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10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

It’s been a year of highs and lows. I decided to move to a new country for my research, I attempted to write a master’s thesis, I tried to find an awesome internship, and I tried to maintain a relationship.

One of these four failed, because I was giving up.

Looking back, I can see how that happened but in the moment I hadn’t noticed the decision to throw the towel in creeping up on me. I failed to adequately write my master’s thesis, and even though all I had to do was pay a relatively small amount of money to extend for another few months, my pride almost let me drop out. My friends and family pulled me back from the brink, and now I am solidly on track to getting my paper done and the future looks bright again.

It’s seems out of character for me to give up, but I almost did. What were the warning signs?

  1. Spending less and less time thinking about my project.
  2. Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.
  3. Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.
  4. Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.
  5. Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the job, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.
  6. Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal
  7. Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.
  8. Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.
  9. Not caring about the quality of my work.
  10. Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.

Let’s discuss these points a little more.

1. “Spending less and less time thinking about it.”

During the first few months, I was excited. This was something new, something challenging. However, when the scope of the project started to become apparent and I had underestimated the preparation necessary, it became a monolithic task, a mountain I could not climb. So, to prevent panic, I stopped thinking about it and distracted myself by working more, watching more TV and even listening to music at night so my brain would be forced not to mull over the roadblocks I had encountered.

SOLVED!

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To remind myself constantly that it wasn’t over yet, I placed books and notepads around the room, and notifications on my computer so that I forced myself to think about it.

2. “Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.”

Essentially, this is procrastination. I went so far as to take some floorboards out from under the kitchen work area to clean under them! I was too “busy” to spend time researching and writing. I was caught up with trying to do interviews for jobs, even though in reality I had plenty of spare hours to get some school work done. Ironically, these were jobs requiring a masters degree. There was never “enough” time when I could find ten other things that “needed” doing.

SOLVED!

To stop this silliness, I made a strict list of tasks that truly needed doing ordered by priority. Everything else got ignored.

3. “Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.”

The project became the enemy, the barrier to my happiness, that which sapped my free time and finances. Imagining the future benefits of putting in the hard work now became foggy and I began to wonder why I had bothered to put myself under so much pressure. Wan’t it more important to have my health and happiness, rather than trying to chip away at this endless task? I had forgotten why I had spent three years considering a masters, choosing a masters, the tense application process, the joy of admission, the things I had learnt in the classes leading up to the writing of the dissertation. I had forgotten how I had been spurred to do this by wanting to challenge myself to my limits, to open my mind up, to acquire deeper thinking, to be better placed in the competitive job market.

SOLVED!

I remembered that I would end up exactly where I had started a year ago, and that jolted me out of this apathy.

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4. “Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.”

It’s giving me sleepless nights. It’s depressing me. It’s too hard. I don’t need it. I want my weekends for myself, not for writing and reading and compiling data. I am not able to do it. I suck.

SOLVED!

Arrange a time management plan to balance study, work and free time. Ask for advice from everyone possible, don’t do it alone. As for thinking that you suck? Come on – you would not have gotten into the program in the first place if that were true.

5. “Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the internship, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.”

There were many reasons carefully thought-out over the years as to why doing a masters was the right choice. I needed a career change, and without relevant work experience or qualifications in another industry I was unlikely to move out of teaching. I tried for full-time and part-time jobs in marketing and PR, to no avail. I wanted a higher salary, and a job that used more of my creativity. Mostly, I wanted to work with adults. This meant that study was the only path left open to me, as continuing as a teacher was, to me, worse than the all seven levels of Dante’s hell. Due to a series of fortunate events during my thesis research period, I ended up with the dream job and a great apartment in an awesome city. So why bother completing the course?

SOLVED!

Reputation is important. If you don’t want accusations of not finishing your work. Also, it seemed such a waste to throw away a year’s work without the piece of paper to hang on the wall at the end…

6. “Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Tons of people do it! They just walk out without a care in the world and take on the challenge of life. Many role-models of mine who went from a small innovative idea to massive success tell the tale of not completing school. Education is just one pathway to learning.

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SOLVED!

Don’t do something just because “everyone else” appears to be doing it. That’s just dumb. Think about what you really lose/gain from making this decision. I just needed three more months and I’d have a masters forever. I have no idea what the future holds and maybe that title will make a difference. If not? Hey, it was only one year and I’m proud of the personal achievement.

7. “Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.”

This was the hardest one to argue against. The grand plan had been to end the internship coinciding with the submission of my dissertation, and moving to working full-time with the company. My savings were gone but I had prepared for that and expected to earn a living again within one month of finishing. This all went up in the air when I had to add three months to the study period. How was I going to ask my family for more support? How was I going to pay the extra fees? How would I pay everyone back?

SOLVED!

My situation does not apply to everyone, but I solved it mainly by swallowing my pride and asking for help. I also had developed a good rapport with my internship colleagues, who were thoroughly understanding when I told them I would need more time to finish. Although it means a little more debt, in the long run, it is a drop in the ocean.

8. “Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.”

I have always believed in pushing myself to bolder and higher challenges, rarely saying no to a task and usually succeeding. I enjoyed the feeling of success and the knowledge gained from each encounter. I also learned to accept some levels of failure. But this failure hit me really hard, for whatever reason. Perhaps the exhaustion of combining a 40-hour a week internship, managing marketing for a film festival and general housework was too much when you had a research paper to do on top of it all. In my mind, not being able to manage all of these tasks successfully meant that I was a failure, stupid and had finally encountered my glass ceiling.

SOLVED!

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It overlaps a little with earlier issues. Essentially, managing your time and delegating tasks when you can is important. It WILL get done. Remember you can’t be optimally productive when you are stretched too thin.

9. “Not caring about the quality of my work.”

This is where I really noticed myself starting to slide. I stopped carefully editing and re-editing. I didn’t care to check my references strictly, thinking, “Oh, who’s going to notice?” They did notice: a disjointed story, a fragmented structure, a poor argument. It was impossible to ignore but in my head it somehow seemed enough to “get by.” Since when had that ever been a motto of mine?

SOLVED!

Make sure to have trusted people around you be completely honest when they see your work suffer. Listen to their advice, which could be “take a break”, “do something else for a few days”, or “let’s sit back and discuss what your original project was and how it has deviated”. Becoming over-involved in just one project can blind you to staggeringly obvious flaws. Step away, and get a second opinion.

10. “Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.”

When I started my research I absolutely loved telling people about it, describing what I hoped to find out, and where I was going to do it. After the first three months as the brick wall was built higher and higher I began to see only the barriers and not the breakthroughs. I got embarrassed at my lack of amazing original research and how I seemed unable to make sense of the mountain of data I had diligently collected and processed. In order to feel less devastated by this situation, I stopped talking about it in a positive way, and then stopped talking about it at all. The less I cared the less it hurt.

SOLVED!

When I started being open about the state of affairs, it was a relief to hear how many people went through the same experience and had lots of helpful advice to offer. There is no shame in experiencing some difficulty along the path – nobody is going to look down on you for needing more time and a little help in order to achieve your goals. Better to open up and find an answer than to shut down and let the problem become stagnant.

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Andrea Francis

Andrea loves being productive and getting things done. She shares practical tips to help people achieve what they want in life.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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