You’re checking your to-do list and see that you’ve checked off everything you can possibly accomplish on your own and the rest depends on waiting for someone else. As you hit refresh on your inbox your feet start tapping. A quick run for tea and a bathroom break, five minutes have passed and there’s still no response from the next person in the workflow. It hardly took you any time to do the task, so why should it take someone so long to review it? You hear a sound and realize your fingers are drumming on the desk and you decide to just eliminate the middle man and do the task yourself. Deadlines must be met, and it’s easier to just do it yourself than wait on someone else.
Sound familiar? Now raise your hand if you’ve personally victimized a co-worker, classmate, or family member for not accomplishing something at your pace or in the manner you think it should be done. That, my friends, is the curse of the Type-A personality. We’re control freaks, micromanagers, and are either the best person you could ever work with (because we’ll do everything) or the worst because we don’t trust anyone else to get something done. In our attempt to “Get Shit Done” we’ve more than likely made those around us feel like shit because we’ve implied they’re incompetent. Trust me when I say it’s not intentional and not personal, it’s just an attribute of our personality it’s nearly impossible to overcome.
For myself, my Type-A tendencies stem from what’s likely an undiagnosed anxiety disorder that I generally refuse to acknowledge because I’m far too much “in control” for that. It’s not a case of a superiority complex (though my innate narcissism would argue otherwise) but more a sense that the world will end if I rely on anyone but myself. There’s a one-two punch of a lack of trust and an eldest-sibling “must be responsible at all times” complex. I’ve literally lain awake in bed at night and worried that someone won’t hear the puppy crying that he has to pee and gotten up multiple times just make sure he’s OK (spoiler, he always is). It’s an undeniable urge pushing behind my sternum catching my breath, whispering in my mind, like the phantom footprints of an insect on my skin. I cannot stop myself from stepping in, getting it done, and knowing that whether something works or fails, it’s on me. It simultaneously makes me infinitely reliable, but difficult to work with, and highly prone to stress.
If you Google “how to manage your Type-A personality” you get a lot of listicles and corporate HR nonsense about dealing with these types of employees. There’s not a whole lot touching on the crippling stress of feeling responsible for every project, every dinner, every friend group, and family member. It doesn’t necessarily talk about how people automatically assume you’re a bitch or how you struggle everyday to not hurt people’s feelings inadvertently. Generally the conversation is around how we may be neurotic, but we’re effective at keep the world turning.
Over the years I’ve become more cognizant that my control freak personality is often only offset by my laziness, a contradictory trait that is probably all that keeps me sane. My brain may be telling me to get up, go make that family dinner myself or be the one to drive everyone to the beach, but my body says, “Yell all you want, I’m still not getting up.” Thankfully the urge to sleep overrides everything else, or I’d never stop.
It also helps that I’m surrounded by other Type A’s, which sounds awful, but there’s a level of support and even trust amongst us. I know my co-editors are as obsessive about their responsibilities as I am, so I can trust them to do what they say they will. My family assumes everyone’s an idiot and the only way something will get done is if it’s done per each person’s specific orders. Which admittedly makes the phrase “all generals and no soldiers” absurdly appropriate when it come to family projects, but also means things won’t fall between the cracks—we’ll just fight over who’s right while we get it done. They’re also the first to take something off my plate if possible and call me on my crap if I’m getting too bossy.
Yet for all their help, the only time I don’t feel entirely responsible for everything is when I can escape into nature and see myself as a peon in the grand scheme of the world. When the cliffs and sea make me feel finite and forgettable, like a single loose rock among millions, sliding down the cliffs, eroding one tiny part of a greater purpose, it’s comforting. It means things can go on without me, I cannot control everything, and whether I write that article faster or get the laundry done sooner, it doesn’t matter. I can let go and breathe easier, and let nature be in control.
So if you too are the bossy bane of everyone’s life, do yourself (and them) a favor and get out into the world and feel small. Trust me, it will help.