Did it ever occur to you that ‘too much of a good thing’ can be a real problem? Of course, ‘too much’ is a subjective term. Too much chocolate for me will cause a stomach ache and a genuine (yet temporary) dislike for chocolate altogether. That said, too much chocolate for my lactose-intolerant friend involves a lot less chocolate and a lot more pain.
The same is true of people. We all have ‘good’ character traits – parts of our personalities that we are proud of – and ‘less good’ traits – which we conceal at all costs.
From a very young age, we are taught to ‘behave well’ i.e. to display our positive characteristics and refrain from giving into our negative traits. In primary school, the ‘good children’ were presented with gold star stickers; the ‘bad children’ were sent to the headmaster’s office and always returned in tears. In secondary school, the ‘good students’ received certificates, while the ‘bad students’ were excused from the classroom and missed vital education. At work, the ‘good employee’ is praised and ultimately promoted, whereas the ‘bad employee’ will be given warnings and ultimately dismissed.
However, just like in the chocolate scenario, ‘good’ is not always good. Every good trait has a reverse side, which is not-so-good.
What happens when good behaviour gets out of hand?
The manager who delegates tasks and responsibilities well will still have enough work to fill their time. Over-delegation equates to laziness: if said manager crosses that line, they will pawn off all their work onto subordinates, who will no longer feel valued and reliable, but rather that they have been taken advantage of. Eventually, this manager will find he has nobody left to delegate to!
Equally, a volunteer who commits a set number of hours to a cause will likely be motivated and kind. Over-commitment, however, can incur resentment and eventually lead to giving up not only their additional hours, but the commitment that started it all off. Should they not learn from this mistake, the volunteer could end up in a continuous cycle of starting and quitting, labelling themselves as unreliable.
Confidence can mutate into arrogance; funny into frustrating; helpful into handicapping: modesty into self-deprecation. I could go on and on, but then I risk tipping the scale from informing to over-sharing, or else, rambling.
Generally, our ‘good’ behaviour often involves interacting with other people. But helping someone else may not always help you! Giving time when you have a surplus of it is one thing; giving it when you are already struggling to meet deadlines as is, is another. A classic flaw in people doing ‘too much of a good thing’ is that they bite off more than they can emotionally, mentally, and even physically chew! By taking the time to deliberate before saying ‘yes’, you can avoid causing your own stressful downfall.
For instance, managers do not necessarily seek to take advantage of those who are eager to please, but part of being in their position involves gaining the most benefit from their employers and interns. If you make an offer, they will likely take you up on it. Your manager may be lovely on a personal level, but they manage you on an organisational level. You need to manage your workload and personal limitations. When they say ‘jump,’ and you respond, ‘how high?’ do not start jumping aimlessly. First consider whether you can reach the requested level; you may not be able to do it by simply jumping. Better you reach for a step ladder instead.
Where is the line between a good trait and it’s equal and opposite not-so-good counterpart?
Like in so many other situations, there is no hard and fast rule. But generally speaking, this is when the good feeling gained from the activity becomes muted and eventually goes sour.
If you are not sure whether a ‘good’ trait is still good, contemplate your inner monologue. If you are a helpful person, do you find yourself enjoying providing aid to someone else, or are you mentally complaining all the while? If you are charitable, consider whether you still enjoy giving charity, or whether you have become resentful towards the people you’re donating to.
Often, if a ‘good’ trait has ‘gone bad’ and it is left unchecked, the inner monologue will be verbalised. We all complain occasionally, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives your nearest and dearest the opportunity to help and advise you as best they can. Nonetheless, nobody enjoys spending time with a serial complainer. So, if you really have had too much of a good thing, listen to what other people have to say – they may notice something you did not realise about yourself.
Remember: ‘too much’ is a sliding scale and the sooner you stop eating chocolate, the sooner the belly ache will dissipate!
More mindfulness and wellbeing tips can be found in my motivational calendar for 2019.
Whether reflecting on experience, or looking forward in anticipation, every day is an opportunity to do something positive. TV psychologist & author Dr Audrey Tang (43) and creative writer & millennial business blogger Rachel Gordon (23) have teamed up to inspire your 2019 – whatever your age!
We have recently released a charity edition within the Mindful Motivations range, from which all proceeds will be donated to the children’s mental health charity Place2Be. Please purchase a calendar to help us support this worthwhile cause.