Overachiever Syndrome: Will being human ever be enough for you?

By Daniela Morales, 10th grade

Do you live in a constant state of overworking while demanding from yourself inhumane perfection? This is what the life of an overachiever looks like. Overachievers are usually those you look up to, with the best grades in the class and what you think is a picture-perfect life. Maybe you look at them from afar and admire how well they’re doing, with a bit of jealousy of course. However, have you stopped and talked to them? If you do and get them to open up to you, they’ll let you in on the secret they hide behind A+ report cards: they still don’t feel like they’re enough. Academic validation hasn’t been entirely effective at filling whichever emotional void they have. Mainly because that validation doesn’t have a defined benchmark. Overachievers don’t stop at one goal. They want to conquer all. 

According to Dina Smith from the Harvard Business Review, overachievers are doomed to a chronic and vicious cycle of  “insatiable striving with little sense of purpose” (Smith, 2021). There’s no humane purpose to this cycle because the ultimate goal of an overachiever is impossible to achieve. While trying to attain perfection, overachievers are bounded by immense pressure that manipulates them into working and exceeding the expectations given to them, every single time. A lot of overachievers as a result of this pressure, struggle with depression and anxiety starred by feelings of guilt, angst, sadness, stress, and low self-esteem. The worst part is that overachievers tend to neglect their mental health because they consider getting help an obstacle in their quest for perfection. Admitting that the lifestyle that has brought them so many rewards that seem to please everyone but themselves, is something they’re not willing to do because that means they are failing. 

The School of Life explains that being an overachiever is not the same as being highly talented or driven. The difference lies in the fact that overachievers work not because they want to, but because it feels as if working is a solution to unresolved emotional trauma. KD Holmes from KHD counseling, supports the gravity of the situation by explaining that overachievers develop a compulsive behavior that enables them to work as if they’re on a loop, no more different than a robot (Holmes, n.d.). Sleeping, eating, and even going to the bathroom, are all things that overachievers tend to forget about (or simply just ignore) when they’re focused on a task. If you’re an overachiever and you’re reading this, you probably know all of this from personal experience so I’ll tell you something that will interest you more. 

Erin Urban from Forbes wrote about some reasons why being an overachiever will affect your career (Urban, 2017). Summarized, perfectionism makes you an unwanted colleague in a professional environment because you’re hard to deal with and are disappointed easily when people can’t meet your expectations. Because of this, always wanting to be the best will negatively impact your ability to relate with others. Especially, when it comes to group projects, where you want to do everything because you think that if you don’t do it, then no one else will know how to do it right. Your career is only one of the many areas of your life that will be compromised by being an overachiever, do you want to do this to yourself? If you said no or you’re still pondering on the question, let me give you some advice. If you said yes, then I’ll try to change your mind. 

For you to accomplish what you have in mind, you need your mind, body, and soul, not one or the other. Not taking care of yourself along with compulsive behavior is what will take you down a rabbit hole. Always put yourself first, and make your well-being the number one priority on your to-do list. Enjoy your life and all the many things it has to offer, which are not limited to assignments, workloads, and grades, but the moments that are made worthwhile by the company we keep and the things we do that bring us joy. Spend time with your family and friends, visit your favorite place, eat the food you like, practice your favorite sport, go out of your comfort zone, and even more. Feel proud of what you have accomplished and don’t put unhealthy pressure on yourself to accomplish so much more. Balance your academic life with life outside of school, and don’t let the two of them merge into something that leaves you unrecognizable. Self-discipline and ambition are both good qualities that can be found in an individual, but not at the expense of their happiness and mental health. Don’t lose yourself to numbers and scores, because while humanity cannot be put on a scale, it has an unimaginable value that must not be wasted. 



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