Are you OverFunctioning?
by Leslie Vernick
Being a nice person is a good thing, right? We want to be nice, we want to raise our children to be nice, have nice friends… nice is just “nice!”
But can “nice” ever be a bad thing? In other words, can you be “too” nice?
There are many genuinely nice people - some of the nicest, in fact - who willingly become doormats to friends, family, neighbors and their church community. They’re the chronic volunteers, the wives and mothers who cater to their family’s every whim.
When you’re in the throes of over-functioning it can feel like what you’re doing is good. You’re being a “servant.” You’re being “available.” You’re helping others. Isn’t that what God wants from you?
Maybe not. When you overfunction, what you’re really doing is enabling other people to underfunction.
Perhaps it’s in the way you parent, doing it everything for your kids, believing that’s what a good mom does. But later on it will backfire because you will raise self-centered young adults who won’t know how to take care of themselves or problem solve when real life hits them in the face.
By doing it all - You’ve taught your children to always need you because they didn’t learn how to function apart from you.
If that’s you, don’t plan on downsizing at retirement because your kids are probably going to be living with you for a long, long time.
Being too nice can do damage to yourself and to others by keeping them immature and under-functioning.
If you recognize that you’re doing things for others that they should be doing for themselves, there’s a few things that need to happen in order to change this dynamic.
1. Ask yourself WHY?
Are you afraid to say no?
Are you afraid people will be angry or reject you if you don’t do it all?
Do you tell yourself that you have to be needed by someone in order to feel loved or like a whole person?
Do you feel pity on your kids or husband and tell yourself that they can’t do it without you?
Recognizing your internal reasons for over functioning is a crucial first step so you won’t continue to make the same mistakes.
2. It’s important to stop and think about what is in your family’s best interests. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Love is not affectionate feelings, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be attained.
For example, no good parent is going to serve sweets at every meal, even though a child may throw a tantrum when they don’t get it. Why? Because that’s not in the child’s best interest.
Neither is bailing your kids or husband out of every problem they get themselves in.
Sometimes, it’s important to let them figure it out or even suffer the consequences of poor decisions. Not to hurt them but so they can learn in sooner rather than later instead of continuing to repeat those mistakes throughout their lives.
3. If you want to make this change, it’s helpful to put your family on notice. Let them know you’re changing. I call this a speak up conversation. For example, if you had an adult child who moved in with you because of bad financial decisions, your “speak up conversation” might go something like this:
“I love you. In fact, I love you so much I’ve let it cloud my judgment as a mom. I thought I was being a good parent by giving you everything you needed, by doing things for you…but now I see that I was not allowing you to gain the confidence you needed to do things for yourself.
You’ve become dependent on me to solve your problems and rescue you when things get hard. I want you to know I see my mistakes and am willing to help you but only temporarily.
I expect you to get a job and save money toward a deposit on your own place. Meanwhile, you need to help me with the expenses here by paying room and board. I want you to be successful and that starts with me letting you be an adult and you beginning to be responsible like an adult.
Be committed to stop your part. Don’t over-function. Have a plan for what you’ll say when your change isn’t received well.
Remember, you can’t make another person be healthy but you can choose to be healthy yourself.
For some additional help in moving beyond over functioning sign up for my 5 Day Free Challenge: Moving Beyond. We start on Monday, June 8th