One step back, two steps forward: How to be okay with not being in control
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
In elementary school I played a game where all the kids in physical education would line up and face the coach on the opposite end of the gym. The coach would then call out a quality, “red hair”, “two siblings”, “plays piano”, and if the description applied to you, you took a step forward.
The point of the game was to reach the end of the court first, or, simply put, to have the most diverse interests and characteristics. It used to bother me to stand there, watching my friends move forward while I did not have the qualities to keep up.
Now, as a second semester high school senior with college applications sent in and grad parties being planned, dealing with things I cannot control still bothers me.
The way I have learned to overcome some of them is by focusing on the things that I can control, and working really, really hard at them.
Some things I have found to not be about input and output, it is just not always going to work out.
For example, I practiced for weeks leading up to eighth grade basketball tryouts, but did not make the team. Yes, middle school Meara was crushed but, honestly, I can’t help that I’m generally uncoordinated. And guess what, it’s OK, I am over it (I think).
But I didn’t just write this to tell you that I am not the most athletic, and that the great outdoors and I do not always agree. (You could have come to that conclusion by referencing this photo).
I have run into this many times in high school, with things I have really cared about. I practiced for months for the talent show but got stage fright during auditions. I’ve studied until my head hurt for a math test and still failed. I’ve applied to internships and leadership roles and been denied without an explanation.
There are countless times when what I do never seems to be enough, like it truly is out of my control, and maybe that’s because it never really is. But, by focusing on the things I excel at and improving upon them, I feel a little bit more like I’m steering the wheel.
Coppell High School counselor Jayla Maehs deals with students on a daily basis who are disappointed in something they weren’t able to control and looking for answers.
“The advice I would give is to tell the student that the only thing they can control is their own actions, not the actions of others,” Maehs said. “Whether it be they didn’t get something that they wanted, if they did their very best and knew that they gave it their best effort, then they should be happy with what they have done.”
What advice Maehs gives for moving on makes me wish I had taken more trips to the counselor during my underclassmen years, because it matches with what I have learned.
“I would probably ask them, what other things that they could control, and talk to them about other things they were interested in and wanted to accomplish, and focusing on the positive things about those,” Maehs said. “I would continue to shift the focus to the things they are still trying to achieve, instead of focusing on the thing they didn’t get.”
For additional help, Maehs recommends reflective exercises, journaling and scheduling a time with a professional counselor.
So where does that leave me? Writing music in my own time and not performing in front of crowds, taking three periods of writing and one period of math, doing things I love and at my own pace. Although things still constantly challenge me, I am happier for it.
Brené Brown, a vulnerability researcher and bestselling author, says when dealing with things out of your control, there are three things to take into account.
First, Brown recommends looking past your own narrative, assuming something happened for a particularly negative reason. It sounds simple enough – don’t create blame where there really is none – but I know when I’m faced with an uncontrollable situation my mind often leaps to these conclusions.
The next step is to find out the truth. Sometimes it can be a hard one. However, knowing what you are not necessary stellar at can help lead you toward what you are.
You probably guessed her last step, making a change. Not a change in who you are necessarily, but a change in perspective. Thinking outside the box- or the gym.
Suddenly you realize your friends ahead of you are still your same friends, gym class isn’t forever, and you have art next period anyway.