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9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

I am the oldest of 4 on my dad’s side and the oldest of 2 on my mom’s side. I married the oldest of 3. Unless we are an only child (which has its own idiosyncrasies), we are going to find good things and bad things in regards to our birth order. My husband and I have three sons and even though their personalities are very different (as are their looks), I wonder if some of what makes them who they are is based on the order in which they were born. For example, I wonder if my middle son loves that he was in the middle because he wasn’t the “guinea pig” the oldest might have been and he wasn’t the one youngest either.

Growing up, I didn’t like being the oldest. I realize now that the things I dreaded most was hearing the phrase, “You should know better.” Especially as this came back to bite me when I retaliated and I was usually the one who got caught. Even when I tried to just have my own space and keep my two little sisters (who are 11 and 14 years younger than I am) out of my room, they would always still find a way in. The scribbles in my junior high yearbook have all the proof I need. With my brother being just two years younger than me, we did a lot of things outside, including playing tackle football in our front yard. I still have the scar on my knee from when I tried to tackle him and I slid into a metal sprinkler.

Now that I am older (and still the oldest too), I wanted to share a few things that actually benefit the oldest sibling in any family. The burdens once placed on us now have a different twist and have shown me why those moments really weren’t so bad after all. If you are the oldest child, expect to hear a lot of, “You are so lucky”…even if you aren’t sure why.

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1. You set the precedence for every other child.

Every rule, every milestone will happen for the other kids only when it happens to you first. You are essentially where everything begins. You are the model for everything your brothers and sisters will ever get. You are the gauge for every important milestone — If you get a TV in your room at 12 years old, then your younger siblings will want to be 12 too. You are the example — whether it come to trying a musical instrument, going out on a date, or even just getting the chance to pick the paint color for your own room. That bar is set with you. In addition, you will get to try more things. Depending on your experience (and your parents’), chances are your siblings getting to try new things may get lost as the years go by. If you fall in love Boy Scouts, other younger brothers might be nudged in that direction too.

2. You never have hand me downs.

Let’s face it…we all like to have new clothes. There is just something about putting on something that isn’t found in any other family pictures with your brother wearing the same outfit 2 years earlier. However, having two of my sons just 13 months apart, their clothes were practically interchangeable. The only guarantee the younger ones were getting new clothes is if we were doing a family picture and we all needed to wear matching clothes. Even that backfired on me once — we just don’t talk about the striped sweaters anymore. If you are the oldest, you are going to get stuff with the tags still attached and sometimes, you are glad you have moved away from the velcro shoes that light up when you walk.

3. You never have to share a room.

Especially as you get older, the oldest child ends up getting his or her own room because “they need their privacy.” The younger kids don’t even know what that means, but they want it too. Growing up, I loved never having to share a room with my sisters and it meant I had one place in the whole house that was MY place. Growing up, it was where I could do my homework, listen to my music, and basically, whatever I wanted. The hardest part of having your own space was keeping it to yourself. In my case, my little sisters went to great extremes to be with me — even when I didn’t want to be with them. (Side note, today we are all very close and very good friends.)

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4. You are given more responsibility.

Sometimes, this was a burden more than a good thing. I became the automatic babysitter for my younger siblings, but many times because they required more care and attention, I usually was left to fend for myself more. Don’t worry, I never really got into any trouble when given the benefit of the doubt — I was too much of a goody two-shoes to try anything too crazy. But being the oldest meant you didn’t have to prove yourself right away. Your parents didn’t know what you would or would not try because they couldn’t compare you to “what your older brother or sister did.” Being the oldest, I became very independent as I transitioned into an adult.

5. You have more childhood pictures.

As a mom of three, I know I took more pictures of my oldest son that I did of the other two. I am hoping they don’t notice. With one child, your time and attention is devoted to that child — you don’t have to split your time between other  kids and you can even tag team your spouse to fill in when you need a break. With our three boys all under the age of six, we were completely outnumbered and because of that, we probably missed a few really great pictures of the younger two. Not that you have a shrine built in your honor, but finding a childhood picture for the yearbook is much easier for the oldest children. I’m just saying.

6. You are never pushed around.

Growing up, I remember my brother getting picked on in elementary school and once, he found me on the playground and told me what was going on. He never got made fun of for getting his “big sister” to stand up for him, but no one ever picked on me. The oldest becomes the “fighter” for the other kids when someone outside the family steps in. There is a phrase out there that reads something like, “I can pick on my little brother or sister, but you can’t.” Whether there is just two of you kids or 13 — the oldest ones are told to look out and protect the younger ones. No matter what.

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7. You are a role model.

I know, just what you want…someone watching your every move, right? Who didn’t get tired of the “He’s copying me!” game that never seemed to end until you just stopped letting your younger brother or sister “get” to you? Even at a young age, you represent who your younger sibling wants to be. They watch everything you do. They look up to you — even when you want them to look “the other way” or remind them to “not tell mom and dad.” (This is usually done once until they rat you out and then you are just done with telling them secrets.) The truth is — you are their hero and being related to someone “as cool as you” is something every little brother or sister wants. You just never know what they will remember and use later in life, so be careful what you show them.

8. You have your parents all to yourself.

Although you were probably too young to remember these years before your younger siblings came along, you got to have them at their best. Your parents were young and energetic about their new family. It was something they could manage with work, home, and other obligations. You had one schedule to work around when it came to your activities and the chances of both of your parents attending your events was pretty high. Once a younger sibling comes along, the parents have to split time and “tag Team” one another just to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. You are their life and they live theirs around you.

9. You get to be first…in EVERYTHING.

Let’s face it…this is the BEST part of being the oldest. You are the first to drive…the first to walk home from school by yourself…the first to have a date. Sometimes, you will even get to give input on important things like helping to name the new baby or the new pet. As the oldest, you are the first to move away from home, the first to graduate from high school, the first to make something of the family name. When your parents are talking about their kids, chances are you are mentioned first. You are the first to not have to hold mom’s hand in the grocery store and the first to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days. It is because of you that those days now have some significance.

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I will never know what it is like to be the middle or the youngest in a family and although there were some moments that I really despised being the oldest. Looking back now, I can appreciate the benefits of being the oldest and why those experiences help make me the person I am today. We can all find things to nitpick about because of where we fall in the birth order in our family. But perhaps, changing our perspective a bit can make everything a blessing, even if it was in disguise most of the time.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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