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Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Turn on the news any night of the week and you will see a million reasons to be afraid. Your food is poisoned. There are chemicals in the tap water. Sunshine causes cancer. The terrorists are waiting at your front door. You will be molested at the airport if you dare to travel far. It has become common knowledge that everything down to the air you breathe is potentially harmful.

What they won’t tell you on TV is that your comfort zone is killing you faster than all of these things combined. Plenty of people are out there living life to its fullest, but you can’t see them from your living room. It’s never too late to get off the couch and start making up for lost time. Be careful, because the difference between life inside your personal bubble and out in the real world is going to be huge. It is best to start with baby steps if you want to make it all the way through without turning back. Here are a few little things you can do to get started on the most important journey of your life.

Take Inventory of Your Boundaries

Doing things differently often starts with thinking differently. Try to think about everything you have always wanted to do. Then, think about what is really stopping you. How many of your boundaries are serving you effectively? Are there things you won’t do? Think about why. Be totally honest when you are examining these things, and don’t be afraid to admit it when you find something completely irrational at the core of a dearly held belief.

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Irrational beliefs don’t make you wrong; they make you human. However, nothing is going to change if you cannot recognize your own inconsistencies. You must be willing to re-examine the boundaries you have drawn based on faulty beliefs if you want to move past irrationality. Upon digging deep enough, you will probably find that YOU are the biggest thing stopping you from having the life that you want. It is time to get out of your way, and you cannot do that if you continue to obey self-imposed boundaries that are based on unfounded or irrational beliefs.

Identify and Face Your Fears

Make a list of all your fears and phobias. Much like you did with your boundaries, think about where each is rooted. Some fears are based on trauma or experience, and some are based on lack of information. You may notice that some fears exist without any reason to speak of. If you have never thought about things this way before, you will probably find yourself with many fears that are quite irrational. Try to differentiate your well-founded fears from those which are based on feeble premises, like hearsay or lack of proper understanding. Then think about all the perfectly harmless things you have been avoiding because of these fears. Once you have done this, start facing them one by one. Start with the weakest justifications and move backwards from there. By the time you reach your biggest, realest fears you should have a few victories under your belt.

Let’s take spiders, for instance. When you ask the average arachnophobe why he is afraid of spiders, he will usually say something along the lines of “they are just creepy!” or “one crawled on my face when I was a child!” Very rarely do you find someone who is afraid of spiders and has been seriously harmed by one.

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Unless you live near a tropical rainforest or in Australia or something, there is literally no good reason to be afraid of spiders. Those who are should try doing a little research. You might learn that spiders feed on many other insects you don’t want in your home. You might also learn that there are only two or three fatally venomous species of spiders in the United States, and most others are no more harmful to humans than mosquitoes.Did you know that even tarantulas are about as venomous as wasps? You can learn all this and more without even having to touch a real spider. Upon reading about the most harmful species in your area, you will then be able to identify the completely harmless ones instead of living in fear of all spiders that might be poisonous. Best of all, this approach can be applied to any irrational fear. The more you know, the less you have to be afraid of.

Turn off the television and read

Even without the loads of broadcasted content that seems designed to inspire fear and insecurity, the very act of watching television is passive and voyeuristic. All your senses are being appealed to at once and very little is left to the imagination. When your life and habits revolve around this kind of stimuli, it is going to be harder for you to accept the little pains associated with growth. To stop growing is to start dying.

Try keeping your mind alive and thriving with literature. Instead of just watching short talk show interviews with people who have written books, try actually reading the memoirs and nonfiction they are out to promote. Read newspapers and websites instead of watching the news. Even podcasts and local radio can turn out to be better sources of news than American television. If reading is totally out of character for you, try spending a day at the library. Just go through the aisles and read random things until something feels right. The knowledge you gain from reading will inspire you towards doing greater things with your life.

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Seek New Information

Let’s go back to that list of things you have always wanted to do. How many of them haven’t happened because you lack the skills or knowledge? Believe it or not, the information you seek is there for the taking, and nobody is going to come drop it in your lap. You have to go out and find it. The motivation to constantly learn new things is very important to an ever-growing mind.

You don’t have to go all the way back to college in order to grease up the gears. Is it your dream to sail around the world? Take a sailing class. Do you want to start eating a healthier diet? Take organic cooking classes. Do you want to get active? Start with yoga or some sort of aerobics class. Even if your dream is to ride around the forest with a crossbow and hunt your own food, you will first need to learn to ride a horse, and then learn to use a crossbow. There are classes for all these things, and it is never too late to take them! If you can’t afford to pay a teacher, there are always books and internet tutorial videos.

Surround Yourself with Positive Examples

Very few things have more influential power over us than the people we interact with most. Make sure this fact is working in your favor instead of against you. When you surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do, you can let their progress inspire your own. You get to see all the little things that go into their accomplishments. You can study their habits and question your own in turn. This doesn’t work as well if you are not able to look critically at yourself. In fact, if you are used to being around people who are stagnant and petty, your first reaction to a real achiever might be intimidation, jealousy, or insecurity. If you can push past these things and admit everything you have to learn, a world of possibilities opens up before you.

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Start by choosing a mentor. This is can be any person with whom you enter into a relationship under the stated pretenses of learning about what they do. A good mentor will be patient and understanding of your learning process in a way that other random acquaintances are not. A good mentor will also question you, call you out, and point you in the right direction. It is up to you to respond accordingly to such criticism. This can turn out to be the first step towards many changes in what you look for in all future relationships.

Our culture is so focused on attachment to comfort and convenience that it might seem completely silly to suggest leaving these things behind.  The journey is not for everyone, but those who see it through to the end almost always have fewer regrets than those who stay inside. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an important decision not to be taken lightly. If you want to live your life to the fullest, you must let go of fear and be willing to change your beliefs. The sooner you start to change your habits the farther you will go.

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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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