Am I an Overachiever?
A significant part of my practice caters to adults and teens who suffer from anxiety and depression rooted in being an overachiever.
What is an Overachiever?
This can best be described as individuals who continue to strive to perform better and better, desiring perfection AT ALL TIMES. With these expectations there is no room for “perceived failure”. I say perceived because on the outside loved ones think they are doing great but internally the standard is often a rigid one that they must adhere to.
They expect perfection ALWAYS. The presumption is that the "overachiever" is achieving superior results through excessive effort and while that is often true, it can also be just perfection with little effort.
Internal Worlds of Anxiety and Depression in Overachievers
The internal results of the standards of overachievers leads to anxiety consisting of: negative self talk if perceived standards are not met, spending lots of time getting assignments or work “just right”, checking and rechecking, doing things “perfectly”, rigid adherence to their work habits, and often procrastination rooted in perfectionism. They often engage in procrastination due to their idea of perfectionism. These personal internal standards wreak havoc on an individual's sense of self and contributes to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Outside of the realm of overachievers, family members often think, just stop, (if only it were that easy). This type of person cannot stop, in fact, I would consider their behavior within the compulsive range based on the lack of understanding of how little control they have over their nearly impossible expectations and procrastination.
This results in the perfect storm of personality traits of being goal-driven, successful at achieving, along with the external feedback of achieving that keeps them in this loop. The danger here is that they are only free of anxiety if they hit the mark perfectly.
Otherwise they are not free to leave for the day, go to sleep, or know that what they did is enough. This loop can lead to avoiding school when assignments are due, not sleeping, or extreme depressive episodes.
Be Careful Not to Overlook Your High Achieving Family and Friends
Often these individuals are overlooked by family and friends because no one could imagine the suffering that accompanies such high achievers.
Their self esteem is often very low unless their expectations are met.
They feel that, "I am only good enough if I make an A, or complete work at exceptional standards."
The outside world thinks they are achieving and so they must be happy people. Just know that their happiness is contingent on success always and it isn't our version of success, it is their version.
There is a Way Through This
There is hope for these individuals, it is possible to change that inner critic that is running the overachiever's inner world. By change I mean managing urges in a healthier and more balanced way, finding other ways to build self esteem, and managing feelings and anxious thoughts of perceived failures.