When “Overachiever” Is an Oxymoron

For many of us, the concept of an “overachiever” makes no sense. How can you achieve too much? It’s not possible. There is so much to be achieved!

So, why does this strange word combination exist? If your unspoken answer is jealousy (the underachievers had to call the rest of us something derogatory), then you’re probably an overachiever.

Did you know there is an entire field that studies our weirdness called performance psychology? Their objective is to figure out what makes high performers (and achievement addicts) tick. Guess what they found?

Overachievers do not think rationally or sensibly. 

Maybe compared to the majority, but in our minds, our thought process is the only logical course. It’s only irrational when an underachiever sets unreasonable goals.

Overachievers thrive under pressure. 

Like smug diamonds. Of course, remove the pressure and we lose our purpose in life and start clinging to a diverse array of projects and causes, which is a bit of a downside.

Overachievers are irrationally confident. 

Again, it’s totally rational from our perspective. We can do anything (until we can’t, and then we become irrationally insecure while we try to outwit this undeserved weakness before anyone else discovers it).

Overachievers have a singular focus.

Except for the glaring fact that many of us get lost in a sea of disparate goals every few years. Perhaps we could call these periods of research for our next singular purpose.

Overachievers suffer from chronic urgency. 

Sounds like a medical problem. The result is anxiety when we don’t get immediate traction, which can translate into the aforementioned irrational insecurity, which is quickly harnessed and manifests the next wave of achievement.

Overachievers’ driving force is the fear of failure. 

Who isn’t terrified of failure? A quick google search produces the synonyms fiasco, breakdown, and bankruptcy! We just have the good sense to run!

Overachievers’ self-worth is contingent on competence. 

This is totally normal. Who in the world boosts their self-worth by being incompetent (which sounds suspiciously close to impotent)?

Feeling like you’re in a tiny box yet?

While all of us goal-driven, fear-fueled, high performers are driven to this lifestyle for different reasons and manifest a wide range of maladaptive behaviors in the process, the key apparently is to focus our perfectionism on one or two areas, rather than the whole she-bang.

This fits neatly with our need for one unrealistic focus at a time.

  1. Ha! I should add in that overachievers project their irrational expectations onto the world, expecting others to either rise to the occasion or get the heck out of the way, which is only reasonable.

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