I Have A Problem With Authority, Argh!

Last updated by Rosie Harlow

With all the orders my parents gave me, I thought I was armed for school, but as soon as I was at pre-school, my parents were summoned because I refused to do what the teacher told me. As I grew up, it became increasingly difficult to tell my manager where to get off, summoning my parents was no longer an option, but the intolerance to authority remained. Can we reconcile ourselves with authority, whether it is a silent or uncontrollable difficulty?

I Have A Problem With Authority, Argh!

My passive rebellion

I say that I have trouble with authority, and you immediately think that I’m a rebel, in conflict with my parents, teachers, manager, and tell anyone who gives me an order to get lost. Think again! My problem with authority is much more twisted than that: I’m undergoing a sort of passive rebellion. My parents couldn’t stand my disobedience, and they were very strict. I quickly understood, even at school, that in order not to obey an order and still have peace of mind, you mustn’t provoke. As a result, I never openly said that I hated school, but the more I was expected to get good grades, the less effort I made.

🧠 I didn’t respect the rules, but silently and discreetly. Opposing them head on always seemed futile to me. There are orders everywhere, so I make a distinction, going from someone who accepts authority to someone who runs away from it or rebels in silence. It’s a situation that’s much more difficult to live with than it seems. Fulfillment isn’t into the bargain!

Authority: I need it, I flee from it, I hate it

We’re not all equal when it comes to authority, there are 4 types of profile. Most of the time, we easily recognize ourselves in one of these profiles, but sometimes depending on the circumstances, the context or the people, we switch from one profile to another.

1. The obedient one, for whom the boundaries are reassuring

This is the person who accepts orders without complaining because the boundaries reassure them. They like having guidelines and think that receiving orders is par for the course, especially at work. No matter with what tone of voice the orders are given, they value their superiors and are always trying to prove their legitimacy. They are able to take criticism, not least because they know how to manage their emotions, especially in professional situations.

>>> You may be interested in this article: Learn how to manage your emotions in 3 steps

2. The one who sorts whether to obey?

The one who sorts evaluates whether to obey an order. For them to accept authority, it must come from a person they trust and value or someone who is kind and empathetic. Then, they will only accept an order if they feel it’s justified. At work, if this evaluator feels his superiors aren’t up to the task or if a manager behaves authoritatively, plays the jumped-up boss and is unfair, the evaluator is likely to get angry.

This is a vision of authority that I find very healthy. It’s one of the principles of positive education. Teaching a child to obey is good, but teaching them to obey at all costs with their eyes closed, is less so. There are many unfair orders, which don’t help, so it’s good to learn how to distinguish them.

3. The one who bows over, when fear dominates

This is my profile. Particularly tormented because very often they’re plagued by a feeling of injustice they can’t express. People with this type of profile often have no idea how difficult it is for them to deal with authority. What dominates is often the fear of being fired, disliked or discredited and the difficulty to say noFaced with an order, self-censorship applies. The result is a lot of inner anger and extreme nervousness.

4. The one who refuses, the uncontrollable one

And of course, there’s the one who refuses everything, the uncontrollable one. Whatever the order, they refuse it. Here we’re faced with an excessive ego, someone who thinks they’re above everyone else, a narcissist who sincerely believes that they don’t have to take orders from anyone, probably because they never really received orders as a child. It’s impossible to work in a team with this type of person.

⬇️ FAQ: What causes authority anxiety?

Anxiety about authority can stem from a variety of psychological, social and environmental factors. Here are some potential causes:

  • Traumatic experiences: Traumatic experiences involving authority figures in childhood, such as abuse of power, neglect or rejection, can contribute to developing distrust or fear of authority.
  • Parental role models: Relationships with parents or primary authority figures can influence perceptions of authority. For example, authoritarian or critical parents can create a sense of insecurity or inadequacy in the child, which can translate into anxiety about other authorities.
  • Fear of failure or judgment: Fear of failing to meet expectations or of being judged negatively by authority figures can also contribute to anxiety about authority. This fear may stem from social pressure or high performance standards.

It's important to note that anxiety about authority can be complex and multifactorial, and can vary considerably from one person to another.

Can you flourish in the face of authority?

When faced with a problem of authority, it’s difficult to turn back, as this would mean changing your character or the education you received. It's complicated, sometimes even impossible. However, by working on yourself with the help of a therapist, profiles such as “the one who bows over” or “the one who refuses” can be transformed.

Asserting yourself

Practicing silent insubordination or accepting all orders with a knot in your stomach is sending the wrong signals. Nobody is in my head to know whether I accept this order against my will and in spite of all my moral principles. So what solutions can you put in place when you feel subjected to an authority that brings you out in hives? You can start by being assertive at work, so that you assert yourself with your manager in particular, but also with your colleagues. Learning how to say no is also a necessity, replacing “I’m sorry” with thank you, will help you not to constantly devalue yourself and then, if necessary, it’s not appropriate to remind your manager of the legal framework of your work (“I’d like to do it, but I’ll do it tomorrow as I’ve been working since 8am”).

Be supervised

For those who refuse all orders, it’s paradoxically in a world with very strong authority that they could flourish. In the army, the police, high-level sport or a restaurant kitchen. Here, there’s no room for discussion, the work is strict but the objectives are clear, precise and the sanctions are harsh. In this type of environment, someone who can’t stand authority can find a structure that will relieve them and give them a rest, even if from time to time, violent altercations are still possible.

😉 Finally, the only important thing is balance. Whatever your relationship with authority, you must be able, especially in the world of work, to accept the boundaries, all the while shifting them from time to time!

Editor’s note: It’s all about balance

The relationship with authority is complex and personal. The key is to find the balance, so you can flourish, be in tune with whom you really are and what your superiors expect from you. Authority defines boundaries, and when they’re clear, then you are entitled to do whatever you want within them. But for this, the boundaries must be clear and well accepted… If your relationship with authority is complicated and prevents you from flourishing in your professional life, then it’s time to contact a psychologist in order to study the reasons and to find solutions.

🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... Let’s do it here and now!


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Article presented by Rosie Harlow

Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. For as long as I can remember, I have always used paper as a punching bag. Get to know me, I am Rosie Harlow.

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