The Dark Side of Over Functioning

I have always had a love-hate relationship with anxiety. It has gotten better in recent years with a lot of support, and one of the things I have learned is both the importance of knowing “me”, as well as retaining a sense of humor in the face of my anxiety. A while back, I started thinking about superheroes, and what my super power might be. Hello! I am Anxiety Girl – Able to leap to fifteen different conclusions in a single bound!! It may sound silly, but the thing that has helped me manage my anxiety the most is the ability to laugh at myself.

Anxiety can cause a lot of different issues. Sometimes we might withdraw from the world, and other times we feel the need to increase the control in our lives. Perhaps we start to see ourselves as the victim, or we might have the innate desire to take on the role of the rescuer. Or, we might become a perfectionist. Although these responses to anxiety may help us in the moment, they have another consequence: Over-functioning and under-functioning. But what does this mean, and why is it a problem?

Over-functioning is the role a person can take on which drives a person to take responsibility for many other people in their lives, causing the person to take on others’ responsibilities as their own. Under-functioning is when another person allows the over-functioner to do this, thereby reducing their own responsibilities. This cause difficulties in a couple of different ways. First, it can cause the over-functioner to become overwhelmed with the added responsibilities they have chosen to take on, thereby increasing their own anxiety. It can also cause issues for the other person as well, because they no longer have the responsibilities they had before. Over time, the over-functioner creates a group of under-functioners who no longer need to function at the level they were before, reducing motivation, self-esteem, and connection. This means that the over-functioner becomes more overwhelmed and anxious while reducing their own ability to connect, and the cycle begins again.

My own style has been that of a perfectionist – I am a classic over-functioner! I am learning that, over the years this has been my go-to style of functioning. As a sufferer of low self-esteem since childhood, this explains quite a bit about why my style developed the way it did. An awareness of who I am has helped me address my various perfectionistic traits, and I am less of a perfectionist than I used to be; however, years of over-functioning can be difficult to change. I have had to learn patience as well as the ability to be comfortable in my discomfort. In recent years I have been able to reduce the strength of my super power. Instead of jumping to fifteen different conclusions in a single bound, it is probably down to about five or six. I am a work in progress, and I am okay with that!

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