Compass Resources for The Weight of Over-Functioning

When it comes to relationships, there is a fine line between showing kindness and support, and over-functioning for others. Over-functioning, in the context of relationships, refers to the tendency to take on more responsibilities and tasks than necessary, often driven by a deep desire to help and protect those we care about. However, this seemingly noble act can have profound consequences, leaving us feeling exhausted, under-appreciated, and sending unintentional messages to the people we are over-functioning for.

The Tissue Example

Have you ever sat with someone who was in tears and proactively offered them a tissue, even though they could have easily reached for one themselves? If you have, pause for a moment to reflect on the specifics of that encounter. It is common that when someone accepts the tissue, they naturally attempt to compose themselves. While handing a tissue to a crying individual may appear to be a kind gesture, it might inadvertently convey a message that they should tidy up their emotions. It might imply that they are too messy and need to use the tissue to pull themselves together. After all, the tissues were right there, and they could have helped themselves if they wished. While this might seem like an exaggerated example, it underscores the fact that over-functioning communicates both intended and unintended messages to the recipient, which are often quite clear.

Consequences of Over-Functioning

Over-functioning has many consequences for both the person doing it and the recipients of their actions.

  1. Exhaustion: Over-functioning can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. Constantly shouldering the burden of others’ problems and responsibilities can drain your energy, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and depleted.
  2. Under-Appreciation: Paradoxically, over-functioning can lead to a lack of appreciation. When you consistently take on tasks for others, they may come to expect it as the norm and fail to acknowledge your efforts, leaving you feeling unappreciated. Additionally, you may be doing tasks they actually do not appreciate you doing, perpetuating the issues.
  3. Hero Complex: Over time, over-functioning can reinforce the narrative that you have to be the hero because nobody else can do what you do. This mindset can be isolating, detrimental to your self-worth, and toxic for your relationships.
  4. Lack of Faith: Perhaps the most damaging consequence of over-functioning is that it communicates to the people you are over-functioning for that you do not have faith in their ability to care for themselves or their responsibilities. This can create a codependent dynamic in the relationship, hindering personal growth and self-reliance.

Kindness versus Over-Functioning

It is important to distinguish between showing kindness and support to another versus over-functioning on their behalf. Kindness involves offering help when needed and being present for someone emotionally. Going back to the tissue example, if none were available, kindness would involve making them available for the person in need. It is an act of empathy, showing that you care and are there to support them without implying that they are incapable of helping themselves.

Seeking Change

If you find that you struggle with over-functioning for others and are interested in breaking free from this pattern, consider attending a men’s or women’s Crucible weekend. These retreats provide valuable tools for self-reflection and personal growth, helping individuals identify and address not only their over-functioning tendencies but also other patterns in their lives that may be holding them back.

Over-functioning in relationships can have a multitude of consequences. It is crucial to recognize the difference between offering kindness and over-functioning. In doing so, we can create healthier, more balanced relationships where support is genuine, and personal growth is encouraged. Break free from the over-functioning pattern and step boldly into a more fulfilling and authentic life for yourself, and for those you care about most.