I’m just as good as the last goal I achieved. I constantly need more goals to prove myself worthy. I need to do more in order feel better. I always feel I’m not good enough.
All of the above are symptoms of the overachiever syndrome. I know, because I’ve been suffering from it for a long time. It’s not the moment, nor the space to dig after the causes, after what generates this overachiever syndrome. It may come from various places and it can manifest at various ages, and it can be triggered by various stimuli. There is no single cause that you can pinpoint.
But its effects are always the same: constant fatigue, irritability, incapacity to function equally in a relationship (you’re either stepped on or you’re stepping upon your partner, unconsciously), the constant feeling that life is unfair, or a profound lack of empathy (because, of course, if you chose suffering, everybody must suffer, period).
The good news is that once you realize you’re a victim of this overachiever syndrome and you start the work to make it go (which is not that easy, you’ll see soon why), things will improve significantly. But the impact of it is so profound, that, even years after serious work on it, some of its effects will still linger around.
What follows is just a short account of some of these downsides.
Pain Is Your Friend
No, it really isn’t. I told myself this phrase so many times, during my trainings for my ultra-marathons (or during those ultra-marathons) that, in time, it became some sort of a personal mantra. Like, you know, the other bullshit: “no pain, no gain”. Of course you can have some gain, without dying of pain. Of course you can have a balanced activity, that, in time, will yield some benefits, without having to strive so hard that you will lose yourself (and many others, I dare say) in the process.
The overachiever syndrome will make you think that, if there isn’t some significant pain you’re experiencing to get something, that something is worthless. So, you have to choose goals that will generate pain, and, in the end, you’ll have to make friends with that pain, just to get there.
Of course pain doesn’t have to be your friend.
It doesn’t have to be your enemy either. Pain just is, and so is pleasure. They are just sensations, wrapped up in emotions. They come and go. No need to befriend neither pain, nor pleasure, for they are not here to stay, they’re part of the ebbs and flows of life, and it’s way better to let them be like that, than to grasp, attach, and cling onto them.
I Said I Understand, Don’t Lecture Me
Another standard overachiever syndrome response. Getting feedback, or engaging in fulfilling conversations – the type that eventually lead to something useful, no just empty chit-chat – all this is very difficult for an overachiever. Because that person went to hell and back, remember? He or she knows exactly how things works, so don’t even bother to tell your opinion, it’s pointless.
An overachiever is ready to go through hell again, rather than admit he’s wrong. For him or her, going through hell is a worthy goal, one that will reinforce the defining approach: always doing more, in order to feel more. So, in time, they start to suffer from an almost physical deafness: they simply don’t hear what you tell them, you have to repeat, or you have to yell, or you have to do something extraordinary to interrupt their flow of thoughts, just to make them understand what you’re saying.
Otherwise, if you try to have a normal conversation, you will always get – more or less passive-aggressively – the “I said I understand, I know what you mean”. It’s never “I heard what you mean”, it’s “I know already, I don’t even have to listen to you”.
My Biggest Goal Is To Cease Being An Overachiever
And I’m going to conquer any imaginable obstacle for that. See what’s happening here? The syndrome is so strong, that it’s disguising itself into its own destruction. The ultimate goal: I will strive so hard, in order not to strive so hard anymore. Hilarious, if it wouldn’t be excruciatingly sad.
The emptiness inside the overachiever is so pervasive, so painful, that the mere thought that he or she will have to just stop for a while, to just let things be, is unbearable. No. I won’t do that. If that’s the cause of my misery, this “overachiever syndrome”, I will start working on it immediately. I will make a plan. I will follow it and don’t tell me I didn’t understand, because I know already what I have to do and I’m, oh, so friend already with the pain that I have to endure. Because I have to endure some pain to get rid of this, right?
Well, no. You really don’t. You just have to stop for a while, understand that you never, ever made the world go round. You never, ever made the sun rise or the flowers grow. All this just happens. All this is just an ocean that we’re so lucky to understand we’re navigating for a certain amount of time. An ocean going up and down, with waves of pain and happiness where all we need is presence, and awareness.
That’s all there is to it.