Overachievers; They are not what you think

Why do overachievers over achieve?

We all know those people that stress out when they are not at least 15 minutes early to where they are going, turn in assignments as early as possible, do everything to their highest potential, or won’t do it at all. We give them the common name of overachiever or try-hard. However, the term responsible is a bit more fitting. There are many aspects that separate overachievers and moderate workers. One that I have preached on was a failure. 

“It’s not rejection that distinguishes achievers from nonachievers—it’s the way they handle failure,” performance psychologist, John Eliot stated. 

This not only shows the difference between these two parties but reveals your true character as a person. This does not necessarily mean only overachievers can handle failure, but that those who don’t go past the minimum can’t handle rejection, as well as someone that has gone above and beyond and still gets rejected. 

Another key difference is pressure and how you handle it. Personally, I strive for pressure, that’s what gets my creative ideas flowing. My mother and former graphic design teacher are both exceptional examples of this as well. We are what we call “professional procrastinators” and usually wait as long as we can to do assignments, but that’s when we do our best work.

“You have to thrive under pressure—welcome pressure, enjoy it and make it work to your advantage,” Eliot states. Welcome pressure. If not welcomed, the pressure becomes stress, and stress can eat you alive. Making pressure work to your advantage is a great asset once acquired. The feeling is like a waterfall of relief because you have a game plan and know exactly what to do at each step, the only obstacle is usually time.

So the question remains: what drives overachievers? That question can have anywhere from a simple answer to a lot of baggage. For me, I would say my upbringing and family. I was raised on the saying, “If you’re on time, you’re late,” so if that does not give you a good idea, I was also expected to get straight A’s, keep a job, fulfill house chores, take care of a younger sister, and the list could go on. However, I look back now and do not mind the pressure and busyness. It made me who I am today and has won me great honors. 

Motivation is a more positive outlook of why an overachiever does what they do. Things such as family, friends, or experiences are all examples of something that could have motivated the creation of an overachiever. Sometimes, a person looks up to someone close to them and that is who motivates them to be their best self. A motivator can also be the outcome of an event that has stuck with the individual. This is why I am an overachiever, I have plenty of motivation between my family and friends to keep me going.

Another is competition. This might be the most toxic trait of an overachiever. This one is why not all overachievers are made equal. Competition can be a mindless form of self-motivation or a strategy that drives people away from you. This trait has the potential to do more harm than good. It all depends on the person and what their drive is. This person usually makes everything a competition, which does not get out of hand unless it’s affecting your moral character and leaves your own head. This person is usually the type to take life too seriously instead of being in the moment or catch your attention with comments of jealousy if you are “beating” them at the delusional competition that’s in their head. To counterclaim, being competitive is not always bad, but taking it too far can be frustrating to not only people around you but to yourself.

Overachievers tend to have this label of being arrogantly over the top. It’s like wanting to do your best isn’t accepted anymore. When in all actuality, overachievers can be the most dependent and reasonable people you meet. They just want the best for themselves. In hindsight, that sounds selfish, but we all need someone to look out for us and no one is better than ourselves. So, the next time you label someone with the word “overachiever” with a negative connotation, reevaluate what you deem to be an overachiever and see if you have what it takes.