When It’s Bad To Be Good At Something

hands-220163_640Last month my husband and I were in Florida to celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday.  What a milestone! The whole family flew there from all over to celebrate together.  

In between trips to the pool and cocktail hours…we found ourselves decorating the house for the festivities.  

Everyone was given a job:  Balloon blowing, hat making, ribbon twirling…oh and there was a list to be made too!  

And guess who was called to make said list.  That’s right — yours truly.

It always feels nice when you are recognized as being good at something. I like it when people ask me for list-making tips because it’s fun to help people, but it’s also gives me a little confidence boost to be an expert.

But then it hit me.

Being good at something can actually be bad!  

I know – the overachiever in me is totally gasping for air as I type this…but hear me out on this one.

I thought back to a time when I worked in live TV in NYC and we would produce a 1 hour newscast with several staff writers.

When I was a copy editor it was my job to assign stories for each of the writers to produce for the newscast.  After a while it became clear who was quickest, most accurate and most pleasant to work with.

Those writers got more work.

Yep – their workload was heavier because I knew I could count on them.

They were the good ones.  And they got rewarded with more work because they could handle it.

If there was breaking news — one of those go-to, nice to work with, meticulous wordsmiths would be chosen to handle it.

They were good and sometimes got overworked because of it.

It’s the same thing with friends.  Do you have a friend who is the “organized one?” Or maybe it’s you!

Regardless — that person becomes the go-to for making restaurant reservations, calculating the check splitting and coordinating calendars.  Am I right?  

I’m usually that person.

When planning a trip — I become the one who keeps the lists, itinerary and plans.  I do like doing these things but it’s a stress and sometimes I feel like all that accountability is a burden.

That’s why I love going on vacation with our friends Peter and Nicole because Nicole is even more organized (read: neurotic) than I am and often gives me a break by taking over some of the planning.  (If you haven’t read her guest post Packing for Two Weeks in Europe in Carry-on Luggage you must — it’s one of the most popular posts on my site!)

This “problem” can spill over into all aspects of your life.

At a party you’ll often see the most technology competent person in the corner setting up the speakers. Or a doctor diagnosing people’s weird arm lump over cocktails.

It makes sense. When you have a friend who’s good at something you feel much more comfortable going to them to solve your issues.

But the little things you do to help others can start to add up and wear you out.

Being the go to person because you are good at a certain thing can be tiring or even overwhelming. Sometimes you might wish that you could ‘turn off’ your knowledge.

So why is this so taboo to admit or talk about?

Probably because it comes across as really arrogant and pretentious. When I hear myself say these things I don’t like how it sounds. Complaining about being too good at something is like complaining about having too much money. It’s ridiculous.

The thing is though we’re all experts at something or other. So I assume this is probably a fairly common feeling.

Ok your turn — what are you good at that can sometimes burden you?


4 replies
  1. Kathy Steck
    Kathy Steck says:

    I think this is an important point for mothers who are used to doing everything for their families. Not only does it cause a lot of stress, it keeps your kids from feeling accomplished themselves. If we share the responsibilities, we share the confidence boost.
    And sometimes organizing means organizing the workload. I’ve made lists for house cleaning: dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, etc. Then I assign the tasks to different family members. The best day was when my two girls and I were all singing to our ipods driving their father crazy. The work got done and we had some fun.
    As my mother always said, TEAMWORK!

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Good point Kathy. Just because you CAN do something – doesn’t mean you SHOULD be the one doing it. Sometimes I find it’s just easier to “do it myself.” But in the end – that might always be the best solution . It’s important to take a breath and share the responsibilities!

  2. Magan Lakeway
    Magan Lakeway says:

    I don’t mind being the one to organize. It’s when organization gets confused with leadership.

    I can track registration for the big Bible study group. I’ll get out the publicity, create the roster. I’ll get the books, name tags, collect money, write up instructions for those helping with signup. I will set up the small group rooms and fill out room reservation forms. I will even figure out how to run the A/V equipment (because I will schedule a meeting with the “tech guy”!)

    And then I have to say, I am happy to do this so the leader has time and energy for leading: selecting material, finding small group leaders, writing up the publicity for me to email out. So the small group leaders can focus on discussion questions and prayer requests.

    And I say this with love, especially for the women in this large Bible Study. They don’t need a leader tearing her hair out. (Not me and not the person who has stepped in and said they would lead.) Also for the love of developing leaders in the church. If I can relieve the leader of “organizing” details, then he/she has time to develop their leadership team. Of which I’m happy to be a part of.

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Hi Magan – thanks for sharing your story. It’s very good of you to do this organizing for your group. I’m sure they appreciate it!


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