Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Hidden Trauma of Overachievement

 From Entrepreneur:

We are a society that values success above most, if not all, things. Success can be wonderful, when it comes from a place of authenticity, purpose, and alignment. However, success does not always equal happiness or fulfillment, especailly when we chase success blindly with no sense of purpose and we use that success as a measure of our own self-value and worth. 

Many of us subconsiously chase success out of unrelenting need to be perfect, to gain external validation that we never got in childhood, and to prove ourselves worthy of love. In her book How to Do the Work, Dr. Nicole LePera writes that the overachiever "Feels seen, heard, and valued through success and achievement. Uses external validation as a way to cope with low self-worth. Believes that the only way to recieve love is through achievement." 

As overachievers, we often use our careers as a way to distract ourselves from unhealed wounds and keep ourselves busy enough to avoid any real type of intimacy. This was true for me. I chased success in a corporate job for over 10 years, constantly ignoring my authentic self while chasing achievement for validation and using work as a way to ignore my past and my pain. It certainly worked in making me "successful" — I was making six figures as a manager in a global consulting firm by age 25. 

It was great, until I woke up one day and realized I was depressed, unfulfilled, and doing anything I could to avoid feeling this huge gap in my life. Constantly overworking myself and striving for perfection burnt me out. I didn’t want to stay in my job, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had no idea what made me happy, or what was fulfilling to me. The thought of being anything less than perfect and successful in a "good" job seemed like failure to me. Plus, the money I was making was a form of validation and protection. I didn't want to risk that. (Read more.)


1 comment:

julygirl said...

Having come from generations of overachievers and perfectionists on both my mother and father's side, I believe it a narrow definition to identify overachievers as people who feel undervalued. Some just happen to be born competent and smart. There is also what I identify as the Scarlett O'hara situation where one is thrown into a complex situation and feel obligated to handle it, and do it superbly.