In today’s society, many people put a huge amount of emphasis on material wealth, being successful, and achieving something meaningful with their lives. All of these things are important in their own right. We need money to support ourselves. We should want to be successful at what we do. Self-actualization is an important stepping stone on the road to happiness.
However, as with anything else, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Focusing too hard on being successful can lead us to miss out on the simple pleasures of life and can cause undue stress that can actually be counterproductive. That’s right, I’m talking to you, overachievers.
With the rise of social media influencers, a growing global wealth disparity, and the glorification of super-rich business moguls like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, there has never been more pressure to be successful.
For many, the pursuit of success can consume their lives and result in low self-esteem or even self-loathing if they do not achieve what they set out to achieve. But how do you know when you’re setting the bar too high? How do you know when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?
Chasing after a goal that is constantly getting farther and farther away can cause us to sacrifice our happiness, health, and interpersonal relationships. These are the symptoms of an overachiever. So, if some of what you’ve just read rings true with you and you think you might be an overachiever, here are some signs that that might be the case.
Feeling Relief Instead of Pride
Overachievers often feel like success is the only option and that, should they fail, they would be judged negatively by those around them. So, when they actually do accomplish something, instead of feeling pride for their achievement, they just feel relief. Instead of feeling happy about a positive thing that they did, they feel relieved that they avoided the negative outcome of failure and the negative judgment of others.
Despite being extremely driven, overachievers actually tend to focus more on failure than on success. Rather than being driven by a desire for success, they’re actually just running from the big, bad monster that is failure.
If you’re an overachiever, try giving yourself a pat on the back and being proud of the things you’ve already accomplished. Maybe even try writing down a list of the successes that you’ve already had and then reading over that list a couple of times.
Overachievers often perceive anything less than perfect as a complete failure. They’ll go to any lengths to make sure that their finished product is absolutely perfect, not realizing that perfection is an unachievable standard. They also feel the desire to be perceived as perfect by others around them rather than accepting their own flaws and being honest with themselves about their shortcomings.
If you find yourself always striving towards perfection, try to remember that nothing is perfect. Yes, doing your best is always good and you should want to deliver the best finished product that you can. However, you’ll always find reasons to keep tweaking and revising if you’re aiming for an impossible ideal like perfection. Instead of looking for imperfections, try to focus on delivering a finished product that gets the job done (even if, deep down, you still feel like it’s not quite perfect).
Being Overly Self-Critical
Everyone can be a bit critical of themselves at times. It’s our way of making sure that we’re doing the best we can and it’s perfectly normal. But, if you find that you’re berating yourself constantly about things that you failed to achieve, then you’re probably an overachiever. Overachievers tend to set impossible goals for themselves and then give themselves a really hard time when they don’t live up to those goals.
If you find yourself being overly self-critical, remind yourself of all the great qualities you possess. Rather than focusing on the ways in which you fall short, think about all of the things that make you special, make you interesting, and make you you.
Only Thinking About the Future
If you find yourself constantly thinking about the future, you’re probably an overachiever. Overachievers tend to focus so heavily on the future that they’re incapable of enjoying the present moment.
While others may be able to sit in a field and enjoy looking at the trees, overachievers would likely just feel guilty for not doing something more productive with that time. In an overachiever’s mind, every moment must be spent working towards a better future, and every moment not spent forwarding one’s future is a waste of time and a failure.
If you have trouble being present in the current moment, you should give meditation a try. Try to slow your mind down, stop racing towards the future all the time, and just try to be thankful for being alive at this time right now.
If meditation seems too difficult for you, start small. Start by focusing on the different flavors in your dinner, by listening to the different sounds in your backyard, or by just looking around and trying to be as observant as possible.
Working Too Much
If you never take a day off, never take a vacation, or never even take a mid-day break at work, you’re most likely an overachiever. Try to think about the last time you took a couple of days off to do something relaxing or spontaneous. If you can’t remember, it might be time to rethink the lengths to which you’re working yourself.
Not only does overworking yourself make you tired, it can also cause you to miss out on important self-care activities and hobbies. Over time, it creates a chronic feeling of stress and can negatively impact your relationships with the other people in your life.
If you have a significant other or kids, I’m sure they’d love it if you could take a few days off work to take them on vacation or even just hang out with them. Sure, it might not lead you to get a promotion, but is a promotion more important than showing the people in your life that you care about them?
Sudden Flashes of Anger
In extreme cases of overachieving, people may have sudden outbursts of anger that seem completely unwarranted. It’s not difficult to figure out where these come from. If you are continually stressing about work, all of that stress is going to build and build and build until it finally bursts out of you. When that happens, you may hurt the people you care about, jeopardize your relationships, and send yourself into a cycle of self-loathing.
If you find yourself having “inexplicable” outbursts of rage, then you should reflect on the source of that rage. If you suspect that it might be the result of being overly stressed, then you should probably think about reducing your workload.
On top of that, try implementing all of the methods of self-love that have been previously mentioned. Try focusing on the positive aspects of yourself, the amazing things you’ve already achieved, the beauty of the present moment, and the things in your life that are truly meaningful. Life is too short to be stressed and angry. Give yourself and everyone else a break and try to enjoy the little things.