Guilty of the Sin of Outdoing

Picture1Linda: We all have invisible loyalties to our family of origin. And so many of us did not have inspirational models of partnership in the families we grew up in. Perhaps we come from a home where parents divorced, were mismatched but did not separate, or we were heavily impacted by addiction, mental illness, or depression. We may have witnessed disappointment, their sacrificing by staying together “for the sake of the children,” overt hostility in the form of arguments, or covert hostility in the form of silence and tension.

All parents do their very best by their children, but so many are limited in with they can offer. They may not have been thriving themselves, frustrated in not getting their own needs met, and yet they endured. Other families may not have been extreme in their dysfunction, but they do not qualify as models of a vital partnership either.

If we come from a household where our parents did not offer a model of thriving partnership, there will be a strong tendency to play out many of the patterns that we repeatedly witnessed. We may find ourselves chronically repeating some of the same unwholesome behaviors, even if we swore long ago, that we wouldn’t act like them. There is more going on here than just not having good examples of what an intimate working partnership looks like.

In their insightful book, Imaginary Crimes, Lewis Engel, Ph.D. and Tom Ferguson, M.D. describe the imagined crimes that can prompt guilt in us, and how unconsciously we hold ourselves back from achieving in many domains, including establishing delightful, intimate partnerships. So many of us find that our partnerships are not working and don’t have a clue why they are so problematic. We may even notice that we are sabotaging them, and find ourselves confused as to why we would do the very things that we know do not promote well-being.

If we come from a family that did not demonstrate healthy relating, it may be strange to consider that we are being loyal to their long-standing tradition. And yet, there is a strong, yet largely unconscious impulse to act out “Now that I’m like you will you love me?”  Once we can notice the ways in which we are holding ourselves back, we become free of the impulse to repeat our family’s patterns. A conscious choice can finally be made to surpass our family of origin in all the ways that really matter to us, to be happier, to be more professionally successful, to have more meaningful friendships, to enjoy our life, savoring moments, and to become a deeply loving partner.

winner-1013979_1920Some families are truly happy to have their child outdo them. But others may resent our success. Even if they tell us that they are pleased about our accomplishments, we may feel the tension caused by their envy. We are wise to be careful not to sabotage our well-deserved competence and confidence, which is vying for dominance with our desire to fit in to, and be loyal to our family.

Rather than holding ourselves as a wicked sinner for being disloyal to our parents’ style of being in the world, we can learn to rejoice and feel proud that we are outstripping them in all the ways that are important to us. It is our choice whether we live in fear of out-shinning our family members who were unable to achieve their own goals. Not only can we manifest our own dreams, but some of the dreams that our parents were unable to accomplish as well. And when we do that, we redeem their suffering. We might not get the satisfaction of their gratitude, but we can go on to enjoy our successes, guilt free.


Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.

Picture1Praise for Happily Ever After:

“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate

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Shared by: Linda Bloom, LCSW, & Charlie Bloom, MSW, Contributing Bloggers

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