7 signs of a controlling person

It is understandable to want to be in control of your life, and there is a healthy level of control we all must retain in order to direct our lives and pursue our goals and passions. However, if you have reached a point where you are wondering, “Am I controlling?” it’s likely you’ve passed the point of healthy control. When the need for control becomes excessive, it can cause more harm than good to your relationships, career and overall sense of well-being. 

It’s a common experience to begin the day worrying about not only your own to-do list, but also the needs and fears of loved ones, colleagues and even strangers. Although this worry-driven approach is not helpful in finding feasible, effective solutions for life’s uncertainties, it is oftentimes the only approach known by someone suffering from an excessive need for control. In due time however, the pursuit of control becomes exhausting. You’ll finally reach a point of asking yourself, “Why am I controlling?” 

As Tony Robbins says, “Changing yourself is the first step in changing anything else.” Learn the signs of a controlling person and take action now to learn to let go, and you’ll create the lasting fulfillment you’ve been craving.


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Why do I need to control everything?

A need for control is rooted in the Six Human Needs – the top needs every person has that drive every decision we make. Certainty, or the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure, is one of the most powerful of the human needs. Another human need that can contribute to a controlling personality is significance, or the need to feel needed.

When our Six Human Needs are not met, we begin to feel fear and self-doubt. Mental health experts report that people resort to controlling behaviors to gain a (temporary) fix for feelings of anxiety. The foundational (but likely unconscious) belief runs along the lines of, “If I can control my circumstances so they feel stable and functional, I can finally rest assured that all parts of my life will also run smoothly.” In pursuit of this unattainable goal of creating rock-solid security, it’s tempting to want to control everything around you, from your relationships to your finances, and even to other people’s lives.

If you find yourself asking “Am I controlling?,” it’s possible you grew up under the care of individuals who did not provide an adequate sense of safety or who, ironically, felt an inordinate need for control themselves. Perhaps you earned the love you craved most from adults who praised you for being “mature,” thus reinforcing your fear-based efforts at control. Children in such a predicament approach adulthood unable to shake the need for control unless they develop adequate alternative coping skills.

Am I controlling? 7 signs of a controlling person

Even under the best of circumstances, it’s easy to feel that everything must go your way for you to be at peace with your life. While this is true to a point – being a high achiever, for example, has obvious benefits for individuals and society – focusing on control without leaving room for growth is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t let an unrecognized, rigid need for control derail healthy relationships and fulfillment in life. Here are some telltale signs that you need to address your controlling personality – and change the answer to “Am I controlling?” to “no,” once and for all.

are you controlling

1.  You’re a people pleaser

You might have learned in childhood that pleasing people is the route to security and contentment. However, in adulthood, being too focused on pleasing others is a sure path to disappointment since it’s impossible to please everyone all the time.

2. You’re a perfectionist

The need for control often manifests in the pursuit of unattainable perfection. While it seems to make sense that perfectionism ensures success, the reality is that perfectionism is a double-edged sword, creating illusions of security and self-loathing. No matter what you achieve, you find yourself in a no-win bind.

3. You procrastinate

Here is the great irony of perfectionism: You want perfection so badly that you are overwhelmed by the steps necessary to achieve it. You fear displeasing others and the overwhelming workload it would take to achieve the impossible, so you put off any action whatsoever.

4. You are critical of others

Perfectionism and projection go hand in hand. When you are bent on perfection, you’re unable to accept the imperfect parts of yourself, which you then project onto others in the form of excessive criticism. When you’re overly critical of others due to the unreasonable demands you put on yourself, you set your relationships up for failure.

5. You only accept the best

Look for the ways in which you accept only the best or nothing at all. This type of black-or-white thinking fuels maladaptive behaviors that keep you dissatisfied with virtually everything.

6. You feel lonely

Perfectionism and its companion, self-loathing, can cause us to isolate from others due to a fear of rejection. Failing to recognize that the real reason behind our need for control stems not from others’ actions, but from our own lack of self-confidence. We become unable to connect with others due to the unreasonable demands we place on them.

7. You can’t let mistakes go

You cry over spilt milk and take everything personally, whether or not it has anything to do with you or your performance. This approach leads to interpersonal results that will derail almost all your relationships.

How to let go of the need for control

Now that you know the signs of a controlling person, you’re likely able to answer the question “Am I controlling?” honestly. If the answer is “yes,” don’t worry. There are four actions you can take to help relieve your need for control.


1. Recognize your anxiety

Perfectionism and control are ultimately about anxiety – although you may not notice if you never stop yourself from controlling everything. If you have a controlling personality, the next time you have an urge to redo a task or tell someone how to do something, stop yourself. How do you feel? Recognize your anxiety, take some breaths and let it pass.

2. Change your self-talk

Once you’re able to recognize your feelings, you’ll be able to replace negative thoughts with empowering ones, shift your mindset and control your anxiety – and your need for control. Instead of dramatic thoughts about horrible things happening, ask yourself how realistic your fears are. What’s really the worst that could happen? When you change your words, you change your life.

change self talk


3. Practice communication

The answer to “Am I controlling?” might also be “sometimes.” You may live with both individuals who are dependent on your ability to “control” the situation (like your children) and those who want you to back off (like your partner and colleagues). This scenario can put you in an uncomfortable corner, but the key is communication. Listen to your partner’s needs. Ask your colleagues how you can improve. Relinquish a bit of control with your children. The need for control doesn’t have to ruin relationships.

4. Adopt relaxing habits

Healthy habits like meditation, priming and visualization can help you ease anxiety, focus your energy and take a step back from worrying, “Why do I need to control everything?” Self-care is another essential practice if you have a need for control. Make taking a time out part of your daily routine, and you’ll see instant benefits in your state of mind.




Ready to understand the answer to “Why do I need to control everything?”

Discover your human needs and the root of your need for control by taking Tony Robbins’ Driving Force  quiz