part 4: confessions of a control freak

Below is part three in the series in which I tell you about “how I started to figure my shit out”. If you haven’t yet read part one and part two, go do that now. Part three will be waiting right here when you’re done, I promise.

p.s. For those of you who have been asking me to share my big “breakthrough” moment, I hate to disappoint, but it’s less one big thing and more a bunch of little things, including the discovery of tools I leveraged to help me through the journey. The TED Talk I reference below was one of the biggest tools in my arsenal. Part four will deliver a bigger A-Ha!, but I wanted to give this post the billing it deserved because this was a pivotal moment for me.

Originally posted Feb 14, 2013 – edited

I’m stuck. I feel like I’ve stumbled into quick sand; wanting to move forward, but paralyzed by the thick mire I’m trapped in.

I’m stuck. Stuck inside my head. I know I need to really dig in and uncover all my baggage. Quicksand-bogged baggage. Baggage that carries my body image issues, an unhealthy degree of competitiveness, and the mother of all my issues: a paralyzing need for perfection. Or, at least, the appearance of perfection.

I know that to expose all this baggage, all this deep-rooted shit, will leave me vulnerable. Exposed. And for me, the prospect of getting naked in that way is a fate worse than being stuck.

I’ve always been very controlled. One might even say a control freak. But let’s not. We’re friends, right?

A former co-worker, and still dear friend, Sarah, introduced me to Brene Brown, PhD, a researcher in sociology and esteemed author. Her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, served to shine a light on my deepest fears.


This message resonated with me on a visceral level.

Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. ~Brene Brown

Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure. ~Bob Marley

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. ~Rumi

I want to be more vulnerable, really I do. But I’m scared shitless. And I come by this fear honestly.

Raised in a home where dirty laundry was absolutely never aired out, under any circumstances. Where “what will the neighbours think?” was an oft-cited question.

No. Exposing vulnerabilities was out of the question.  

This may be the makeup of my psyche, the current truth that flows through my veins, but I know that I need to change it. I need a transfusion. Without a willingness to be vulnerable, I’ll surely not find that elusive path to happiness, to satisfaction with life, to fulfillment.

I also know that I need to care a whole lot less about what other people will think of all this.

I realize now that it’s not enough for me to self-analyze and reflect, but be willing to open the kimono, exposing my insecurities, my fears, my ugliness, my imperfections. And my neuroses. There are many.

This won’t be easy. But this blog has become a vehicle; enabling this vital process.

What started out as a journal of my daily workouts, designed to keep me accountable, has quickly become my version of a therapist’s couch. I’ve been inching nearer to that couch every day. Right now I’m perched tentatively on the edge of the seat.

I’ll lie down eventually.

And I really hope you’ll all join me there. Shit is less scary when you’re surrounded by friends.

Fuck caring what the neighbours will say. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS WILL SAY.

I’m tired of hiding everything. (Note to self: This would have been a great realization last November at the BLR resort, when I was keeping my struggles to myself, despite the fact that I had my dearest friend  in the room right next door to mine.)

I’m easing my way onto that couch. Next stop, my giant confession, a breakthrough moment.


To read part four in this series, click here.

‘Til then… Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

74 thoughts on “part 4: confessions of a control freak

  1. Yes, I think that a lot of us are mired in self-inflicted baggage that mires us down. It’s like what Shrek said. It’s like being an onion. So many layers built up over time that creates these no win scenarios, these Kobayashi Maru’s. (yeah, I’m a trekkie).

    I do like the analogy to open the kimono. 🙂 It’s so you.

    • Another friend referred to the mire as these pre-programmed tapes that play over and over in our heads. It’s HARD WORK to reprogram those tapes to a different message.

      Brene Brown’s TED Talk was such an eye opener for me. Finally, the realization that to be vulnerable is NOT to be weak. It is the most courageous thing we can do.

      And re: the kimono — honestly, for so much of my life, I’d gladly have gone physically naked than to bare my soul…

  2. You are talking to someone with baggage carefully packed and stored away in a locked closet. This post is going to leave me pondering vulnerability for a while. Great post … although very uncomfortable.

    • It’s funny, you know. The original iteration of this post looked very different than the one I published this morning. I realized in re-reading it, as I prepared to republish this series, that I was STILL hiding. Using words that told the half-truth. I worried that someone in my real life (sister, cousin, family friend) might see my words and be offended by them. And then I worried that this would be re-told to my mother in a way that made it feel it was all her fault (it wasn’t). I was so worried about hurting others with my realizations that I kept them to myself. This re-worked post feels so much better (although infinitely scarier) because it is a final admission of why this was a pivotal moment for me. If you haven’t watched the 20 minute TED Talk, Joanne, I highly recommend it. It was a game changer for me.

      • I’ve actually seen this TED talk before – and I watched it again this morning when I read your post.
        There are some deeply uncomfortable messages in this talk for me. What’s scarier is the realization that some of my truths are deeply buried. I’m not sure I could even articulate what the true nature of those vulnerabilities really are.
        You’ve rattled the ground under my feet this morning …. nothing like starting a Monday morning being pushed to the edge 🙂

      • I absolutely love the way you describe what you’re feeling. I’m sorry I’ve made you feel uncomfortable here. I recall, with clarity, how uncomfortable I felt when I was trying to figure out how to write about this nearly 2 years ago, and then how equally (but in a different way) uncomfortable I felt the other night re-writing it.

      • Don’t apologize! … this type of uncomfortable is growth material …. potting soil for the soul, so to speak. That nudge to the edge of my comfort zone is a good reminder that there is work to do 😉

  3. Hi Nancy! What is surprising to me is that I didn’t find your blog until after this originally posted last year and yet I never thought of you as any more of a control freak than the rest of us 🙂 I think maybe all your “processing” is one of the reasons I started resonating with your writing when I did finally connect. While I find your exercising and determination inspiring, that’s not why I follow your blog. I’m here because you write so very authentic and REAL. And yes, Brene Brown is VERY inspiring. ~Kathy

    • Hi Kathy! I hope your Mexico trip has been fantastic so far! Can’t wait to head over and catch up now that I have some laptop time!

      Thank you for your kind words. The original post didn’t feel nearly as authentic and real as it SHOULD have, so I reworked it, opened the kimono a little wider and republished this less ‘controlled’ version.

      Brene Brown is amazing, right?!

  4. I can’t believe I haven’t read this!
    I love the complete honesty and vulnerability you show in the posts since these! I can also completely understand how difficult it is to bare all (so to speak!)
    Growing up in Britain, no matter what you do you end up with some of the stiff upper lip, carry on regardless and don’t show that anything is getting to you mentality!
    I applaud you for deciding to let go of the baggage!!

  5. Great video – I’m a big fan of TED talks, but I need to make a point to watch more of them! And I’m so with you on “what will the neighbors think? what will the family think?” I grew up with that and my sister and I have been talking about it lately and how we were raised not to discuss certain things and how we want to break that cycle – and it’s not easy. Especially for control freaks like me!
    I’m currently really focused on accepting me for who I am right now. And loving myself without any shame attached. And I heard this in yoga the other day “I loving release what is unnecessary to me anymore with gratitude and thankfulness” That hit my heart – cause it was exactly what I have been focusing on – but she phrased it with such love and compassion, I’ve been repeating that phrase, a lot!
    Can’t wait for the next installment!!

    • This need to keep up appearances is exhausting, isn’t it? And you’re right, breaking that cycle is crazy hard. I work on it every day, and every day am reminded of how far I still have to go. I see it every time I bite my tongue rather than speak my mind on something deep/personal, with someone close to me. I wish I could be as open with those closest to me, about things that matter, as I am being the outspoken person I am in other parts of my life.

      That sentiment from Melissa West is beautiful, Kate. I’m still really enjoying her yoga as well.

  6. Yes! When we find the courage to be “imperfect,” we begin to see the perfection in our imperfection. And we shed the fear that arises from constantly looking over our shoulder to see if anyone else notices that we’re not perfect.

    We stop worrying about what “they” think of us . . . and allow ourselves to be as we are, where we are. “I am that I am.”

    • The next bit is a giant, awful, ugly admission I had to make to myself, and more importantly to someone I love. With hitting the publish button on that one last February, I knew I had made a giant leap forward in my journey.

      I got lost in POW for hours at a time when I first discovered it, Lisa. 🙂

  7. I dunno. I’ve heard this talk before. And I will need to relisten. Sometimes I think I’m so dense. Or stuck in my ways. Or just don’t believe. Or unwilling to change. Sigh. You’re inspiring me to at least think about these things. I do want to have a better life than what I’ve been allowing myself.

    • Ahh…I know this song well. Have a look at the video again – but – I dare say that it still may not help. Have a look at this post, my summary of lessons learned after I completed my 365-day workout challenge: Note the learnings around needing to want something badly enough. Needing to prioritize on it; etc.

      I don’t think there is a silver bullet – and certainly no one size fits all. I think that sometimes we just get to a place where it’s so clear that we’re not satisfied with our lives that we’re prepared to leave the comfort zone and start to dig a little deeper.

  8. Introspection and this kind of deep work IS scary shit.
    When does it end? Never, right? We never become full self actualized. Or do we? I’m 45, and I feel like I’m still a work in progress. Will I be one on my death bed?
    inspiring post, Nancy. You’re an inspiring person.

  9. Right on! It’s not an exaggeration to say that I never had peace in life until I decided to be open about who I am, warts and all. Liberation.

  10. Pingback: self-analysis: it sure ain’t pretty (or easy) | my year[s] of sweat!

  11. Pingback: the power of perspective | my year[s] of sweat!

  12. Hmmmm. I think we have a lot in common, Nancy. I’m currently on a Brene Brown reading/absorbing frenzy myself. I recently discovered the TED talks and graduated to buying all her books and I’m thinking of having her name and likeness tattooed on my forearm–well, not quite that bad, but maybe. I think vulnerability is counterintuitive to everyone, but I’ve reached a time and age and space when it’s just time to cultivate emotional freedom. Love this series, my friend, and that you can share so openly is a marvelous gift to the rest of us on similar quests!

  13. Pingback: divas also sweat (and other lessons the Russian Princess taught me) | my year of sweat

  14. Pingback: the power of perspective | my year of sweat

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