Often great strength comes from hiding great weakness.
It’s easy to look at an over achiever and see their frantic worry and need for order and feel sorry for them but I think that urge actually comes from envy. I think everyone wishes they could be more worried than lazy and get things done instead of put them off.
Under achievers present themselves as happy and play toward the idea of the laid back care free persona but in my experience most under achievers are exactly as unhappy as they think over achievers are. Just with nothing to show for it.
I envy over achievers. Normal people “I’ll do it in the morning.” Because they’re tired. Meanwhile the over achiever knows they can’t sleep until it gets done so they do it. Normals lie in bed a few extra hours wishing they’d done something and O.As stay up a few hours getting it done. Both are just as tired in the morning.
As I’ve said I put myself fully in the under achiever territory. I don’t see myself having any good habits, any discipline, any foresight other than pessimism. And I’m miserable most of the time, I can barely distract myself hard enough from what a loser I feel I am. So why not bite the bullet and try being an achiever? Just act like it, just do what I think an achiever would do?
Because then the pressure starts. Like putting rocks on an origami tower, it’s just a matter of when, not if, it crashes down and everything is worse than before.
And yet what I’ve found is usually the foundation I’ve built doesn’t collapse completely and most of the time when I feel like I’ve lost everything I can look back and see objectively that I have more this time than the last time I felt this way.
I guess the unanswerable question is what’s an ingrained personality trait? I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to the phrase “the depression isn’t you.” Meaning that you shouldn’t confuse the feelings that depression is putting in your brain with feelings that are authentically yours.
But then what is yours? What is you? If I learned to be an under achiever or I born depressed and anxious what’s the difference? What’s retraining yourself and what is lying to yourself? Every addiction specialist I’ve listened to says when you think you’re getting better is when you’re at risk most because the illusion of progress makes you think you’re in control.
I used to think everyone felt the same things I do but I’ve met a few over achievers who clearly don’t. We all have the same base but it’s like the evolution of lizards, some doubled down on venom and some on camouflage.
I always see a danger in hanging around my fellow U.As because we all find relief in letting each other off the hook the way we want to let ourselves off. We spend so much time telling each how we shouldn’t go drinking, should work harder, should look for a better place, should or shouldn’t everything and then we talk each other into because we want to be talked into it.
And the danger of trying to be an achiever by holding yourself and other to constant impossible standards. Burning yourself out and driving everyone nuts. Brad Taylor liked to say it’s better to get something done in one easy hour tomorrow morning than three painful hours tonight.
And really over achievers drive us all nuts. They so badly need to come ahead on everything that if you tell them they need to come out ahead on everything they say they don’t, and if you say you knew they’d say that they’ll say no you didn’t.