What is an over-functioner? According to Will Meek Ph.D., “Classic characteristics of over-functioning include being overly focused on another person’s problems or life situation, offering frequent advice or help to the other person (usually unsolicited), actually doing things that are part of the other person’s life responsibilities (and believing that “if I don’t do it, then it won’t happen”), feeling anger when help is not “appreciated” or the under-functioner doesn’t change (or even want to), the over-functioner believing they know a better way for an under-functioner to be living, and frequently feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and neglecting self-care. Over-functioning can be seen as a type of “enabling” even though the intent is the opposite.”
My cause of becoming an over-functioner is easy to pinpoint. When I was nine years old, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve been an over-functioner ever since. I emotionally supported my mom, got a newspaper route to bring in a little extra cash, and always bent over backward to keep the peace around me.
By the time I was in high school, I truly believed the only way to make and keep friends was to over-function for them too. Therefore, I was on multiple clubs and committees and volunteered for everything and anything.
In college, I joined a sorority, moved into our house, and became House Manager and guard because those positions would allow me to control almost everything, including who could enter our weekly meetings.
It wasn’t a surprise that I went into teaching. Again, I found the perfect position for me to overfunction and succeed. On my team, I’m always sending emails with agendas for our weekly meetings, placing supply orders, and organizing schedules and calendars. Whenever anyone wants to know about upcoming events or protocols, they find me. “You always know and have it together” is commonly what I hear.
In my home life, it’s no different. My husband and kids know how to sit back and relax while I run around like a madwoman cooking for everyone; even cooking separate meals, catering to everyone’s desires.
With my mom, whenever she calls, I jump. I will go out of my way to help her at any expense. Keep the peace at all costs is the name of the game.