Feeling Judged and Controlled? Question Your Inner Cruise Director

When Jonathan and I went on a cruise to Bermuda with my family several years ago, the piped-in, controlled voice of Cruise Director Carlos drove me crazy.

Now, this was a lovely cruise. It was a privilege to relax and have my towels folded into animal shapes every night.

However, the oft-repeated, overly-enthusiastic announcements just did not work for me. (I’m an introvert who jumps like a startled deer at the sound of a ring tone.)

Several times a day, Cruise Director Carlos would blast over the loudspeakers, reading the rundown of social events with forced good cheer. After a few days, it really got on my nerves.

Here he was trying to make sure we didn’t miss a single opportunity for happiness, when we were so much happier left to our own devices.

By the end of the trip, I’d clench my fists at the sound of Carlos’s voice. But why was I ticked off at this upbeat guy who was just doing his job?

Feeling Judged and Controlled

Because I’d interpret his announcements as judgment. Because I thought he was implying that I wasn’t having enough fun, or the right kind of fun.

In short, I thought he was trying to judge and control me, and I resented him for it.

It’s amazing what our minds come up with, isn’t it?

In hindsight, my anger was never about Carlos at all. All he did was hold up a mirror – or rather, a microphone – to the voice in my own head. All he did was bring me face to face with Cruise Director Caroline.

She’s the part of my ego that wants to manage everybody’s good time. She’s the codependent who tries so hard to “make people happy” as if that was ever in her power.

Controlled Cruise Director

For example, I used to think that it was my job to make sure that Jonathan’s and my weekends were “fun”.

More accurately, I used to think it was my job to plan activities that would sound cool, so that when people asked, “What did you do last weekend?”, I could give an answer that would meet with approval.

As though there was something wrong with saying, “Oh, we just read books and took naps and enjoyed ourselves.” As though what actually made us happy wasn’t good enough.

When I let Cruise Director Caroline run the show, I felt anxious about how we spent our weekends. I judged our quiet Saturdays even though I secretly preferred them … and I got frustrated when Jonathan didn’t try to “fix” them with me.

Yes, now and then I like to put on my shiny tank top and party. But mostly I prefer to curl up on the couch and read or go to a yoga class. (Yoga is great for introverts, as you get to share meaningful experiences without talking.)

Controlled Cruise Director Caroline finds these true preferences very threatening. She thinks that I need to become a better me, preferably by putting down my journal and joining the group activities on the Lido Deck.

But what if I just let myself be who I am?

Cruise Director Controlled

Question the Painful Thoughts

Recently I questioned the thought, “I need to make sure that Jonathan and I have fun weekends.” As a result, I discovered that it wasn’t true.

There was no need for me to “cruise direct” our free time. Whose business is it if I have fun? Mine. Whose business is it if Jonathan has fun? Jonathan’s.

And so what if our version of fun isn’t the same as other people’s? We’re certainly not the only introverts out there. I love the way Martha Beck describes her experience:

… My personality is more cat than dog. For years, I’ve pushed myself to be more social, more tail-wagging, more ingratiating. When I’m really honest, I wander off by myself almost all the time. I turned down several delightful New Year’s Eve invitations and went to bed at 9:00, not because I wasn’t in a festive mood – I was – but because a peaceful, restful new year was far more enjoyable for me than a noisy gathering. If this makes me the most boring human being in the world, I do not care.

Lately I’ve been having great weekends, in part because I’ve questioned the painful thought that I need to be different. What a relief it has been to make one small change with integrity.

What a relief to drop the story and embrace reality instead.


Ever questioned a painful thought? Join the conversation in the comments.


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12 thoughts on “Feeling Judged and Controlled? Question Your Inner Cruise Director

  1. Dawn says:

    This theme (the mirror one) has been a megatheme in my life lately. Your subject line totally caught my eye and mentally I was like “yes!” And then … Ha ha. There was a not-so-little part of me hoping you were going to show me a way to put the responsibility elsewhere. 🙂

    My mirror mirror right now has to do with allowing myself to acknowledge feeling bad (2 sick kids, sick me-including 10 days of pinkeye)…I’m wiped out. But I was gnashing my teeth about the neighbor kvetching about how bad she’s been feeling, self-righteously thinking that I was somehow better for suffering in silence. There is a whole load of mental muckery that I don’t need to get into here, but suffice to say: your post is timely and just a tad bit uncomfortable…but in a good way. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Dawn, it’s great that this post fits into the themes of your life right now … and I hear you, it would be SO nice if we could put the responsibility elsewhere for a change. 😉

      I’m sorry to hear that you and your kids are feeling sick! Hoping that you feel better soon. And way to go for recognizing your painful thought patterns – I know firsthand how easy it can be to slip into comparison mode.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and share here, Dawn – it means a lot!

  2. Donna Fischer says:

    You’ve got to love those towel-animals!!! ha! Lovely insight on what makes us recharge and re-center.

  3. Sarah says:

    This was spot on for me..the other night my SO came outside as I was getting home. I had poured the remaining drink out of my cup on the ground, and as I was getting out of the car, he said “What got spilled out here?” I immediately got defensive! After reading this article, I can see it was my ego, and I felt he was trying to control me! This happens a lot in my life, so I guess the lesson is my big ego needs deflation and I can learn from these moments and grow. Thanks for the post.

    • What a great story, Sarah! Thank you for sharing it here. You said it well – it is amazing how those everyday moments show us where we’re sensitive, where we feel the need to defend ourselves.

      Actually had a similar experience today when Bootsie (our cat) slid past me as I was leaving the house and escaped down the stairs, which she knows she is not supposed to do but manages to accomplish with some frequency.

      As I dashed after her, saying “Oh no!”, Jonathan said, “Why does this keep happening?” His tone was questioning and not accusatory, but I immediately went into defensive mode and said something like, “Why are you criticizing me?” As soon as it was out of my mouth, I realized: Wait a second, what he actually said was pretty neutral, but I took it as criticism!

      Like you with the drink, I just went straight for defense. It made me laugh to realize: Wow, I really want him to see me as capable and competent, don’t I?

      Thanks for sharing the journey. 🙂

  4. Melanie says:

    Thanks for another great post! Hard to put into words how much this post resonated with me. It gave me a so much more clarity! The main thing I got from this article is the importance of checking in with myself, being honest about what is right for me, doing it and being okay with it inspite of what others think or even what I think they think. Thanks again!

    • You’re most welcome, Melanie! So glad to hear that it spoke out to you. And you said it well – when we check in with ourselves, get honest about what’s right for us, and let go of the need to be seen a certain way, life opens up. Glad to be sharing stories with you. 🙂

  5. Lisa says:

    Recently I challenged a few under the surface type expectations I had. I expected not to get hurt. How u realistic. I was able to see that with that belief in place I spent my days in self protection. I guarded my heart from the possibility of getting hurt. I was constantly over thinking and looking over my shoulder trying to anticipate someone else’s next move. I was in a 24/7 defensive mode. Be cause of that I was up at night with mind racing thoughts. In the end God spoke to my heart these words ” what if you just drop your guard”. It took a few weeks before I made that internal shift. But I when I did everything change. The first thing I noticed was that I slept through the night ! Then I became more relaxed as a result of not being defensive and fearful. But the greatest part is the peace! No anxiety! I got at a root and it was pulled out. Makes me wonder how many ppl wouldn’t need medication if they would challenge their irrational under the surface beliefs.

    • What a powerful story, Lisa! Thank you for sharing it here. So glad to hear that you are getting more rest – both literally and figuratively speaking – since dropping the defensive guard. I’ll be thinking of your example as I move through my day. Thank you again!

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