Dealing with the Loss of Control
Photo courtesy of F Delventhal.

Dealing with the Loss of Control

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

Mayhem hit the other day.

It was mid-afternoon, I’d just returned from a burst of creativity at the coffee shop, and a romp at the gym. I was in my kitchen preparing a late lunch.

Between chopping veggies, I flipped open my laptop and clicked over to Puttylike. I got a blank screen. All it said was:

“Error establishing database connection”

Refresh.

Nothing.

Gulp.

Was my server down? Had I been hacked? I began running through nightmare scenarios in my mind. I imagined a covert operation by an underground band of specialists, plotting to take us down.

Then I checked my analytics. 800 people on the site in the last two minutes? Wha? And there it was, the incoming link. Oh I’d been hacked alright… LIFEHACKED! Boom.

It turns out that one of my articles had just been featured on Lifehacker, and all the traffic was crashing my server.

My roommate’s Boston terrier who had been watching this whole thing go down, must have been very confused. Moments earlier I was on the brink of meltdown, and suddenly there we were, dancing around the kitchen (she loves to dance).

I wish I could say that the feelings of bliss lasted for hours, but the truth is that I very quickly began to worry.

Feeling Exposed

Knowing that thousands of new people were reading my work made me feel naked and vulnerable. Surely many of them were not multipotentialites. Would they just leave, uninterested? Or would there be some backlash? What were they thinking? I was back in Armageddon mode.

I’m sure there are people who would tell me that I’ve got limiting beliefs, yada yada, that I don’t think I deserve to be happy, otherwise I’d be able to appreciate this accomplishment. But I think that panic is a pretty natural human reaction to the loss of control, even if it’s associated with something positive.

The Link between Confidence and Control

As human beings, we need to feel as though we have some measure of control over our lives. (We also like spontaneity. We need both.) Confidence can even be defined as a sense of certainty; knowing that you have the power to close the gap between where you are now, and where you want to be (credit to Matthew Hussey).

Having absolute trust in yourself will transform your life in every area, and is absolutely worth cultivating. The thing is, confidence is about SELF-assurance. It’s about having trust in yourself. Trying to control things that you have no control over (like other people’s reactions) on the other hand, is a recipe for disaster.

Anxiety Comes from Trying to Control Things You Can’t Control

When something major hits, even something positive like the opening night of your play, the release of your first novel, or quitting your day job, you will feel a loss of control. This is a new situation, and you’re biologically wired to freak out a bit.

Instead of focusing on other peoples’ reactions, or even seeking reassurance from your loved ones — instead of trying to control elements that you cannot control — go do something that makes you feel empowered and doesn’t rely on external validation.

How to Regain a Sense of Control

Regaining a sense of control might mean getting out of the house and taking some mini-risks, working out, or going on an adventure by yourself. (I love going to the movies alone because it reminds me that I don’t need anyone else to have fun. Relationships are just an added bonus.)

So when a whirlwind — even a good one — swoops in and plummets your sense of normalcy, do find a way to regain the lost sense of control, but do it productively.

Don’t try to control that which you cannot control. Instead, take action, assert yourself, and go do something that makes you feel strong and independent.

Your Turn

How do you handle the lost sense of control that comes with putting your work out there?

19 Comments

  1. Adam says:

    Absolutely right, Emilie. About a month ago I had a post get 14,000 views in one day (like 14,000x my normal traffic…lol). And I was scared to death. I hated it. I didn’t know what to do. Undoubtedly some of them would hate my site and never come back, others wouldn’t understand what I am trying to do and mock me, and the rest would forget me in 2 seconds. So I ran. Literally. I went outside and ran for a few miles and tried to process what just happened. That was my form of self-empowerment. And it was awesome. After I finished my run I went back to my laptop and started doing the work. It’s amazing what a little run (or any type of self-empowering activity) can do! Thanks, Emilie!

  2. JocelynBrown says:

    I tend to put myself out there very slowly so that I can acclimate myself to each new level. But sometimes things happen to catapult me forward a few levels, and I am forced to quickly acclimate. After the initial excitement/panic, I like to start planning. I LOVE planning, brainstorming, etc. so it puts me right back into my multipod comfort zone. And this process gives me solid ideas for how to keep things flowing, how to keep the momentum going, and how to structure my time moving forward. Congrats on the success Emilie!

    • Emilie says:

      Ou good point! I love planning too. I guess it just takes me a bit longer to get other people’s “voices” out of my head. But once I do, I end up focusing really hard on my work and getting back into it. It’s sort of a fun challenge to embrace the situation, and try to hit even bigger goals (or just new ones) next time.

  3. As always, you hit the nail on the head. My life, for the last 4.5 years, has been a study in learning to control the things I can and relinquish control over things I can’t. I am a newbie to the blogging world and while I can’t control what people think of what I write or how many people read it, I can control my feelings toward what I write. I write from the heart, sometimes it’s uncomfortable, sometimes it’s freeing. It’s a little intimidating to know that there are strangers out there reading my innermost thoughts, but when I hear from someone who says my words touched them…well…I sit down and start writing again. For all you do, Emilie, thanks.

    Deborah

  4. Humayun says:

    Hi. I found out about your site from lifehacker and I am glad that I did. I read some of your past posts and I can relate to them. Right now I got yelled at by my dad and I want to cry out I don’t know how I hold it together but this is life o guess. One moment you are happiest person in the world and the next you feel more worthless then a slug. Anyways keep up the good work.

  5. Shayna says:

    I’m pretty confident about the work I put out for free (and my readers love it!) but the paid stuff makes me nervous. What if someone tries it and is like, “BAH, that was SO not worth my $29, I can’t believe you’re charging for this stuff.”

    …well, none of my (very few) customers has said this so far. But if they do, I plan to step away from the computer, breathe deeply, and later compose an e-mail giving a refund if they requested one and asking what specifically they didn’t like, so that I could hopefully improve the product.

    • Emilie says:

      Very tough indeed. I know exactly what you mean. It gets easier with practice for sure, especially after you start hearing more and more positive feedback and you gain a bit of confidence. But those fears definitely reemerge for me every time I launch something new. I’ve come to expect that. I think it’s a healthy reaction actually– a sign that you really want to provide value.

  6. Denise says:

    I noticed you were on lifehacker the other day.. congrats!

    I don’t have the readership that you do, but honestly anytime my traffic is higher than normal, I freak out a tiny bit. It’s crazy how easy it is to share your work with the whole world.

    I think as long as what I write is genuine and I gave it my best, then I don’t worry too much. I would worry more if I felt I was throwing my posts together or trying to be something I’m not.

  7. Joe says:

    This was really helpful. I often experience this lack of control because of anxiety in social situations. I’m too reliant on other people’s approval. Taking action and doing something that I can appreciate is great advice.

    It is amazing how difficult it can be to just be yourself, but really it just takes practice.

    • Emilie says:

      You’re absolutely right, Joe. That’s why the advice to “just be yourself” is some of the most unhelpful advice out there. Like maybe in that moment, “yourself” is a nervous wreck… I much prefer to take proactive steps and get out of your own head. Works so much better.

  8. Great way to remind us all that we have only one thing in control always, ourselves. Our actions and reactions, great post.

  9. Stuart says:

    Great post Emilie! It’s so true that loss of control is not the best feeling, but it is just one of many of life’s reminders that we are in many ways like a leaf in the wind. Though there are things we can do, running has always been a great outlet for me. Recently I found out that we can exert a little more control over life with the help of your book! It’s great and I am eagerly making my way through it. However the development of my theme is where I’m feeling this lack of control again. Any advise would be phenomenal. Keep up the good work, Chief Puttypeep!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Stuart,

      Ah thank you for the kind words. You’re right, we are but one part of a much bigger picture.

      As for your overarching theme, keep at it. Look for motivations as opposed to topics. Try to figure out some things that drew you to your interests, parts you loved about them. Are there any patterns? Keep brainstorming. Maybe journal for a few minutes every day, or start a practice blog and see what types of posts you’re compelled to write.

      Keep at it. It’s tough for all multipotentialites who go through the process. But once you find your OT, it will allow you to just be yourself in your business, and everything will fit and make sense together. You’ll learn a lot about yourself too.

  10. Janet says:

    Hi Emmilie,
    First timer writing long time reader. Loss of control for me is something I’m dealing with slowly. Since knowing the way I do multi-projects makes me a Multipotentialite thanks to finding your blog has stopped me from freaking out because I don’t fit into one topic/niche. I am now embracing my multi self so more people can see it than simply finding it away, using my blog space as my platform, still get freaked when I do something which pigeon holes my skills though. My blog still looks a bit different in terms of content but new projects working on on are going to change that (so scared :))

    I’m working on convey my multi self online to help others while not limiting my potential changes which I know will come. Recently I listened to Will Smith talking about life and he said something that has stuck with me and that I now use to show myself that I need to stop fighting myself. He said “I believe in me”, it sounds simple but how often do we do what we do, like you said look for others to validate our worth or progress. When I say out loud “I believe in me” makes my new scary, out of my comfort zone tasks seem more manageable, still very scary but isn’t that part of our life’s journey.

    Loving your blog :)

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