A core aspect of my practice centers on supporting adults who grapple with anxiety and depression due to their relentless pursuit of perfection and overachieving.
What defines an Overachiever?
An Overachiever can be best described as an individual who constantly strives for continuous improvement and perfection in everything they do. I mean everything, including achieving success...what else would we want? And we do it with 100 percent certainty. We have an unwavering expectation of flawlessness, leaving no room for any perceived failure. Although our loved ones may see us as successful, internally we place immense pressure on ourselves to meet a rigid standard that we feel obligated to uphold.
Our pursuit of perfection is relentless, always aiming for superior results. While this often involves excessive effort, it can also be achieved effortlessly through our innate ability to maintain perfection.
The inner world of overachievers is fraught with anxiety and depression, stemming from our relentless pursuit of perfection. We subject ourselves to negative self-talk when our perceived standards are not met, constantly striving to get assignments and work "just right." We find ourselves caught in a cycle of checking, rechecking, and doing everything perfectly, rigidly adhering to our insane work habits. Procrastination can become a coping mechanism rooted in their unyielding pursuit of perfectionism. These internal standards take a toll on our sense of self, contributing 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 us in this loop. The danger here is that we are only free of anxiety if we hit the mark perfectly. That relief is short lived because it is followed by achieving the next goal.
Otherwise we are not free to leave for the day, go to sleep, or know that what we did is enough. This loop can lead to avoiding school when assignments are due, not sleeping, or extreme depressive episodes.
Take a Moment to Recognize the Hidden Struggles of Your Ambitious Loved Ones
Often, we go unnoticed by our family and friends, as the magnitude of the suffering that accompanies our high-achieving nature is unimaginable. Our sense of self-worth is often tied to meeting our own impossibly high standards. We believe that we are only worthy if we achieve top grades or complete our work with exceptional standards. While the outside world perceives us as successful and happy individuals, it is important to understand that our happiness is contingent upon constant success, and it is not the same version of success that others may have. This constant struggle takes a toll on our mental health, resulting in conditions such as Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Overachievers can find a way to break free from the cycle of anxiety and depression.
However, there is hope. Overcoming the inner critic that runs our world is possible. By learning healthier ways to manage our achieving urges, building self-esteem through other avenues, and navigating the anxious thoughts and feelings triggered by perceived failures and fear of future failures.
Moreover, it is crucial to acknowledge that developmental trauma plays a significant role in our mental well-being and is often the key factor in addressing and overcoming this pattern. Through my personal journey of healing, utilizing therapeutic techniques such as EMDR, ImTT, and DBR, I have witnessed a profound transformation in my nervous system, making it considerably easier to break free from this cycle. This means that if these methods can work for me, (who was a massive overachiever) they can work for anyone struggling with the debilitating pattern.
Let's not overlook the hidden struggles of overachievers.
Together, we can help create a supportive environment where we can thrive and find peace within ourselves not contingent on achieving.