Living Through Other People


Some parents of children are often cited as examples of where they are living or re-living a dream through their children. You’ll see a father perhaps cheering his son on in the stands at a hockey game, and while he is excited and happy for the boy, the father himself may actually be imagining himself years ago when he himself was on the ice. It can become a problem if there is pressure to excel, to train, to focus and unrealistic expectations of greatness and achievement are not shared. A child expecting just to be involved and having fun and a father expecting to be recruited for an all-star team might be on a collision course for disaster.

In the workplace, and while looking for employment, a person can also feel immense pressure to deliver and be successful; be it a meteoric rise in an organization, or a short unemployment period and having multiple job offers to choose from. On top of all the pressures of a job search, having a parent for example tell everyone how tremendous you are and how you will be employed in a matter of days, isn’t going to do anything but set you up for possible failure.

So why do some people tend to live through others? Well, in the case of a parent, it could be largely that the parent wants to see their child succeed and be happy; that makes sense. However the other element is often some resentment or frustration on the part of the parent that they themselves never made it that far. If they did excel right to the top, then it is often that they want the same for their child because they see somehow that it reflects on them, and what frustrates them as parents is that they have no control over promotions, hiring decisions or if they think the child isn’t working hard enough or doing enough to get that promotion, they demand more.

Another group of people who might be living through someone are spouses. A spouse may by association, feel that if the partner is successful, so too are they. When at a party or any social gathering, a question may come about such as, “So what does your husband or wife do?”. There may be daily pressure to get into some team at work, to again rise faster than others, to be noticed for hard work, to exceed targets and goals the company establishes etc. This pressure to be something more than what a person is may actually be the spouse living out the role themselves.

If you catch yourself from time-to-time living out your fantasies, childhood or otherwise through someone else, consider backing off. If you aren’t the one playing the game, job-hunting or attending that job interview, then remove your expectations while still being an enthusiastic cheerleader. Accept the results be they what they may for what they are, which is out of your control. A partner in a job search needs to be emotionally supported, and yes it is hoped that they are self-motivated to do their personal best to put themselves in a position to do well. However, ultimately they can research a company, practice their interview skills, look the part and still not get the job or promotion. It may be a numbers game where there are so many applicants, there was little more to do beyond what the person actually did do.

Sure go ahead and tell your partner or child that you believe in them. Tell that however too that win or lose, succeed or not at getting a specific job or promotion that you’ll still be there, you’ll still be behind them. When the pressure to excel is reduced to a healthy level, ironically there may actually be an increase in performance from the person affected. Without those lofty expectations of immediate success, and knowing that you are still loved and validated by your partner or parent one way or the other, a person can actually focus better on the job or task at hand.

So if you find yourself saying things, like, “We need this promotion”, “Sure you’re in mid-Management but I want more”, or “I can’t afford for us to be out of work any longer” and you aren’t the person whose looking for a job, recognize your aggressive behaviour that may be part of a problem and step back. There is a significant amount of pressure on job seekers everywhere to do well, to get a pay cheque, to bring home a higher income, and sometimes the extra pressure brought on by family and friends may actually be immobilizing and prevent the person from being at their best.

Everyone has their own life to live, and while a child may or may not make the decisions that you as a parent would like, you have the benefit of years of experience behind you. As a partner, you might find yourself being directly affected by the income your partner brings home (or not in the case of unemployment), but this doesn’t give you a right to apply unrelenting pressure and transfer your expectations and demands. Ideally, both partners want to contribute to a relationship by bring in income together, or in the case where one partner remains home, both contribute to the running of the household in their own way. Setting up demands on your partner may be harmful; identify where those demands are really coming from.

Cheers.

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