Do you outperform everyone? Do you hold yourself to the highest standards? Then you just might be an overachiever. Overachievement can often be mentally and emotionally damaging.
Why overachievement is a problem
A person who is an overachiever will often work way too hard than they should in order to succeed. Not only do they have a highly developed work ethic, but they also tend to be perfectionists, have poor work-life balance, and have a low sense of self-worth.
“Overachievers are people who do great things but still need to accomplish more. Even though they attain more success than the vast majority of people, they are never satisfied and always strive to accomplish more,” explains author and educational consultant Kendra Cherry, MS.
Although this tendency can result in impressive academic and professional success, overachievement can lead to feelings of emptiness and imbalance in your life. You may ignore your family, friends, and yourself in order to succeed in your career and life. Kendra adds “The problem with overachievement is that it involves reaching these goals at costs that outweigh the rewards. People often sacrifice their own health, happiness, and relationships in order to chase a target that is always moving beyond them.”
Overachievers and anxiety
When you judge your own worth solely based on how much you have achieved in life, then it is a good indicator that you are an overachiever. Overachievement is not necessarily a negative thing. If your friends and family think that you are an overachiever then it means they think you are hard-working, dedicated and successful.
However, if you are mentally and emotionally overwhelmed by anxiety and fear about uncertainty, failure, and the future, then you need to take a deeper look at yourself. Overachievement is often a result of desperately trying to avoid negative judgment, believes Robert Arkin, Ph.D., professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.
Just because you are successful, doesn’t mean you cannot struggle with anxiety and depression. Most overachievers often secretly struggle with mental health issues. But “just because someone seems like they’re striving, doesn’t mean they’re not struggling – and no matter what you’re perceived as, you deserve help and support,” explains The Mighty.
Signs you are an overachiever
Do you believe that you are an overachiever? Then here are a few signs of overachievement that you need to look out for:
1. You care only about the outcome
For overachievers, reaching the outcome is more important than anything else. You believe that others judge you based on your achievements, so hold yourself up to this standard. Dr. Arkin explains that overachievers “believe that people around them, and they themselves, judge their worthiness based upon how well they do.”
The tendency to overachieve makes us believe that failure is a personal reflection, says John Eliot, Ph.D., a clinical professor in human performance and author of Overachievement. Kendra Cherry adds “Failure is not just part of the process for an overachiever – it is how they measure their worthiness. Poor outcomes can be devastating, so an overachiever will go to any ends to avoid such failings.”
2. You only feel relief, not happiness
Overcoming an obstacle or accomplishing a goal makes you feel relieved. As your focus is particularly on avoiding failure, then enjoying your work or improving your performance, you are able to feel only relief and not happiness or satisfaction. This is the basic difference between a high performer and an overachiever.
Dr. Arkin says “When you avoid a bad outcome, your emotional life is experienced more as a relief than it is experienced as joy, and that’s just not as rewarding.” When you constantly feel anxious and afraid of failure, you are not really living up to your fullest potential. Your effort to avoid failure is preventing you from experiencing life. “They’re thinking about the past and the future, mostly, instead of living in the moment and enjoying its pleasures,” adds Arkin.
Kendra explains “Rather than feeling pride or joy in their accomplishment, they are simply relieved that they have not failed.”