It's not uncommon to desire to be at the top, the favorite of our boss, teacher, or parents. As the golden child of my family, I have learned consequently that being on top of a pedestal, despite any benefit it may have, is not always the best and healthiest place to be.
In the family setting, favoritism can create distance. In my own experience, I was excluded by my siblings as the "direct pipeline" to Mom since she always told me to be her "eyes and ears" when she wasn't home. When the cat is away, the mice will play, but they won't let the kitten join. I assumed this responsibility was placed on me because I'm the oldest and at one point, did my job well, refusing to lie for my younger siblings.
"No, when mom calls I'm not going to tell her you're playing with toys when you're watching TV, like you're not supposed to. If you want me to say 'They're playing with toys,' grab some toys and start playing with them. I'm not a liar."
However, this structure was later on applied with serious ideas in mind.
Our mom cracked down the year we changed churches (I was still in high school ) and began to run the house like a theocratic dictatorship. I was partially exempt from her shaming. My sisters, who were also in their teens or preteens then, were "the sluts" but I was her good kid, the "future nun" so I wasn't yelled at for talking to boys or modesty infractions.
Once, I was sent downstairs, asked to stop whatever I was doing, to spy on my sister while she used the computer. She was only typing an essay but I was to report all her activity to my mom, who didn't trust her on a computer with internet access. Another time, our mom saw me read a book (which didn't have smut) and she asked what the story was about. I told her what it was about and she did not bat an eye. She saw my sister was seen reading the same book some months later and reprimanded her for reading "smut" (Mom read a sentence over her shoulder and took it out of context).
Understandably, it was easy for them to assume I couldn't relate to their frustration, to (sometimes literally) lock me out as a "spy." I didn't have anyone in my family to relate to or unburden the Momma-drama, her plans on uprooting and moving to Kansas (to a small town in the bible belt she believed was "utopia" for Catholics), and the pressures she was putting on me. At least I had a family friend for that while we were still in RI...and in touch.
That eventually passed, but even when that is past, there is still the assumption that I'm too much of a "wet blanket," a "goody-goody," and a few times, I was accused of spying for Mom though I had no intention or orders to do so. I only wanted to play tennis! Eventually, I stopped trying to reconnect with my sisters and embraced life as a "party of one." Looking at it from their perspective, it's hard to be with the favorite. I've been good friends with kids who were "teacher's pets," the A-students. I sometimes felt below their league.
Some other friends were "goody-goodies," the "choir girls," and I've been annoyed by them sometimes, felt like they were making me look bad. That or the manager, teacher, or parent starts to gush over them and it's a little awkward standing in the shadow of a pedestal. But for whoever is on the pedestal, let me tell you that it's lonely when those in the shadow feel out of your league, mistrust, or are jealous of your status as the "favorite."
You Have Unrealistic And High Expectations
Recently, I was told I have "false ambitions." I suppose an ambition can't be considered healthy when I don't know what to do with myself if I can't pursue it. Like I mentioned earlier, I was considered to be my mom's "oblate" child, and she always talked about how pure-hearted girls like me should enter the convent, that I will be blessed by God if I did. I didn't really want to enter the religious life at first but then opened my mind to it, to the point where I was willing to give up my life goals and dreams for it. That's why I was in such denial and anger when the priest said no. Not because there was some selfish or ulterior motive behind it (like he said), but because the detachment process was painful, now I'd done it for nothing. I wasn't interested in getting married either. You know, because talking to guys is what "the sluts" do and I'm better than that.
The next best thing, so I thought, is an investment in my talents. I'm getting a degree in English, so I could be a teacher...go and join the missionary work in South America (I already know Spanish) and teach at an orphanage school. My mom is all for that. Or, how about pursuing a dream of my own and create a studio, adapt my own stories and produce original short films. We need more wholesome entertainment. I'll start on YouTube...and that's how I met my boyfriend.
Once my mom found out that he and I were dating, she tried convincing me that I was throwing my life away, that he's not good enough. She told me to travel and start a career, said we will save up and take that bucket-list trip to Peru. After this conversation, I worried that I really was throwing my life away. The Beau said it was nothing but a bribe, her strumming on the strings of my ambition and the fear of never accomplishing anything in this life.
He said I was filled with "false ambitions" and he has his suspicions as to who put them there. According to an article I read about golden children, "Whether because they did not have the right opportunities in their young adulthood or because they are themselves victims of a poor parental education, manipulative or narcissistic parents do not limit their sphere of influence on child's desires. They project their aspirations on the child without respecting his/her feelings and thoughts" (Learning Mind.com "Golden Child in a Narcissistic FamilyAnd What Lies Behind A Perfect Image). After having them for so long, I'd thought some of those ambitions were mine (well, the idea for Inspiration Studios Was mine. That's probably why I never told my mom about it.)
The call for the nun's life maybe wasn't God's, but hers. Beau and I are happy right now. He only wants my happiness, is a man of action who I freely can be myself around. Why ask for the moon when I've found a star in my own backyard?
It Could Create The Loss Of Self
Similar to desiring what you were taught to want, you start to identify strongly to whoever is idealizing you. You are kept close by to that individual. "Sit here next to me, don't bother them." It's often the case that you share interests in common and they want to go to places or enjoy one-on-one activities. All of that one-on-one time may make you jealous if anybody else is invited along after basking in the favoritism. For me, that has faded. As much as I liked botanical gardens, something about being one-on-one with my mom caused discomfort post-move.
Maybe it's because I've grown up and have developed my own tastes. When you are the favorite, you act as if you like everything they like. Choke down their favorite food or drink, wear that tacky blouse they like on you, act the way you're expected to act to keep your status.
You don't convince anyone when you take the tacky blouse off and come out to any you dislike coconut icecream as much as they do. To them, you are practically the same person, an extension of the ol' lady, not a peer.
You need to show you are above everyone else, taught that you are better than they are. I saw the way the others were treated and I do not want to be thrown off the pedestal and into the trash and dared not show that I disagreed.
It can even get to the point where you place your true self into a box and throw it away, or you walk on eggshells because deviating from your assigned character can cause disappointment. Such-and such is expected from your sisters, not from you! Not to mention the fear of losing approval from the only person in your family who appears to like you, or at least tolerates your presence.
It Can Give You An Ego
I had an old friend tell me off for being "arrogant." I didn't think she was right all the way, but she could have been onto something. The accusation started after I said that I love my boyfriend, but I think I'm above relationships. Only dumb girls are after that. She told me it was arrogant and vain for me to consider myself so above something so normal.
I felt insulted. I was sure I had done nothing wrong and my friend was simply a close-minded prig. Typical self-righteous choir girl! Goodness forbid I have ambitions, huh? Arrogance is a quality found in a bully. I'm not a bully! My boyfriend later accused me of the same thing. He said that it's possible that being placed as the favorite, taught I could do no wrong and influenced to have high ambitions was giving me an ego.
I don't know for certain if my mom is a narcissist, but according to my research, the golden child of the family is groomed to be another narcissist, a copy of the parent, living out said parent's own unaccomplished goals. I hate vilifying my mom. It feels ungrateful and wrong considering I turned out a productive and virtuous citizen and I'm not messed up like some of my peers thanks to her. However, the ends don't justify the means.
In order to keep the favorite status, you must always act and present the image that is expected of you.
If you are considered the favorite, you must act the part - whether your "favorite" status is defined by your looks, grades, accomplishments, charisma, virtue, alternate-accepted-persona, whatever you have you are expected to show it.
There is only so long you can put on an act until you get tired of it, which can effect your emotional state. If emotions are not allowed, especially since they cause a break in character, an imperfection, tying those down is an exhausting task.
Habitual bottling may lead to violent outbursts. My tip is to wait until nobody's around to release. It's all in the breathing. Depending on your personality, you may end up as the "nervous wreck" of the family as well as the golden child.
If you're the favorite, you may be overly protected. Whether you hit milestones such as getting a car, your own apartment, or significant other late is a matter of a controlling parent wanting you all to his or herself I'm not quite sure because minds change with whatever is perceived as "convenient" where I come from. Like I was practically getting kicked out one moment (despite the lack of financial stability to move out yet), then once I found a roommate, I was asked to stay.
It depends on personality, sometimes but if you're the favorite you may be spared from difficult (real or perceived to be difficult) tasks. For instance, when working in the same shop as my mom, she told me to stay out of sight in the back during the rush hour so I wouldn't "be overwhelmed." That or she didn't trust me and thought I would mess up. After a while, this infantilization can be irritating. In order to learn, I need a chance!
To conclude, the favorite or the golden child of the family appears to have it easy but the truth is, favorites face a different set of hurdles. Many golden children don't even recognize they are being controlled. Losing favor and being discarded can be a blessing in disguise. Acknowledging that something is wrong, regarding any negative emotions can be a step towards figuring out the source of bitterness and leaving the toxic situation (if someone comes by and offers help, accept the offer). It's a comfy cell, but a cell all the same.