According to Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Overachiever is someone who aims to achieve success over and above the standard or expected level.
So how do you spot an overachiever?
I think most people tend to know who the overachievers in their lives if they are not overachievers themselves. From my personal experience, in my own life and peers, it is characterized as someone who is determined, super motivated to get sh*t done, and can be seen as a workaholic. They may come off as intimidating because they may appear to have their life together. They hold themselves to a very high standard and high expectations, mostly for themselves rather than the people in their lives. They are reliable and dependent, and you know you can always lean on them for exceptional work delivery.
My Personal Diagnosis
Coming from someone who has been told multiple times that they’re an overachiever, being called an overachiever is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is a compliment to your work ethic and your personal brand. But on the other hand, such compliments can make it difficult for you to recognize that you may be pushing yourself to work a little bit too hard. We may come off as intimidating because many people tend to make assumptions about our expectations, but the truth is we hold ourselves to a higher standard than normal.
As I begin my journey into the working world, I carried my high achieving mentality with me since college that proven to help me accomplished many achievements. But then I realized that having a high achieving mentality is not sustainable. There are several traps that overachiever behavior tends to fall into but what are they?
Lack of self-appreciation
Imagine this, you are assigned a project that can potentially improve the efficiency of your department. You spent a whole week to conduct research through meetings, so scheduling meetings and following up with emails. Then you spent another week, including the weekend to create a proposal. Then the day comes where you announce your proposal. Your department loved it, they announced the implementations will take place immediately and it stops there. No one reaches out to tell you you did a good job nor thanking you for your efforts to improve the department. How would that make you feel when no one acknlowedge your effort? Is it enough for you to give yourself a pat on the back?
As overachievers, we are never satisfied with our personal accomplishments, and we tend to seek out for how we can improve. Rather, we are more driven to find external validations from others. Somehow, their opinions are more important than our perception of our own self. However, similar to the lack of appreciation from others, it is discouraging when you don’t give yourself the proper acknowledgment that you deserve.
How to recognize that you are falling into the trap?
Close your eyes and revisit all of your previous work, do you find yourself asking for “what’s next” or something along the line “this is not good enough, there are more that I can do”? Lack of self appreciate camouflage itself as humbleness, and we often react to it by downplaying our achievements.
You have to recognize that slowing down and embrace your achievement is a way to show self-appreciation. There will be days when you don’t have anyone there to notice your success and that is when you must step up and be your own cheerleader.
A small step that you can take to improve this is keeping a small journal of your progress and the amount of efforts that you put in to complete your task. For example, if you are working on a project, researching can take three hours that requires you to walk through the rain to work with your team. Eventually all of these small tasks will be combine into a large accomplishment, and you will also have written documentations of your efforts.
In the end, you will have a bigger appreciation for your effort rather than the outcome. Outcomes may not always work out, but if you can recognize that you have done the best you can, then you will have more appreciation for your effort.
Burnout is the feelings of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion due to prolonged period of stress. Stress is not always bad, it keeps us on our toes and helps us work quickly to navigate through difficulties like pushing through a workout or finishing a twenty-page paper. But burnout happens when we are continuously experiencing stress, like an increasing exponential graph, until we crash from exhaustion.
How to recognize that you are falling into the trap?
Overachievers are more prone to burnout because of the constant demand that they put themselves through, it may also be their bosses, coworkers, group partners. We can fall into this trap when we are pushing ourselves to fulfill our high expectations, doing things that are not expected of us but we get into our heads and believe that everyone is on our case if we don’t complete what we’ve set out to do. We then put ourselves into stressful situations, paired with an endless list of demands and the negative self-talk that eventually lead to us crashing and burning.
Prevention is Key
In order to prevent burnout, we have to recognize that it is important for us to take preventive measures rather than treatments. I recommend you to look at your situation from an objective standpoint, you may see that you are doing everything that is expected of you, your managers are happy about your progress, your team meets the deadline for an important assignment or you are already one of the highest contributors in your team.
Acknowledge your capacity and when you have cleared them. Asking for feedback is the best way to gauge your performance, and we tend to bury our heads into the work that we may not hear the positive things that others may have to say about our work. Some of us may need extra reassurance, so getting feedback from your higher-ups, team members or mentors is extremely beneficial.
Overachievers are highly motivated individuals, we are valuable assets to everyone around them. It may be difficult at times for us to take a step back from our work and be better a life balance. But friend, from one overchiever to another, life balance requires self-discipline, as much discipline as it took for us to push through our work and since we are so good at discipline and holding ourselves accountable, we should also hold ourselves accountable to being our biggest cheerleaders and preventing burnouts.