Is there something like the oldest daughter complex? This question came up between a friend of mine and me last weekend. She vented about a fairly stressful visit of a friend of hers to her house, and that her mother had not been happy with her helping out the friend by letting her stay. But what else should she have done? Told her friend no? And here it comes, the oldest daughter complex. Is it just a coincidence that my closest friends are all oldest daughters? That my friend and I like to vent to each other since we know that we understand each other?
The oldest daughter complex, we found, is the urge having to help any- and everyone who asks us, whether it is good for ourselves and destroys us; and even though we do our best, we still feel guilty for not doing enough. We try to be perfect, strive to meet a benchmark that is beyond a normal person. We feel lacking at all times even though we work until we are at the end of our strength. We accept the criticism from outsiders; we allow ourselves to be hurt by it and try even harder (and here the spiral begins). I have watched oldest daughters destroying their families because they were unable to draw the line. Those, who do not have their own lives any more and while themselves being at the verge of a mental and physical breakdown are still not able to say no.
As an oldest daughter myself, I started to analyze this behavior about a year ago. And here the problem really started: when I began to break out of this mold that had shaped me for most of my life, I crashed with the little sibling personality, which seems to develop alongside the oldest daughter complex. While the oldest daughter helps and works and supports and still feels inadequate, the little sibling personality often describes a failed person, who never had to take any responsibility for their actions or decisions in their lives but being constantly praised and lifted up so that at last they perceive themselves as some sort of demi-god who cannot do any wrong.
During my personal development, which started out of utter exhaustion and depression that became the refusal to acknowledging the superiority of the little sibling personality, I decided to embrace a way that made me the target of scrutiny yet again. After a fairly degrading fist fight and other mud-slinging incidents from the little sibling personality's side, I decided to let the person for once take responsibility for their action and when I was told either to publicly apologize for something I said (and meant) or all ties would be cut, I went for option 2. Of course, this decision was considered by everyone to be completely my fault, but for once I felt like a huge burden being lifted off my shoulders. I knew that for once I had made a decision that helped myself and in turn my family. Working a 40-hour plus week and being a full time mom and wife I cannot waste any of my energy on people who take advantage of me. I still like to help, but I know my priorities. I still overdo it sometimes, but I am learning to read the signs. I am not perfect, but I know that I do my best for my family, and this is all that counts.