I grew up living as an overachiever. I worked toward perfection and greatness in EVERYTHING, constantly, never content with myself or what I did. There is a difference between being an overachiever and a hard worker. Hard work gives you satisfaction, but overachieving NEVER leaves you satisfied. Overachievers tend to experience more stress and anxiety than the average person. This is because we tend to not just have overly high expectations for ourselves, but also for everyone else.
First, let’s figure out if you are an overachiever? Here’s the big questions: Do you want to do everything? And not just DO everything but DO it better than anyone else? This goes for being a friend, leading a project at work, keeping and decorating your home, giving the best gifts at Christmas, providing the most Pinterest worthy cupcakes at your child’s school, etc… EVERYTHING. You’ve set a very high standard for yourself (and most of the time for others, too.) You want to excel at these things, not just succeed. But the truth is overachievement often kills true success.
If you are an overachiever failure is most likely your biggest fear. My propensity toward overachievement has lessened quite a bit the last several years as I continue to learn more about the true nature of Christ’s rest. Thus my fear of failure has proportionately lessened as well. There are times though that the tendency to be an overachiever has lingered, affecting both my emotional and spiritual health. I am learning that failure is not something to fear, but to learn from. It’s actually a good thing when Overachievers fail. It teaches us skills to keep our tendencies for “more” in check.
Failure teaches the overachiever it’s okay to say NO.
It’s difficult to say no to good things that you excel at or have found previous success in, but not all good things are necessarily for your good all the time. You may be a wonderful baker, but every time the school has a bake sale you do NOT have to participate with the most extravagant cupcakes. Sometimes it’s ok to buy the cupcakes at the grocery store, or not participate at all.
This is especially pertinent to times you are in a very busy season. It is ok to say NO. It is something that the overachiever needs to learn to say more often, but unfortunately doesn’t seem to learn until they experience failure because they didn’t say no to begin with.
Failure teaches the overachiever there is time to relax and take a break.
Overachievers tend to make their schedules insanely busy ALL the time. I wrote about the dangers of busyness here and the importance of escaping it for connection. For the overachiever it is even more important to take time away from any and all responsibilities.
The overachiever usually has a difficult time with stopping whatever it is they are working on and enjoying time away from it whether taking a vacation or a break to go do something fun with the family. Everyone needs to refresh and recharge. In fact, taking a vacation or a break from a project may do you better than working through and remaining busy.
Failure in being able to keep up with their insane work load often forces the overachiever to stop, take an extended break, relax, and reprioritize so they are more efficient and discerning in regard to busyness.
Failure teaches the overachiever the importance of prioritizing their life and roles.
When you try to do everything, you sometimes end up doing nothing well. It is
very difficult impossible to be perfect in all the different roles that we women fill. We can’t expect to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect worker, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, etc…
Each one of us has to take the time to prioritize the different roles in our lives to what is most important to us. We have to be flexible with the different seasons we will find ourselves in and how that will affect our role in that area.
There are just sometimes that I will NOT excel at being the best wife. There will be times that my career will have to take the back burner because my priority is my kids. Conversely there are times my kids may have to experience disappointment because a friend in need REALLY does need me more than they need to go to the movies in that moment.
Failing in each of these roles has taught me to prioritize my life so I am not completely stressed when I can’t measure up to the ideal I have created for myself.
True Success is discovered when we experience failure.
Failure has taught me the true marker of success is not always if you excel at something, but sometimes success is in the trying. Sometimes success is found in the letting go and giving up. Sometimes success is found in the asking for help or saying no to one thing in favor of another, instead of trying to do both. Sometimes success is in the waiting instead of trying to make something happen.
Ultimately success is found in the journey rather than the destination. As a recovering overachiever learning this has brought me much freedom. May you find freedom to enjoy your journey as well.
Questions to ask yourself:
So are (or were) you an overachiever?
How have you experienced failure?
How has that failure affected your journey?