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When You're "Beside Yourself"

I've been in a slump. I've been acting out of character. I've been allowing exhaustion and stress to get the better of me. Even though I knew this was happening, until I stopped to reflect and dissect what was going on, I felt a little out of control. I didn't recognize myself. I felt like I was outside myself or "beside myself" as the saying goes.

My stress level was the result of too many things coming together at one time. Some of them were wonderful accomplishments while others were disappointments. Everything collided all at once, and I was simply overwhelmed. I didn't handle it the way I wish that I had.

As leaders, though, we sometimes experience these moments where too much is happening too quickly. If we are not careful, we will begin to operate in ways that are not our norm. Visually, it may look to others like we have been invaded by some other personality.

Since reliability, predictability, and credibility are all extremely important to a leader, we can't afford to be beside ourselves and acting out of character very often.

For those familiar with Myers-Briggs, this experience is known as being "in the grip." That happens when, under pressure, we begin to rely on parts of our personality that we’re not very good at using. They aren't our usual strengths nor our backup strengths. We go far afield and try to use something else because what we are accustomed to using is not working in that moment.

Since we aren't very good at using these parts of our personality, we look and feel different. We magnify our own stress because we’re trying to cope in ways we’re not accustomed to.  The impact on others is not pretty.

In my own office, I was retreating and working with the door closed and not being responsive to the others in my office. I justified this by saying "They will understand. They know I'm busy. I just have to do what I have to do."

I'm not proud of my decisions to behave that way. If I could rewind, I’d figure out some other way to interact with people or to just explain myself and let them know how out of sorts I was feeling. Instead, I was self-indulgent. I allowed my emotions to dictate my actions.

I'm sure I did more harm than good to others and also to myself. Going forward, this is a good lesson for me. I need to avoid getting in those situations where I'm overwhelmed, obviously. But when I do feel that way, I need to take a deep breath and think about the needs of others.

Being "beside myself" turns out to be alienating to others. Any time there are two of me, there isn't room for other people. Since other people are very important to me and to my business, this is not an indulgence I can afford in the future.

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