ARE YOU UNDERACTING OR OVERACTING?
Pop Quiz: Which of these sounds like your internal monologue?
A: I never do enough. I’m too easy on myself. I should be doing more.
B: Things are more difficult for me than other people. I’m always working so hard. I need to give myself a break.
Over my years of coaching I’ve observed these two thought patterns so frequently that I’ve come to identify them as two different personality types: over-actors and under-actors.
If you identify with the first set of thought patterns, you are likely an over-actor.
If you identify more with the second, then you are likely an under-actor.
Over-actors tend to take TOO MUCH action, because they think they are never doing enough. They end up in a cycle where they hustle for their own approval and then ignore or dismiss their accomplishments.
Under-actors take TOO LITTLE action, because they think they’re working too hard already and need to learn to take it easy. Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sitting at home watching Netflix all day – under-actors may spend a lot of time “working” (e.g., doing lots of random tasks) but never creating the results that they want. They frequently spin their wheels with busy work and then wonder why they aren’t making progress.
Neither is better or worse. But understanding which you are will help you know how to tailor your self-development work and see your own blind spots.
Here’s why it’s tricky:
Over-actors don’t ever think they’re doing enough. So when they try to diagnose their own problem, they think they just need to work harder and do more.
Under-actors are aware that they beat themselves up for not doing enough, so they think the solution is to slow down and be nicer to themselves.
To further complicate things, it is possible to be an over-actor in some areas of your life and an under-actor in others. If you have a business, you may be an over-actor in content creation but an under-actor in making offers.
So how do you really know which group you belong to?
By looking at your results.
If you set goals, achieve them, and then immediately set new ones or dismiss the ones you achieved, you are an over-actor.
If you set goals and then don’t achieve them, and make excuses or beat yourself up (or both!), you are an under-actor.
It’s important to diagnose yourself correctly because your remedy varies depending on which type you are.
If you are an over-actor, you will benefit from taking less action.
You’re used to trying to achieve your way out of your insecurities and negative emotions, so you will grow from learning to slowing down and be with yourself.
To do this, you must learn to explore the thoughts and feelings you’re trying to outrun. You must learn to acknowledge all that you’ve accomplished.
This won’t be easy.
You probably see yourself as a lazy slacker, so learn to challenge that self-image and explore the ways in which you actually produce and accomplish a lot.
It’s important to understand that no amount of goal-achieving will ever make you proud of yourself.
You have to create that feeling with your thoughts, on purpose.
If you’re an under-actor, the remedy is different.
You, too, have to work on being kinder to yourself.
But where an over-actor needs to slow down, you need to speed up.
You need to stop accepting your excuses for why you can’t accomplish your goals.
Enabling yourself to not take action or go after your dreams is NOT kind to yourself.
You can be 100% kind to yourself AND stop letting yourself off the hook for not getting shit done.
Ask yourself: How can I hold 100% loving space for myself while also not believing any of my own excuses about why things aren’t happening for me?
Remember, neither over-acting nor under-acting are better or worse than each other.
The point of setting goals and creating results is what we learn in the process and who we become.
When you move to a place of balance, you can set goals and achieve them because you enjoy the process of doing so. You enjoy learning about yourself and the world, and you want to develop new skills.
Balanced actors tell themselves the truth about where they are doing the work and where they aren’t, because they know that they have their own backs, no matter what.
Balanced actors achieve their goals but they also know how to enjoy the journey.
And that’s all that any of us truly want.