The Principle of the Thing

Listening To…

A Role is a Role…

Roles play a huge part in the way that I interact with other people. I see every relationship I have in terms of the respective role that I play in that relationship. With my manager, I am the employee interacting with the boss. With my sister, I am the big brother. With my parents, I am the son and the eldest child.

And with each role, there is an nebulous set of rules that guide how I act in each of those relationships. As an employee, I do my best to do everything that my boss asks me to do, taking orders with a smile and providing feedback when asked for it. As a big brother I am supposed to be supportive and protective of my sister. I’m not at all theatrical unless I’m in the role of an actor.

It is what allows me to be totally mellow and go-with-the flow when I’m not in charge, and completely focused and driven when put into a leadership role. I am equally at ease being the center of attention on a theater stage and completely anonymous at a party. But all of these norms that allow me to thrive in a variety of situations is a double edged sword.

A Toll is a Toll…

These roles are how I have learned to function socially and any time those roles are mixed or confused, I don’t know how to respond. I’m out of the house now and all of a sudden my parents are also people who want me as a friend. There is the possibility that girls who I have been friends with for a while could become romantic interests. I feel like these things are a normal part of human experience, but for me, the lines don’t blur easily and the “rules of engagement” that development in my interactions hold me back from behaviors that don’t fit the roles I play in my relationships.

If it Don’t Take no Toll, Then I Don’t Have no Role…

I usually don’t make a post like this unless I have some idea-ribbon to tie it all together and make a neat little package, but this is something I’ve grown up with and some insightful comment isn’t going to suddenly change my perspective. And while it can cause me to feel trapped or alone at times, it is the only framework I have for interacting with people. But I guess knowing is half the battle and by recognizing occasions when my behavior norms are holding me back from something I can take chances to step out of those norms.


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