By Kaitlyn Dunagan
Humans are full of contradictions. We say one thing and do the exact opposite. We are filled with both love and hate, strength and weakness, fear and courage. We “contain multitudes,” as Walt Whitman would say and when it comes to the roles we play in our friend groups, these same contradictions can become more evident. Here are 6 paradoxical truths for anyone who is categorized as the “therapist” in their friend group:
1. You’re able to give advice because you were the one who once needed it. However, you realize it’s easier to say it than to enact it.
You may tell others to “overcome a fear” and believe wholeheartedly they can accomplish this goal. However, in your everyday life you may be anxious and it can be difficult for you to overcome your own obstacles. You are aware of what you believe to be best for others but have trouble applying that belief in your own life.
What you need to keep in mind: Your friends come to you for advice for a reason—it is because it works. Be intentional about listening to your own wisdom. Ask a friend to help you do so, if necessary.
2. You’re often more interested in other people’s lives than your own – sometimes to a fault.
Because you care deeply about your friends, what is important to them is important to you. You may not mean to but you can start keeping a tally of important events in their lives and become a champion at reminding them (especially if they happen to be forgetful people) and start losing track of your own professional, emotional, social, and/or physical needs. This can cause stress or emotional exhaustion because you are trying to balance your needs with the needs of others and often will put others before yourself.
What you need to keep in mind: Your friends are old enough to take care of themselves. Your needs only come first because they help you continue to help those you love. Being too selfless will ultimately lead to you becoming selfish when it comes to how you treat others in the long run.
3. You forgive others more quickly than you will forgive yourself.
You have been told more than once that “you need to give yourself more credit” or to “stop being so hard on yourself.” This attribute is a blessing and a curse for you. It encourages you to keep improving but can lead to you taking self-criticism too far. If you make a mistake or hurt a loved one, you can easily be filled with feelings of intense shame and regret. Though, if a loved one makes a mistake you usually have no problem giving them a second chance, even if it involves a transgression against you.
What you need to keep in mind: You’re a human being too. You will make mistakes and you will need to deal with them and move on from them to change and grow. Use the same amount of grace you use on your friends, on yourself.
4. Your deep appreciation of others can lead to an under-appreciation of yourself.
You give and give and give but feel too often like no one is giving as much as you have in return. This can lead to you feeling misunderstood and/or unloved. You may feel like a burden to your friends and this idea will convince you to retreat. If this negative thought is allowed to grow, it can lead to (mental and physical) isolation, which may only worsen the problem if you stay in isolation too long.
What you need to keep in mind: Isolating yourself mentally and/or physically will not help you feel less loved and less isolated. Solitude is healthy but letting your friends know how you feel is important too. Communication is key to breaking the silence when you feel like you are a burden.
5. You hate being controlled and the idea of controlling others but you often end up being the “parent” of the group.
You realize that being supportive does not always mean agreeing with what your loved ones say or do. It means that your friend can count on you to walk with them through the fire when they make a messy mistake. Therefore, you are plagued with the idea of ignoring certain harmful behaviors or being upfront with the person you care for; both situations make you incredibly uncomfortable. Because of how much you care, you may be labeled as the “parent” of the group. Which can be difficult because you want to have fun too but feel responsible for your friends’ happiness and well-being.
What you need to keep in mind: If your friends ask for your advice, give it to them. If they already know how you feel about a certain behavior, there is no need to repeat yourself. They are autonomous and you deserve to have fun too. Just continue being the loving person you are if they end up in a sticky situation.
6. You’re an expert listener, but you want to be able to speak, too.
You can listen to someone for hours on end. Listening to their problems, learning about their dreams and deepest wishes is probably one of your favorite ways to show that you love them. And even though you keep a lot of thoughts to yourself does not mean you do not have any. In reality, you have a lot. And you can only be the listener for so long. If you do not have someone you can talk life out with, you may become irritable or begin to spill out every thought you ever had on the first person who offers their help.
What you need to keep in mind: If you have a friendship where one person is doing all the talking and none of the listening, speak up. If they continue to take advantage of your kindness, you may need to reevaluate your friendship. Being in a friendship is a two-way street and if there is not a constant flow of exchange, it can become toxic. The key lesson that keeps getting repeated is: don’t forget about yourself. You are just as valuable as your friend. You are just as worthy as everyone else. Please, do not forget that.