Does Your Birth Order Effect Your Personality?

For those who question my credentials, I am, in fact, one of those maddening middle children. 

Does Your Birth Order Effect Your Personality?
Photo by Juliane Liebermann / Unsplash

by Gabrielle Grimes

Sources say that birth order can effectively shape one’s personality. From parental treatment to sibling placement to family size, there are many qualities within family dynamics that impact who you are as a person. Focusing on the incessant talk about the treatment of middle children, I have conducted my own overwhelmingly personal experiment as to if your birth order truly affects your personality or if it is all utter bullshit. For those who question my credentials, I am, in fact, one of those maddening middle children. 

Fact 1: Middle children are often people-pleasers. 

Due to the lack of attention shone on the middle child, it isn’t rare to see people-pleasing tendencies arise in their lives. While parents focus on the successes of their first child and the showstopping charm of their youngest, the middle is left looking for ways to garner their parents’ attention. These tendencies then follow the middle child into different stages of their lives, constantly seeking ways to gain their peers’ favor. 

I don’t even want to do this. It is actually the last thing I want to do. Why did I say yes to this?” is the rotation of thoughts that circulate in my brain as I impatiently wait for club president Sarah to pick me up and bring us to our professor’s dance studio. Staring off into the distance, I rest my head against my cheek and mentally prepare myself to do the very thing I have been dreading for weeks. Perform my professor’s modern piece “Lockdown” for an astonishing total of 10 people. 

Now, you might be wondering, “Elle, why on God’s green earth would you say yes if you knew you didn’t want to do it?” Because I am a suck-up and wanted to earn the favor of my club advisor and future president. That’s why. So now I sit here, contemplating my life choices, and think about how I am wasting a week of my shrinking summer doing a dance I couldn’t care less about, all for a few brownie points. 

While pondering my stupid decision, I hear a faint honk from outside my house, letting me know my dreadful ride is here. Taking a deep breath, I grab my bag and sullenly make my way to the car that awaits my arrival. I turn on my signature bubbly personality, smile gratefully, and ready myself for a few hours of obnoxious optimism. 

“Hello!” Sarah greets, positivity radiating through her voice, “Thanks for doing this with me! I would’ve been so bored without you.” 

I flash a smile, which I can only hope doesn’t look as sarcastic as it feels, and attempt to tune out my brain’s loudening screaming. She is way too excited to perform this piece again, “Yeah, of course! Anything for you and Cynthia,” by that, I mean anything to put me in their good graces, “How have you been!” 

“I’ve been good!” She excitedly responds, “How are you? Preparing to take on the customer position?” 

I chuckle at that, knowing I haven’t dreaded anything more in my life, “Yes, I am, madam president.” 

This lively banter and friendly conversation continues throughout the car ride, building on one another’s jokes and anecdotes. The sun shines through the window effectively hitting my face, upping my false positive mood by a smidgen. Music blares through the car as we make our way across the interstate toward hell on earth. Maya turns and slows and parks bringing us to our final destination, the dreaded dance studio. 

Although she and I aren’t technically friends, I am hoping this mentally tiring performance will bring us closer together and grant me what it is that I want: a friendship with the club’s future president. Questionable morals, I know, but if doing this stupid dance pleases her, I am not about to say no. If I am one thing, it is a chronic people-pleaser, unable to say no to even the most unpleasant of requests. 

Fact 2: Middle children tend to be more independent. 

Because parents’ focus tends to shift toward the oldest and youngest, this leaves the middle to figure things out for themselves. Independence is usually acquired at a young age to compensate for the lack of guidance in certain areas of life. Whether it be refusing to ask for help or simply deciding to lead themselves through life blindly, middle children would rather do it on their own. This level of hyper-independency from a young age overall leads to an increase in anxiety and distress. 

I stare at my bank account, anxiety building up inside of me as I wonder how the hell I got myself into this situation. We are barely three months into the school year, and I am quickly approaching being broke. My heart starts racing, letting the reality of the situation sink in and recognizing the mess I have forced myself into. What was I thinking? I couldn’t afford to go to every football game or go out every weekend, so why did I do it? What would my parents think? No. I cannot tell them. They would be so disappointed. I don’t need their help. I can figure this out on my own. So I did. Just like I always do. 

I whip out my laptop and apply to every place I can imagine. Barefoot, Starbucks, ISU Dining, Parks Library, there wasn’t one place in reasonable distance that I didn’t reach out to. These money problems were going to get fixed and they were going to get fixed fast. 

My parents aren’t monsters. They would help me if I asked. I just couldn’t bear to. I’m supposed to be the responsible one. The one who knows how to care for themselves and, doesn’t trouble their parents and understands how to save money so they don’t go broke within the first few months of college. This version of myself doesn’t fit in with how my parents see me, and I wasn’t about to let them in on my struggles. I would rather handle it on my own and deal with the severe anxiety than let them know I need help. I’m not supposed to need their help. 

Fact 3: Middle children have more difficulties fitting in. 

Seeing that the middle child is sandwiched between the oldest and youngest, they often struggle to see where they fit into their own family. Because of this divide, middle children tend to feel more alone in family environments, leading to the discomfort of being misunderstood. These feelings of exclusion and loneliness can carry into different segments of their lives, impacting how they experience and view their own friendships and relationships. The sentiment that is belonging seems out of reach for middle children.

Sinking deeper into my friend’s remarkably cozy chair in the far corner of the room, I stare into the sea of people before me, trying to make sense of the conflicting feelings that swim in my soul. I know each and every one of these individuals, yet I have never felt more alone. Like I didn’t belong in this room of amazingly unique and funny characters. This was by no means a new development to me; the constant fear that I don’t fit in or that I am not good enough for the people I surround myself with. Although it might not be a rare feeling, it still stung the same. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends more than I love most things in the world in fact, but I cannot help feeling as if I don’t belong in their circle. I am never funny enough, never outgoing enough, never engaging enough. There are very few people on this small planet that I feel truly get me. That makes me feel like I am their favorite person. It is a limited list, but a list I hold dear. 

Laughter bubbles in the room, bouncing off the walls and swirling around my head, pulling me out of my thoughts. I glance at the duo dancing around the kitchen, singing into forks as if they were microphones, spirits whirling, twisting, and building on one another. I eavesdrop on juicy hometown gossip, friendly quarrels, and puzzling inside jokes, keeping my mouth shut as I open my ears to take in this knowledge. It’s easier to stay quiet than try to contribute. As soon as I make a quip, the room goes silent, or the laughter dies, or the group disperses. It is an odd experience to feel like what I say holds any meaning. It’s even weirder feeling as if I am listened to, as if someone truly understands me. So, instead of participating in the various conversations that stir about and subject myself to the swelling heartache that is my invisibility, I remain seated, legs crossed left over right, and watch as everyone achieves what I am incapable of, existing outside one’s own head. 

Fact 4: Middle children are highly empathetic and sensitive. 

Similar to people pleasing, due to the lack of parental attention, middle children tend to be more empathetic and sensitive than their siblings. Feeling like you are less important to your parents can lead to higher levels of emotion expressed through sensitivity. Additionally, empathy is acquired through the neglect many middle children feel they experience in their household.

They understand the difficulty of being left out or forgotten and strive to decrease those feelings in others. 

The theater is silent as Nick Wilde is shot with a night howler berry, beginning the transformation from humane fox to predator, the very thing he so desperately tried to avoid becoming. Judy Hopps pleads with him to fight it, scared to lose her beloved friend/ally, but alas, it was no use. The berry begins to take effect. Nick Wilde is now a predator. Judy stumbles back into the museum exhibits artificial grass, hiding from her once most trusted confidant. There is a look of terror on her face, allowing the audience to become aware of the dangerous situation that presents itself before her. Our once sarcastic and witty Nick creeps up on Judy, looking like the predator everyone believed him to be. After a few painstakingly long seconds, he strikes, pouncing on Judy, capturing her neck in a deathly grip. 

Panning over to me, I am a complete and utter wreck. 

Imagine this: a 12-year-old girl curled into a tight ball, frantically wiping her eyes and unable to keep her composure due to the scene in front of her. I looked insane. Even as the movie came to a close, and it was revealed that Judy and Nick were okay, I couldn’t stop crying. I walk out of the theater, crying. I get into the car, crying. I talk about the movie, crying. My family, after keeping their jokes at bay for far too long, finally loses it, laughing at my hyperemotionality and poking fun at my empathic self. There was just something about that specific scene that got me. That took over my emotions and made my soul cry. Seeing Judy betrayed by her friend was agonizing, and moving, and oddly relatable. My heart ached for her. I couldn’t imagine watching the one person I trusted, cared for…believed in turn into the very thing they despised. The tears were bound to come out. 

Then again, I cry at everything, so I would take my word with a grain of salt. 

Fact 5: All of this is bullshit. 

Although many of these ‘facts’ stand true, and I resonate with loads of these qualities, there are many traits that are linked to middle children that I don’t acquire. Firstly, middle children seem to be the most likely of all siblings to fall into delinquency. Fun fact: I am no delinquent, nor am I on the track to becoming one. Middle children are also known to have even tempers, yet another quality I don’t possess. Naturally, I am the most hot-headed person in my family by a long shot. It doesn’t take much to get me riled up, and I tend to speak before I think while in this irrational state. This is not something I am proud to admit, and I only acknowledge this dislikeable quality to further my research. It is also said that middle children don’t feel as strong of a relationship with their mothers; this couldn’t be more false. Don’t get me wrong, my mother and I have our quarrels, but that doesn’t mean I love her any less. I take after my mom in every way that matters, inheriting her strong-willed nature, stubbornness, and intent on helping others. Lastly, there are a multitude of traits that are associated with the oldest and youngest that I, as a middle child, resonate with. Firstborns are known to be ambitious and organized, whereas the youngen tends to be free-spirited and outgoing. Each and every one of these characteristics I see within myself, and it is not because I am the oldest or the youngest; it is because of my own life choices guiding me along to who I am meant to be. There are a multitude of factors that mold who you are, it isn’t all in the birth order.

Gabrielle Grimes is an undergraduate student at Iowa State University, studying English and Women as Gender Studies. She is an aspiring writer moving toward publishing her reflective and self-evaluative works.