According to Dr. Phil, “we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge first.” With this being the case, I have finally come to terms with a plaguing issue that I’ve denied for many years: My name is Jennifer, and I am an overachiever.
There. I’ve said it. The proof is in the pudding.
Adorning my bedroom walls are dozens of plaques, commendations, and kudos from just about every avenue of my life: from grade school awards, to college scholarships, to writing competitions, to community service.
I say this not to brag, but to make a point. In 2005, in the hit movie “Hustle and Flow,” one of the main characters of the movie laments over how hard it is to be a successful hustler. This “baller” should try being an overachiever! Overachievers may not get the same street cred, or cool theme music, but they work just as hard and live in constant angst in their daily efforts to be the best at what they do.
Achievement becomes an addiction in which the “high” of success is often chased by additional acts of excellence and emotional and physical over investment. And to be quite honest, it can be rather exhausting.
Sure, for those of us who suffer this malady, we can say that it makes our moms proud, earns us a few bragging rights, and reasons to reward ourselves with chocolate and periodic shopping sprees, but somehow, somewhere, we have to draw the line.
For example, I was competing with a little girl at a close friend’s daughter’s birthday party, in a jump rope competition, and let’s just say that this kid proved to be a poor loser. But I was determined to outdo her.
Could you be an overachiever just like me?
According to the Overachiever Coach, “Overachievers are ambitious, driven, and influenced to do (and be) the best. They have a unique mindset that keeps their brain on overdrive and a work ethic that keeps them one step ahead. High expectations and focused intensity are definite characteristics of overachievers. They are always pushing themselves for more,–whether it’s professionally, academically, personally, or in a sports or hobby.”
Here are some other tell-tale signs of overachievers, based upon my own experience and observations:
- Overachievers have a sense of urgency about things that makes them unique comparatively. They view time as a commodity.
- Overachievers often come from successful families where parents or other family members were doctors, lawyers, actors, teachers, bankers, or military personnel (whereby “they got it honestly”). In other words, achievement was as much a part of their family blood line as their DNA.
- Overachievers typically do well in school, often skipping a grade or two, or earning scholarships along the way.
- Overachievers tend to be their own worst critics. They impose high standards and subject themselves to personal scrutiny on various levels.
- Overachievers are very results-oriented. They are very diligent in their day-to-day functioning, and often set goals by which they measure their overall performance.
- Overachievers often feel pressured to do well.
Now that we’ve identified what it is, here is how to look at this condition more objectively — and use it to enhance our lives rather than encumber it.
If you, like me, have decided that 2011 will be the year to be less stressed, less anal, and more balanced in your personal and professional life, here are some savvy ways to walk the talk:
- Realize that we were designed to be “human beings”, not human doings. Keep things in proper perspective. We are more than our titles and Facebook status updates. Our value as human beings should never solely be tied into our value in the workworld, or the value of our achievements.
- Know that the stress associated with “driven personalities,” grueling work hours, and extremely high self-imposed expectations can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and poor sleep habits. It can also adversely impact our personal relationships, if we apply the same high, rigid standards. Act accordingly.
- Take heed to the saying, “all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl.” Balance is crucial. Work hard, but play hard too when time allows. Tap into some personal hobbies like cooking, or writing, or sports for recreational outlets and a greater quality of life.
- Give yourself a break. There’s nothing wrong with having a “marginal mindset” or weaknesses in some areas. For instance, I really suck at bowling, but enjoy it immensely. Everybody needs an activity that allows them to relax and release. What’s yours?
- Realize that life is not a competition. Run your own race. Don’t get caught up in comparing your successes to your siblings, friends, or co-workers. We each have different skills, circumstances, and goals.
Follow these timely tips and you’ll achieve something much greater than “status”. You’ll enjoy a greater quality of life, and better mental and physical health. And that’s something truly worth boasting about.
(Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)
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