An overfunctioner is a term used to describe someone who habitually takes on more responsibility than is necessary. They often feel anxious and burnt out. Within relationships, they tend to take on responsibilities that other people are meant to handle. It’s common for them to be overly focused on the problems of others, leading them to give unsolicited advice, set goals for them, and/or micromanage them. Though their intention is to be helpful, this behavior can make them come across as critical, impatient, and/or harsh. This can make others feel nervous, causing them to distance themselves or over-rely on the overfunctioner.
Overfunctioners are often drawn to underfunctioners. Overfunctioners tend to handle stress by compulsively trying to gain control and underfunctioners tend to handle stress by avoiding responsibility. When paired, the overfunctioner and underfuncitoner can amplify each other’s unhealthy coping mechanisms. Overfunctioners tend to feel resentful toward the underfunctioner for “making them” overfunction, though they are contributing to the problem just as much. This dynamic is generally unhealthy if not corrected, as it’s a slippery slope toward codependence.
Here are a few ways to undo this pattern:
- Catch Yourself – Be aware of when you are taking a responsibility that someone else is meant to be taking for themselves. Avoid blaming yourself or others, and instead, allow yourself to take a step back and observe what’s going on. Are you taking on this responsibility because you’re worried the other person won’t do it right or won’t do it at all? Are you aiming to gain approval? Are you trying to gain a sense of control?
- Delegate – You can’t maintain all of the responsibility; it’s not healthy for you or others. Identify a few tasks you can stop doing and ask others to handle them. Trust that others are capable, even if their output looks different than yours.
- If You Can’t Control it, Let it Go – You know what can’t be controlled? Other people. Trying to control others not only doesn’t work, but attempting to do so can quicky turn into a toxic relationship. Do your best to practice surrender by accepting others as they are and allowing situations to turn out however they do.
As you work to heal from your overfunctioning tendencies, aim to be patient with yourself and others. It’s normal to feel discomfort/an increase in anxiety as you begin to let go of overfunctioning, though it will pay off when you observe more balance within your relationships.
May you be healthy and happy