Photography by: 3 Little Birds Photography
One of the hardest things that I’ve had to accept as I mature into an adult is this: You cannot control anyone’s actions but your own. It is a frustrating, sometimes even infuriating thing to realize. No matter how much you want to, you cannot control what someone does or doesn’t do or what they say or don’t say. You can’t control how someone acts or feels towards you. The only thing you can control is YOU.
A lot of times in relationships – romantic, friendly, or work – this is a hard concept to accept. You can find yourself wishing that the other person would do A, B, or C. Or catch yourself wanting them to tell you exactly what you want to hear. You can get mad at them for doing something that upsets you or hurts you. But – you can’t change what they do or say. The only thing you have control over is how YOU react to it.
I struggle with this often. I’ll catch myself getting upset when I hear that someone has said something negative about me or I’ll feel sad when I’m not invited somewhere. I constantly have to remind myself that the only thing I can control is how I react. When I hear that a co-worker has talked bad about me behind my back, I could choose to confront them, I could choose to talk negatively about them, I could choose to let it hurt me, or I could realize that whatever rude thing they said about me tells more about their character than mine. The key thing though is that I can CHOOSE how to react. I can choose how much I let it affect me. I cannot choose what they say. I cannot choose what they do. But I can choose how I respond to it.
The same thing goes for romantic relationships. You can’t control what your partner does (in a healthy relationship anyways). You can’t control the things they say to you, the amount of communicating they do, how they portray their relationship to the outside world, how they spend their time, or anything else. You can’t change them into someone that you want them to be. You can only choose how you respond to what they do, and how you let what they do affect you and your feelings. Even if what they are doing hurts you – you still cannot make them stop doing that thing. They won’t stop unless they want to. They won’t change unless they want to. And you cannot force change upon them.
It’s a hard concept to accept. And it can cause a lot of stress and a lot of sleepless nights. But if you can accept a different mindset, you will be a lot more at peace with others. And that mindset is this: I accept others for who they are and I understand that I can’t change them, but I can love them as they are and change how I react to them. The only thing in life that you can control are your thoughts, your actions, and your reactions. Hard to accept but it makes life easier once you do.
I know this in my soul – but I still struggle with it. What has helped me is developing a list of the character traits I want to possess. I want to be selfless, and intelligent, and humble, and resilient, and compassionate, and empathetic, and forgiving, and loving, and positive. To be these things, I have to act within these traits. I can control my actions, and I do not let the actions of others dictate MY character.
I feel happier with myself and I feel like a better human being when I do not stoop to the level of others. I have slip-ups all the time, but that is where my ability to be self-reflective comes in handy. If I reflect on my actions and I’m not proud of them, I will try not to repeat them in the future, no matter how anyone else acts. Simple as that. THAT is what I can control.
Sometimes, it means walking away from people. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them and appreciate them for who they are, it just means you don’t have space for that person in your life.
You can build the life you want. Do you want a life where you are always stressed, upset, and worried about what others are doing? Or do you want a life where you simply focus on controlling what you can control and being the person that you want to be?
As always, thanks for reading. Share with a friend who focuses too much on what they can’t control and could use this reminder today. And I encourage you to make your own list of characters traits you want to emulate. And starting working on becoming the person that you want to be.