Thursday, March 27, 2014

Birth Order: Is That Why You're The Way You Are?

Birth Order: Is That Why You're The Way You Are?
Are you a first born? Middle born? Or last born? What difference could that possibly make in the scheme of things? Why should it matter?

Scientific research proved a long time ago that the order in which you were born carries some very specific traits. Traits that you take from childhood into adulthood. Traits that affect the relationships you have with your siblings, the relationships you have with everyone.

But it isn't just personality traits. Birth order affects whom you marry, your children, what you choose as your occupation, how you relate to people and the world around you.

In his book, The Birth Order Book (p 4 of my copy), author Dr Kevin Leman offers a quiz designed to identify personality traits of all three birth orders. I must confess that I changed up the order somewhat from that in Dr Leman's book. I didn't want to make it as easy as he did to pinpoint from oldest to youngest just by looking at the A B C order.
A. manipulative, charming, blames others, shows off, people person, good sales person, precocious, engaging
B. perfectionistic, reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, critical, serious, scholarly
C. mediator, fewest pictures in the family photo album, avoids conflict, independent, extreme loyalty to the peer group, many friends, a maverick
He had me at perfectionistic. No question that I'm in category B. Each and every single trait he listed is permanently etched into my DNA. I am a true blue poster child first born. Category A is the last born. C is the middle born.

In a recent conversation with one of my middle born friends, we were discussing how family dynamics play a role in how we feel about ourselves. A subject near and dear to my heart.

My friend is slated to go on a trip to the tropics with family members, one of which is the first-born. Her sister had all the responsibility of her siblings at an impossibly young age. Without adequate resources. Without the wherewithal to understand how her role in the family tree was branched out beyond what is considered normal childhood. But it was normal for her. She now doesn't know how to be a sister because she's always been a parent.

And maybe not such a particularly good parent. Because, after all, she didn't have the best role models. Did I mention that she was a child?

I understand that role all too well.

My friend wants to keep the peace. But she also wants to get out from under the disapproving eye of an older sister who herself is straddled with the I don't measure up disparaging way thinking.

The answer lies, not in how to change her sibling (friend, parent, co-worker or child) but rather, in understanding. We can't change how someone else thinks or responds. We can only change our own way of thinking, our own way of responding.

One way to do that is to put ourselves into the other person's boots. Get a taste of what life might be like, what is was like for the other person.

It's not necessary to feel "bad" for the person. Or to approach that person with heartfelt sadness over whatever cross is theirs to bear. It's not an exercise in sympathy. It's an exercise in compassion.

When we come from a place of compassion, our fences and defenses tend to just fall away. Anger gives way to acceptance. Turmoil gives way to tranquility.

This doesn't mean allowing yourself to be treated like a dishrag. Standing up for yourself is just as important as is understanding. It's the way you do so that determines how much healing you might still have left to do.

Birth order, for yourself and that of others who play a starring role in your life, isn't going to tell you everything you need to know. But it is another tool for you to use. A tool that can help you walk your own unique healing path.
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