Advice for eldest daughters, from an eldest daughter

The pressures of being a role model can add up, so Thoraya Abdullahi shares tips from her experience

Thoraya Abdullahi with her younger sister. Thoraya Abdullahi / The National
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Our birth order can shape our personality and, as an eldest child, I am often recognised for my responsibility, kindness and leadership within the family.

But there are days when I yearn to experience the independence of a middle child or the carefree nature of the youngest.

The sentence every eldest child dreads hearing has to be this: “Be a role model for your younger siblings.” The weight of expectations and responsibilities can be overwhelming, yet it has also fostered resilience within me.

From an early age, leadership was instilled in me, shaping my actions, not only in personal but also in professional aspects of life.

And if I do say so myself, the ability of first-borns to act swiftly, adapt intelligently, comprehend situations, and take charge can often set us apart from others.

So, here is some advice – from one eldest daughter to others.

Your confidence will fluctuate

There are studies that prove eldest daughters are known for being confident, but that is not always true, at least not for me.

As I journey through the latter half of my 20s, I've noticed a shift in my confidence compared with my early 20s. As responsibilities increase and life evolves, challenges that come with growing older and taking on more roles can sometimes lead to moments of self doubt. This can be influenced by the expectations we place on ourselves and external pressures.

It's essential to treat ourselves with kindness and acknowledge that it's OK to experience doubt. However, the real strength lies in our ability to bounce back and rise above these moments of uncertainty.

Take pride in your level of sensitivity

For much of my life, I believed that admitting to being sensitive was a weakness. But that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Being sensitive means your heart beats louder, it is a sign of dedication and passion. And when things don't go as planned, it reflects our level of care and shows how much we are invested in what we do.

In an eye-opening instance, I remember my manager once telling me: "It is OK to feel sad or disappointed when things don't go right; it shows the effort and hard work you've put into it."

Nonetheless, it is also important to be mindful and strike a balance between caring deeply and being able to handle setbacks to maintain a healthy perspective.

You are not everyone’s problem solver

It's fine to offer support and guidance, but it's equally important to allow others to learn and grow through their own experiences.

I know picking up the mental load of others is often our forte, but that only does harm to us. Recognising that not everything needs to be solved by you can relieve unnecessary stress and burden.

Sharing that load with others allows everyone to take responsibility for their own tasks and fosters a more balanced and supportive relationship, whether at work or at home.

It is significant to know that tasks will eventually get done, even if not by you.

You don’t have to be perfect

You don't have to be perfect or have all the answers all the time. Saying, "I don’t know," is sometimes very powerful.

Embracing your imperfections demonstrates a level of humility and a willingness to learn and grow. And it's OK to seek support or ask for help when needed.

Be true to yourself and enjoy the journey of life without the pressure of perfection.

There is power in being alone sometimes

The noise of the world can fog your thoughts and emotions. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to take time off and detox from your responsibilities.

Solitude allows you to process emotions, thoughts and experiences without distractions, contributing to improved overall wellbeing and self-awareness.

This is a valuable form of self-care that supports personal growth and a renewed sense of energy.

Updated: August 19, 2023, 11:10 AM