Inside the Mind of an Overachiever
I’m not enough. I will never be enough.
But I want to be enough.
I want to be enough for that teacher who said that I am not going to get anywhere in life. I want to be enough for that girl I knew 4 years ago who told me that I sucked at everything I did. I want to be enough for my father who has always pushed me to be my best. I want to be enough for myself - the person who has never believed in me and puts me down in every passing moment.
If I achieve great things, they’ll all be satisfied right? If I get into that top University, then I will be enough for that teacher. If I get to be an ambassador for a fitness company, maybe I’ll be enough for that girl I knew 4 years ago. If I continue to get high rankings in every possible field, then I can be enough for my father. If I can achieve superhuman levels of productivity, and achievements equivalent to those of the 76 greatest people ever, combined - maybe I’ll be enough for myself. But the truth is that even if I did all that, I wouldn’t be enough.
From an early age, my mind has been conditioned to always seek the best. Paradoxically, it has not been the best for my mind, because it was seeking the best ranking in my ability in anything and everything. This meant striving for the best grades, it was either all A’s or nothing. This meant being the best at sports, music, dance, art, debate, writing, and a list of 46 other extra-curriculars. This meant taking up every single opportunity that I saw around me, even if I was absolutely uninterested in it, or didn’t have the bandwidth to do it because of everything else already filling up my plate. This meant having an inability to say “no” if anyone ever asked me to do anything- whether it was a teacher, a friend, a relative, or even someone who I wasn’t on good terms with. This meant beating up myself if I wasn’t ever the best, telling myself to make up for it by working twice or thrice as hard. This meant putting myself in a position where I constantly overexerted myself, facing burnouts far too frequently. This meant telling myself that I’m not enough.
It is an endless, vicious cycle- I felt I wasn’t enough, so I worked even harder. No matter what I achieved, it still was not enough and I could have always done better or more. So I worked even harder. And again, it wasn’t enough. And it goes on, and on, and on.
When people initially started calling me an overachiever, I was over the moon. When I googled “overachiever” a few moments ago, I was presented with characteristics that made it seem as if it was the greatest thing in the world - gaining awards, achieving goals, and being efficient. I felt like people thought I was good at everything, and that my hard work was being recognised.
But slowly, the word started to feel like an insult, implying that I was a “try-hard”. Ironically, that led to me trying even harder. After years and years of this cycle of pushing myself further down this endless spiral, I now hate when people call me an overachiever. I often don’t know whether they mean it as a compliment or as an insult, but that is irrelevant to me. I hate it because being called an overachiever reminds me of the daily self-degradation, burnouts, dissatisfaction with myself and my life, and my state of constant unhappiness.
This got even worse after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Because we are at home, we have a whole lot of extra time- so my mind automatically shifted towards the urge to be more productive. It has reinforced the hustle culture mindset that I’ve had all my life, and I know that I am not alone here. We are expected to constantly check our emails, finish our assignments, attend every meeting, while still using the “extra time” for projects, initiatives and other work. I can’t remember a single week over the past 15 months where I haven’t felt stressed. We all know that stress isn’t good for us, but stress also drives us towards even more overworking tendencies. Overworking can not only have a physical impact on your body, but can have long-term psychological impacts on your mind. I hate the work that I previously used to love. I feel like I’m missing a part of me because I no longer have the time to do things that make me happy. I constantly live in my work-world, and can’t let go to enjoy something else. I also constantly live in the future, unable to enjoy my present and cherish all the good that exists here and now.
I used to have a direct correlation in my mind, that the more I do and the better at it I am, the closer I come to being enough. But this was flawed. I never considered that the three variables were never actually interlinked. People say that overachieving tendencies are linked with emotionally or psychologically troubled pasts, with the mindset that these problems can be solved by extreme efforts - even in areas with no relation to the past incidents themselves. My self worth is not determined by my productivity or achievements. Everything I strain myself with is not going to fix the underlying, deep-rooted problems- it is just a means to distract me from it, and hurt myself more in the process. Trying to be the best at everything and doing much more than I can handle is not going to make me enough.
Because I am already enough. I always have been and always will be.
And I promise to myself, for nobody but myself, that I will start to treat myself in this manner.