Control Issues and Ego Management
“If you think all rich people are evil, you’re preventing yourself from making money!”
A fire was building in my belly. Last month, I was snuggling in bed with a few of my girlfriends while passionately delivering the above message to my friend Mary.
While I’m not sure what she said to trigger my lecture, Mary was patient but unrelenting as I argued for her to change her mindset.
At the time I thought I was interfering for the better, but after, I felt icky about my rant.
Often, I find myself feeling compelled to give advice whether or not it’s asked for.
As I’ve questioned my motives, I’m starting to realize I may not be as virtuous as I thought.
I think back to all the times someone has taken my advice. Looking back, this usually happens when someone sought it out.
For example, when I was connected with my mentee and walked her through negotiating her first salary. She was grateful for the support and even sent me a box of company swag as a thank you. I felt great afterwards.
I’ve helped a few friends negotiate their salaries. Sometimes a friend would ask for my thoughts, knowing this is something I do. Other times, I’ve been aggressive, insisting on helping because I wanted to make sure my friends were paid fairly.
Easy to mask my control issues as doing a service for someone else.
I can see where I got it from. If busybody is a gene, then it is encoded in my DNA.
My parents were immigrants to the United States, and my mom worked hard to figure out how the public school system worked so that she could help create opportunities and remove blockers for my sister and I.
She’d work all night as a nurse and then volunteer in my Kindergarten class to get the scoop on the best programs to put us in and how to set us up for success.
When we went to our Indian Church, she would gather the other aunties and tell them how to help raise their children too.
On one hand, the Indian immigrants in my community supported each other and helped everyone acclimate to the new country better.
There’s a dark side to it too though. My mom has always had a hard time letting go and trusting my sister and I to make our own decisions. Simple milestones like getting my driver’s license were an uphill battle for me.
She’s gotten better over the years as we’ve fought to be independent and shown her were capable of making mistakes and bouncing back.
I think of her fierce protectiveness and can see so much of that coursing through my own blood.
When I was lecturing Mary, I couldn’t simply listen to her without trying to get involved and force her to change her mindset. Subconsciously, I didn’t trust her to live her own life. I perceived she was making a mistake, and wanted to right a wrong.
My ego was more involved than I realized at the time. The need to intervene to show her a better way comes from a place of superiority. The implication is that I know what’s best for her.
I did an exercise with myself.
What if Mary told me she made changes and her life shifted for the better, however, instead of crediting me, she says she received the advice from someone else.
How would I feel?
I know I’d be annoyed that she didn’t listen to me first.
If the alleged goal is to be helpful and supportive, I consider that problematic.
I want to help my loved ones from a place of love and kindness, not a place of ego and control.
In an attempt to tame my ego and relinquish control, I’ve decided to do a 30 day challenge.
No giving advice.
No telling my friends how to date, lecturing my parents on their eating habits, or slipping in life advice to the cashier at the grocery store.
I have an inkling that I’ll learn something, but I’m not entirely sure what it is yet.
Hopefully in a month, I can report back with a more complete picture of what the trade offs are.
At the same time, I feel a small sense of relief. As if I’m finally acknowledging the world will be alright if I don’t constantly intervene to fix other people.
Maybe Mary will feel some relief too, knowing I’m not ready to pounce with more unsolicited advice.
Thanks for reading Michelle Varghoose's Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.