The Illusion of Control

My enthusiasm had turned into nervousness. When I was working on my website last Tuesday, I was looking forward to share it. But when I put it online I felt some tension. It felt like when I wore my bandana for the first time (it’s been a while since I’ve worn them to be honest); you go in public, but your appearance is difference than normal. You like to show yourself in a way you like, but not in a way others are used to. Not everyone will understand and that might lead to negative and possibly even hurtful reactions. The advantage is that this time I largely controlled it myself. By the way, maybe I should wear my bandana again.

Sometimes I dare to say that I’m the only one who can hurt myself. How? In this case for example by having high expectations, by hoping for a lot of positive reactions. However, there are three points to be made on this claim. First of all one claims too much control under certain circumstances, while one should take into account other people’s behaviours as well; one can’t be prepared for everything. This leads to my second point. Tim Fransen tells in his book Het Leven als Tragikomedie (Life as a Tragicomedy) that people tend to think that they’re in control all the time (Fransen, p. 76-81). He calls this the illusion of control. If we have this control, we can make sure that things that go wrong go better next time, because we had control over it ourselves. However, this is often not the case; it’s not called an illusion for nothing. Thirdly, this attitude could lead to some form of pessimism; low expectations means less hurt and disappointment, so why should someone still be hopeful and optimistic?

This time I had high expectations, as I often have. After all, you hope it will be a success. People who know me know that I often hardly care about other people’s opinions. Yet; I must admit that I care more than I’d like. Also in this case, which caused my enthusiasm to turn into nervousness.

Within a few days, however, I already had over three hundred views from over a hundred visitors and dozens of positive responses from friends; so the start wasn’t so bad. Frankly, I am quite impressed and I hope I can continue this way. I was able to join a Skype conversation with friends straight away to explain the idea behind my website. At the same time, I received questions with how many words I had typed for my thesis and how many words I had spent on my website (which has since been rectified).

From all those reactions I want to grab a few and highlight two, because I found them interesting or educational. A comment I found interesting was a comparison between this website and social media, where social media is mainly about sketching a positive image about your own life, while I mainly want to show everything behind the scenes here. The most interesting and perhaps ironic thing about this is that I made social media for this website, so I completely turn what social media is often used for on social media itself.

Another interesting note was that I should be careful about what I post on this website if, for example, future employees or students of mine come across this website. In the past, students of mine have already made a Wikipedia page about me and they could do that again. (Incidentally, I thought that was very funny and I’m sorry that the page was removed before I saw it.) This inspired me to make the following statement: “With [special] products they have a certificate of authenticity, with me they have my website.”

Maybe it’s time to dust off my bandana again.

This is just the beginning.


  • Tim Fransen – Het Leven als Tragikomedie (2019) | (Life as a Tragicomedy, Dutch only)

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