Should I spend my money on a better place to live or a trip to Peru? Who knows?! But it certainly isn’t up to anyone else to decide.
The minute I stopped asking permission and started taking responsibility for my choices, was the minute my internal switch went off. If I made the choice, I want the choice to succeed. If I want the choice to succeed, I’ll work harder to make that happen! Bam! Self-fulfilling prophecy.
And listen, I sure as hell don’t need my rapist to tell me it’s okay to love myself or my ex to allow me to move on. That’s MY choice!
2. I allowed myself to fail.
The risk with making your own choices, of course, is failing. And more specifically, failing with no one else to blame. Between you and me, I don’t like looking up the end of my own index finger.
But let’s be real: some of life’s greatest experiences come from trial-and-error, and learning while fumbling. So, to reclaim control of my life, I had to let myself fail. And let myself fail again. And tell others just how badly I failed, without blaming anyone – not even myself! And when I did that, something magical happened: I started learning from my mistakes.
3. I owned up to my quirks.
I am a frizzy red-head with an off-tempo humor and a confused sense of sarcasm. Take it or leave it, but I will no longer hide it!
The biggest change in taking back control of my life was claiming control and pride for my identity. I don’t need to be the glamorous girlfriend that one guy always wanted. I don’t need to be the shy little kid my parents once knew. They can judge me or love me, but I will still be me. Because the only way to take control of one’s life is to be fully, authentically present in every minute of that life.
4. I respected my limits.
I don’t know about you, but I find adulthood to be a lot of work. Projects, bills, laundry, cooking … laundry. Did I mention the laundry? I would make to-do lists of what I need to accomplish, and I’d only ever finish the first two or three items on the list. Sometimes I put self-care on the list; most days, I didn’t. And the cycle repeated day in and day out, until I finally added a new mantra to my list: STOP IT!
Listen, as a 20-something woman, you become adept at saying ‘no.’ In some parts of your life; in others, the world could walk all over you with a million delegated tasks and you would keep saying ‘yes.’ WTF (you know, in a ‘well, that’s funny,’ sort of way)! But no one can do everything.
So when I started to respect my limits, when I started reaching out for help and collaboration, I started to find even more success and control in this wonderful life. I started admitting to my strengths and my weaknesses. I started growing in ways that allowed me to do more. And I started scheduling that ‘me time’ where I said to the rest of my responsibilities: STOP IT! This hour’s all mine.
5. I said ‘thank you’ more often.
Raise your hand if you ever said ‘sorry’ one too many times. Yes, my hand is in the air. Every time I was walking in someone’s path, every time I didn’t succeed at a task, every time I broke up with someone. Truth be told, I even apologized to my rapist; god forbid he was hurt!
And I had enough. There is a time and place for an apology, and there is nothing stronger than admitting when you are wrong. But you are not always wrong. Sometimes, there will be pain – for you, for the other person – and it’s okay. We can appreciate being wrong. And, we can start to thank the world, ourselves, and the other person for allowing us to experience this awkwardness, sorrow, or whatever it may be. I’m not saying you should thank a criminal in your pants, but how about thanking the dude who plays sidewalk mambo with you this afternoon as you shuffle for who is going to move left or right?
6. I took chances and chose risk.
We are taught so many standards in life – from movies, faith, family. We absorb so many expectations of the ‘norm’ that we lose ourselves in a standardized path. But who here actually likes standardized exams?! So then why are we letting life become one, too?
Possibly the hardest choice to make when taking control of our lives is the choice that defies the norm. But that might just be the risk our lives need. I for one am excited to find out!
7. I decided to dream.
Most importantly, though, when taking control of my life, I fell asleep. Come on! This adulting stuff is hard work!
But really, I fell asleep in the day. With my eyes open. With my dreams sky high. I fell into a pattern of making every minute as majestic and poignant as the world in my imagination. And in doing so, I claimed control of my own happiness. No man, no job, no success in the world could overpower the joy of waking up to our very own dreams.
So what in this beautiful world are you waiting for? Take back that control. Exercise your ‘no.’ And live in your dream, because this life is YOURS to lead.