I am a product of the overachieving club and I can’t get myself out of it.
I have never been forced to study, get good grades or take on multiple paid and unpaid jobs — I chose to do it on my own. It’s nothing new to me when someone tells me, “I don’t know how you do it all.”
The thing is, I know exactly why and how I do it. I always try to be better than the person I already am. Basically, I’m competing with the person I was a day ago, maybe even an hour ago.
When I look back at how I got myself certain grades or those special awards that sit in a dusty box on a shelf in my closet, I realize I put most of those things before my health and sanity. This overachieving monster that I have created — and perfected — over the years has taken away my free time to breathe and enjoy the little things in life. But I always figured if I wasn’t doing something, what use would I be to society?
I’m a 20-year-old student and somehow I think I have to take on responsibilities to run an entire country. I’m one of those people you tell to take a chill pill, but I won’t because if I stop I think I will fall behind and rot.
I’m a bundle of neuroses and I’m a pain in the ass. I’m undoubtedly losing my mind for no reason at all but I love the chase. It almost feels like I’m playing a mental video game in my head to push myself to levels I created for myself to beat.
While the title of “overachiever” may often have a positive connotation to someone looking in from the outside, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.
Of course, everyone likes having their shit together, but overachievers do it differently. We give ourselves unreasonable deadlines, we take on more than we can fit into our schedule, and our dreams turn into nightmares.
Last year, I read a study by Ohio State University psychology professor Robert Arkin that said overachievers are more likely to feel anxious about everything they do. I found myself laughing about how ridiculously true it was, but then I got really bummed out. But I kept reading anyway because overachievers always finish what they start.
I realized I have nobody to blame but myself for drowning in unnecessary stress. Nobody cares what you’re doing with your life except you. Nobody cares how hard you work or how far you are willing to go to get something, because everyone is too busy doing their own thing.
It turns out, Arkin’s study found many college students were trying to put too many apples in one small basket. Overachievers experienced a lot of self-doubt and they had this aching desire for success. But they also felt more depressed and stupid after a failure than those who have more realistic expectations.
I made a vow to myself that as I finish my last year as an undergraduate student, I will leave my overachieving monster shoved in the same box as my plastic trophies and ribbons that have continuously fed my super powerful, but super burdening, ego. I realized I don’t have to exceed all these expectations that life throws at me, especially when there’s so much more to life than getting others’ approval. It took me my entire education to realize that the superhero version of myself can also be my worst enemy. Sure, overachievers’ resumés look insanely professional, but when I’m older I don’t want to reflect on my life and say I killed myself — I want to be able to say I enjoyed it.
The overachieving monster will never leave me alone, but if I take things down a notch, I know I won’t ruin a whole lot. I don’t want to live my whole life trying to be a symbol of approval for parents to tell their younger children about. My next step as an overachiever is to no longer be one at all.
I want to breathe easier, simmer down and get my hands on those chill pills everyone keeps recommending.