- Do you have an enthusiastic desire to be helpful all of the time?
- Do you suffer from anxiety and manage this by being helpful?
- Do you know what’s best for other people but not necessarily know what’s best for yourself?
In families, eldest children often have trouble staying away from other people’s troubles. We are unable to allow our family and friends to work out their own solutions to the problems they face. Usually we have been the strong one, the one who copes well in a family crisis and who everyone turns to in a time of need.
Yet the problem is that this over-functioning role has left us feeling not very comfortable voicing any fears or weaknesses we may have. How would it be as the eldest child to be allowed to express your own limits and fears? Maybe this could lead you to feeling more authentic and also result in better relationships with the people around you. Yet how can you go about it?
My suggestion is as follows;
- Firstly you have to recognise you have had enough of being the one that solves everyone else’s problems for them.
- Next, you have to be willing to experiment trying something new, with the very people who desperately want you to keep fixing things for them. Experimenting with conversations where you talk about your limits or concerns is a really good way of practicing showing this other side of yourself. Start with someone who is a good listener and not so attached to you solving their problems for them.
- Lastly, for a real test, build up to a family member who uses you all the time to dump their troubles on. Your goal is to test out what is possible in your relationships so that you feel enhanced and more authentic and generally less depleted.
If doing this on your own feels too overwhelming, enlist the support of a good friend or a skilled therapist, who can help you interrupt the pattern and gently point out to you when you are slipping back into over functioning once again. Resisting the strong emotional currents that pull you back into fixing things takes practise and time. Yet eventually those people in your life will get the message and start to find a new way to relate to you. We all resist change even as we seek it, so be prepared for your own resistance to giving up relationships where you don’t get much in return. It will take time to create more balance in your relationships, but it will lead you to being able to show both your competence and your softness to the important people in your life.