Quickie: Do You Over-perform?

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The fact that this subject has come up three times in two days has got me thinking that it’s important to write about if for no other reason than to get it off my own chest.

Do you over-perform? Do you know what that means?

Do you know what under-performing means? It usually means that we don’t do enough to satisfy the requirements of a task, job, need, situation, relationship. People often think that being in a relationship means giving 50% each so that the total is 100%. Well, that’s not entirely true. When you give 50% you usually get 50%.

What about when you give 100%? Do you get a return on your investment? About ten years ago, my brother who’s a banker (the nice kind) once asked me about the ROI on all my relationships. Was I getting back what I put in to the relationship? Was I being compensated by friends with the same level of recognition, respect, love and kindness? Generally, the answer was no because I was an over-performer. Did I dial back? Not until last summer.

Want a real story? OK. About nine years ago when I was pregnant with Thing 3 and busy as ass with the other two, I got a note from a friend, Dunga, about her neighbor (whom she barely knew) having some troubles: they were new too the ‘hood and they were having health issues with one spouse in the hospital and another out of commission for another health reason. She was just spouting off, venting. Not asking for anything. Me? I decided I would help: I would make a dinner: scalloped potatoes, ham, a salad, bread and dessert and bring it to Dunga to deliver to her friend. My friend, Dunga, wasn’t even doing that much: she said she was making a bunch of pasta to al denté, putting it in a container with sauce and freezing it. Or something like that. I did waaaaaaaaaaay way over above and beyond. I also cut the crap out of my left thumb on a mandolin slicer in the process. I had to go get stitches the next day. But by God, I was going to have that meal ready.

Did the neighbor ever say thank you to me? No. I’m stillllllll waiting for that note. It’s not gonna come.

I also recently endeavored to help out someone I don’t know who’s sick with cancer. I wanted to rally a bunch of bloggers and hold a raffle and donate the money to his cause. He never replied to any of my multiple queries to help him. I don’t know this guy, but I wanted to help. All he wanted was some money from his fundraiser site. I gave him that, but I wanted to give him more. Why? What was my motivation? To be held with esteem and regard in yet one new stranger’s eyes and mind? What the hell is wrong with me?!

Well, that fire is slowly dying and I’m ok with it. The thing is: it was a distraction. It let me think I was helping the global good by not acting locally.

Is your performance met with an equal 100% by the other parties or the recipient? Sometimes. Usually for me though: never.

What about when you give “110%” or “150%” or “500%” … are you being met by others with their “110%” or “150%” or “500%” Do they see your 100% and raise you to 120%?

Probably not. They’re probably just doing their 100% which might make you feel resentful that they’re not like you: working yourself to the bone, slaving over a hot stove, doing pushups blind-folded with one hand tied behind your back in barbed wire and one foot resting on top of the other one beneath a 50# weight while you’re in an oxygen-deprived vacuum with the heat on and bad country music from the 1940s playing at 11 while someone recites the creepy mother-yelling scenes from Carrie just to remind you how much harder you still need to work.

That’s over-performing.

How proud are you of that guy? I think he’s a doofus. And he didn’t lift the weight with his pinkie. He used his bicep and his core and his traps and his legs. If he’d really used his pinkie he would have stayed low and lifted it an inch off the ground. Raising that weight above his head proves to me nothing other than the fact that he’s confused about lifting weights and that he can’t actually lift 56 pounds with his pinkie finger only.

Back to the point: Do you do these things, the over-performing things to engender appreciation, esteem, affection? Do you work like that to impress people? Do you work like that because The System sucks and Things Need to Change and They Need to Change Now, but you’re just one voice singing like Barbra freakin’ Streisand in a chorus of people singing like mice? Who’s unbalanced here? Did you not get the memo that Rome wasn’t built in a day?

The thing is — often we over-perform (and I wrote a little about this in a post I’ll reblog tomorrow as part of my “throw back Thursday” it was about the Law of Diminishing Returns) because we want to correct a wrong, shout about something that we feel needs to be known about. We can do these things: we can correct the wrongs, but to truly effect any change we can see immediately, we must correct them within, correct them at home, start with ourselves. You might be a freakin’ rock star at work, going above and beyond, being known at the highest levels of your company, but if your health is a mess and you have a stack of books you haven’t read or donated and your children think their names are “You,” “Boy,” and “Her” you’re screwing up royally.

If we fight tirelessly against child abuse, remember we don’t leave much patience for ourselves at home. When we fight tirelessly against injustice, giving our 150% all the time, we do no justice to ourselves; we burn out, we become unbalanced and we lose perspective. We can not do it all by ourselves.

I think of Jesus (insert your religion or non-religious hero here), not as a Christian savior or as in the religious sense as a zealot, but in the sense that he had these wonderful messages about peace and love and loving one another and he is hailed and vaunted as the Son of God, who came down from heaven to change the world… and well, not much has changed has it? We still fight in the name of religion. We still don’t love one another — his simplest order — and we can’t do it. We especially can’t do it if our ego’s in the way.

Regardless of whether you believe in Jesus as the New Testament tells it, not much has changed. And if the miracles he performed (talk about over-performing!) still didn’t do the trick, still didn’t make a dent in the human condition (the earth has seen hundreds of wars and civil conflicts before and after his time) what makes you think you’re gonna be able to make someone like you more, see your point, understand you better, or regard you with more respect or enthusiasm just because you try harder? It won’t work. It’s not that the work isn’t worth it — it’s not worth it if it doesn’t bring you joy or self-satisfaction and self-love. If some people still don’t get it but you’re satisfied, it’s their loss. Don’t stop doing what you love because someone else doesn’t share your zest.

Those people you’re trying to impress or change or influence with the over-performing: Do they see you blindfolded in that hot room with the music? Do you ever tell them about that place? What would happen if they did? They’d probably think you need a break. That you are close to coming undone. What would you say to yourself if you saw yourself working that hard? Would you turn off the music first (I hope!), undo the barbed wire, turn down the heat, take off the blindfold, offer yourself some water and speak soothingly from a Winnie-the-Pooh book?

I hope so. Be your own best friend: don’t over-perform for the respect of others; you won’t get it. Work as hard as you want, but enjoy it and make sure you leave your ego out of it. Then you can respect yourself and that’s the main thing.

Thank you.

5 responses »

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  2. Over perfoming leads to burn out. Yep, I’ve done it. I still struggle with it too. I have to remind myself that sometimes my “best” that day is good enough. Having kids helps that’s for sure! I can’t over do things like I used to even if I wanted to. I don’t have that kind of stamina and I want to be happy.

    • hey girl, any time i’m upright, clean and the kids are fed and happy is a good day. my house looks like a textile factory exploded in it some days… but as a friend told me one day, “they won’t remember when the house is a mess; they’ll remember when life was a mess.”

      happiness matters. and our bodies tell us when to dial back. i like listening to that internal advice.

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