Life & Stuff · Mental Health

The Undoing Series: The Control, Create, Compete Culture Cycle

In the last podcast episode, I came up with this idea: Control, Create and Compete Culture. We’ll call it the 3Cs. Today I will be walking you through what I mean by these things and why we (some of us) have a toxic relationship with them in our society today.

Control

Firstly, control. I have a bad relationship with control as someone who has an anxious/turbulent personality. I like to be in control or feel in control of everything around me. That doesn’t mean I like to step up and take lead, it means when someone else is leading I just don’t want to show up in those scenarios or I limit them or fret the whole time I’m in them!

Control is something we all desire at some point. The reason we fear the future is because we can’t control it. We fear trying new things because we don’t know if we can do them and therefore have little control over the outcome.

Why do we strive for control? Because controlling means minimising undesirable outcomes. Control means minimising pain and suffering.

The problem with this one should be obvious: we can’t control everything and trying to is a recipe for failure and upset. Instead there are a small number of things we can actually control.

Things we can control:

  • What we do each day
  • What we say
  • How we dress
  • How we treat people
  • What we eat
  • What we focus on
  • How we choose to see ourselves, our lives, and the world and life we live in
  • How we deal with our emotions and thoughts

Things we can’t control:

  • Other people
  • What happens in the world
  • The weather
  • The outcome or perspective others take on our actions
  • What people think about us
  • Who loves us
  • Who or what we love (not really)
  • What we think (I know people usually put these on the other list, but more often than not we have uncontrollable thoughts; it takes a lot, at times, to shift those thoughts so I put it here)
  • When we die; or when others die

The point is too many of us try to control the things outside of ourselves and this sets us up to feel bad. We control with such strictness because we fear that the narrative of ourselves and our lives will be lost if we ever let go of the wheel.

This is not true.

Create

I know what you’re thinking, how can this be bad? I agree. Creation of all kinds is beautiful and needed in the world. However, I don’t mean creativity here, I mean the creation of a personal narrative. We are all playing this game one way or another. The game of “look at my life, look at me, I’m worthy, see??”

And isn’t that sad?

Because it means we don’t quite feel good enough about ourselves to get that validation and self-worth from within. We are constantly posting on social media or showing off to our friends and co-workers in order to be deemed worthy and valued.

You may disagree. And if this wasn’t my own post, I probably would, too. I don’t think I show off. I barely post on socials anymore. I’m not seeking validation! But I am. Otherwise I wouldn’t have cried myself to sleep thinking I’m not good enough. I typed in my journal app that I know how great I am in reality but it frustrates me that no one sees me the way I am. That I find it hard to articulate myself properly. That my inner world is richer than how I present myself in the outer world.

Translation: I don’t feel validated, seen, approved of, valued, understood by other people.

People who feel comfortable (or even better, confident) in who they are and what they do don’t seek it from outside of themselves. Again, it’s an uncontrollable metric for success, happiness and worthiness. You can’t control what other people think of you and it is not a sustainable source of energy for you.

So, we are all creating this narrative to prove we are worthy, but this is a waste of our talents. A waste of our storytelling abilities.

Compete

Of course the last one is more obvious: we are all competing with one another. I’m getting breathless, running this race. My neck hurts from looking all around me at what other people are doing and how happy and successful and worthy they are compared to me.

Common competitions:

  • My house is bigger than yours
  • My car is cooler than yours
  • My house or car is more expensive than yours
  • My hair is curlier and bigger than yours
  • My hair is longer and sleeker than yours
  • My knowledge of World History is better than yours
  • My wage is bigger than yours
  • My partner is hotter than yours
  • My meals are better than yours
  • My savings account and investments are better than yours
  • My social media accounts are attracting more attention than yours
  • My abs are better than yours
  • And so on…

These 3Cs are all linked because we control our lives to create a narrative in order to compete with other people and win at life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re not doing this on purpose. Most people don’t realise the toxic cycle of controlling, creating and competing that they are stuck in. I didn’t, until the idea came to me in the podcast about overwhelm. Because it is overwhelming to constantly feel like you have to control everything; you have to be on your A-game to create a perfect image of yourself; that you are in a race against other people.

Maybe you’re competing with your siblings (like me). Maybe it’s friends. Maybe it’s your partner. Maybe it’s your colleagues. Maybe it’s your parents’ expectations. Maybe it’s your children. Maybe it’s strangers on social media. Maybe it’s with your past self. Maybe it’s with the idea of your future self.

Either way, it’s draining. Stop running, leave the race.

And yes, I do blame social media for this. It’s not ONLY that. I think we are just seeing into people’s lives too much and so we assign new meaning to all of our own actions and what we feel we should do and who we feel we should look like and impress.

It’s exhausting.

The Undoing Series

I would like to do a series of posts on this topic and undo the damage of societal conditioning. Big task! Last year I did the Finding Clarity Series which was liberating and important. So much so, I revisited it this year to re-centre and refocus this Spring.

I would like this series to focus on ways we can find peace and self-validation instead of giving into the control, create, compete culture cycle for the rest of our lives.

Topics I want to cover:

  • Reality checking ourselves
  • Perfectionism
  • Hustle culture
  • Performance culture
  • Metrics for success (a new look, hopefully)
  • Active self-validation*
  • Essentialism
  • Simplifying
  • Unplug and reconnect

Stay tuned for more!

Sincerely,

S. xx

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