Out of balance

Overusing my top strengths is a mistake I make less often now, but it’s still a tendency I have to be mindful of. Our top strengths come so naturally to us that sometimes we use them more often, or with more intensity, than the situation requires.

Have you ever known someone who can’t stop cracking jokes, regardless of the circumstances? Or anyone with so much energy you wish they had an “Off” switch? Humor and zest may be their top strengths.

My top strengths include curiosity, love and creativity. I’m happy I have these strengths and they’re fundamental to who I am, but here’s how they can be overused:

  • Curiosity: Google and Wikipedia are two of my favorite websites. I love looking up the answers to questions that arise every day. Doing it in the middle of a dinner date with my husband is an example of overuse.
  • Love + curiosity: I can connect easily with other people and enjoy getting to know them, but asking too many questions can make some people uneasy.
  • Love: An overuse of love can show up as smothering or as having difficulty letting go of a relationship. I just asked my teenage son and he says I don’t smother him or love him to much, but just wait until he tries to leave for college…
  • Creativity: Sometimes I drive myself crazy tweaking and fidgeting with documents or images that are good enough already. I can always imagine a new, better — or just different — way to do things.

What I’ve done to fix this

To be honest, managing strengths overuse is an ongoing process that requires mindfulness and some self-compassion. I am more mindful now of when I use my strengths and to what degree, so am more able to dial them back if necessary. I don’t always get it right, which is where the self-compassion comes in. But I’m getting better, and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve also learned to say, “Oops, sorry — that’s just my curiosity (or whatever) coming forth again.”

The balance I strive for is to use the right strengths, in the right combination, in the right amounts, in the right situation.

The "Golden Mean"

What does it look like when you over-use your strengths, and what do you do about it?