Confessions of an Over-Functioner

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over-functionerHi, my name is Maria, and I’m an over-functioner. 

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.

Trust me when I say I have tried to back down, get people to step up, or go with the flow. However, in a classic over-functioning style, I fear that someone will get hurt if I don’t do it. I guess I over-function to hide my pain and hurt and also try to protect others. 

Are you an over or under-functioner?

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Maria is a full-time mom, teacher, wife, daughter, and sister, who feels pulled in too many directions! Her older son Michael took over 24 hours to be born, and at six-months-old was diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, shrimp, and wheat…all after exclusively nursing because she was SO SURE that would help him be a healthy kid. Luckily at age 1, he began to outgrow some of his allergies. Fingers crossed the others will soon follow because that plus a husband who doesn’t eat any veggies and Maria always battling her weight makes for three meals to prepare every night. Luckily, Christopher, her younger son, is a cooperative eater! As someone who has always been committed to making positive change, Maria uses her privilege and position as an educator and mom to work toward a most anti-racisit, equitibile, and inclusive world. Recently, Maria has even started getting up at 5am to workout in her basement. (Thank you pandemic living!) She is addicted to reading chicklit on her Kindle app in the dark, most Trader Joe’s products, and watching TikToks.

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