Here’s a word they didn’t teach you in business school: overfunctioning. We added the vocabulary word to our wellness lexicon as soon as we heard it and filed it somewhere between burn-out, boundaries and self-care. 

Last week, Dr. Sara Gottfried dropped a few reflections on being an ‘overfunctioner’ on social media and we knew that, in a year like 2021 with all it’s unique emotional pressures, our audience needed to hear from her.

Dr. Sara is a NYT-bestselling author and physician specializing in ‘precision medicine’ and bioidentical hormones. She has a knack for making foreign-at-first topics from genetics to hormones to  vagal tone completely relatable and her recent take on overfunctioning, an issue predominantly affecting women, is spot on…

Overfunctioning On Autopilot.

Overfunctioning can occur on autopilot, at least for me.

My default setting used to be that I am overly responsible for family, friends, colleagues.

I have often shared about how my overfunctioning has led to overeating, undereating, eating to change my emotional state, high cortisol, high insulin, high glucose, more belly fat, weight loss resistance, hypothyroidism, low libido, PMS, and well… the list goes on.

I write about how women are often expected to overfunction and it sets a trap for us.

We overfunction until we can’t take it anymore. Then conventional medicine offers depression, anxiety, or sleeping pills — all band-aids. Few consider the root cause.

Overfunctioning is…

+ Doing things for others that they can do for themselves
+ Absorbing other people’s feelings
+ People-pleasing to avoid disappointing others
+ Difficulty saying no and setting boundaries
+ Assuming more responsibility than is your share
+ Giving advice whether the person asks for it or not
+ Fretting about others
+ Feeling responsible for others, or knowing what is best for them
+ Talking more than listening
+ Having goals for others that they don’t have for themselves
+ Codependence, or imbalanced relationships, whereby you enable someone else’s immaturity or irresponsibility through caretaking or fixing
+ Behaving like a martyr, taking care of everyone else, giving without receiving, and then occasionally feeling like you were taken advantage of
* Overworking and over-scheduling yourself

Don’t Be A Hero…

My coach calls it hero-ing. Heroes in this context are operating from a place of fear rooted in a need for control, validation, or security. They habitually overfunction to save the day. They get rewarded in business and their family unit for doing what it takes to get the work done, but it’s a form of toxicity that leads to burnout, illness, and breakdown.

Overfunctioners tend to be in an emotional ecosystem with underfunctioners.

The key to escape the trap of overfunctioning is to learn balance before depletion occurs, and to assume responsibility only for what belongs to you.

+ It’s about stepping out of the fear-based victim-villian-hero drama triangle.
+ It’s about awareness, acceptance of what you can’t control, and then taking sacred action.

I’ve learned that one of the best gifts you can give people you love or work with is to take a step back and let them function for themselves.

Overfunctioning can be easy to recognize once you’re aware of it, but tough to interrupt…

How do you stop overfunctioning?

Observe the overfunctioning in your most important relationships. Let go of the need to be right. Shift from believing the world should be a certain way to believing the world simply shows up.

Determine how you’d like to behave. What is your ideal for functional behavior?

Be willing to sit with the discomfort of letting others be responsible for themselves. It may feel like you’re sitting on the razor’s edge. Yes, it’s easier to do it all yourself, but that’s what got us into this mess. Look for opportunities in your most important relationships to enter into this discomfort.

Go on a “NO” diet. Practice saying “no” to every request. Sit with the request for 1-2 days before making a decision, and assess head/heart/gut alignment about saying no.

I started practicing the “NO” diet with my family and friends. I warned them in advance and mostly we had fun together. As with most things, you may go too far in the opposite direction (i.e., underfunctioning), but often overshooting is part part of the healing process.

unstructure. Leave unstructured time in your schedule. Big, yawning gaps where you practice letting go.

Ask yourself: ‘Am I operating from a place of trust, alignment, and curiosity (above the line)? Or from a place of fear, heroism (see last post), blame, or victimhood (below the line)?’

Read the book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.

Check Your health Lastly, check your labs. See if there are signs of overfunctioning like:

+ High cortisol
+ Low cortisol (or both in the same day)
+ High insulin
+ High glucose
+ Prediabetes
+ Diabetes
+ Leaky gut (from toxic stress)
+ Dysbiosis (imbalance of gut bugs leading to downstream symptoms
+ Autoimmune conditions (thyroid antibodies, + ANA, etc.)

What did Gottfried miss? This list a work in progress! Leave us your comments and check out pre-sales for Gottfried’s latest book coming out this fall!

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