Sydney Gideon, LSW

It is not uncommon in today’s world to work extremely hard as still feel unhappy and unsatisfied. It has become the “norm” to work well over 40 hours a week, be consistently accessible via phone or email outside of work hours, and even put in time on the weekends. It’s vital to ask ourselves what is the motivation for working this hard and this much just to feel unfulfilled. In data previously collected by the Conference Board, only 43% of people reported feeling satisfied by their jobs. That leaves 57% of Americans unsatisfied. To make matters worse, according to the Harris Report on Happiness, 33% of Americans reported feeling happy.

Through research conducted by Keren Eldad, certified executive and personal coach, one main source of dissatisfaction was identified. “The constant pursuit of the illusory things we think we want produces strain to keep up, low self-worth and general unhappiness”. In other words, we are tirelessly working towards something we can’t identify while comparing ourselves to others and feeling inadequate. Unfortunately, the individuals that fall most heavily into this category are overachievers. Many have the mindset that success is defined by money and status instead of aspects of one’s personal life. In order to achieve this definition of success, people work incredibly hard often times sacrificing aspects of the personal life to do so. “Aiming for achievements instead of a deeper understanding of yourself and what you want can cause you to miss the mark completely and feel utterly defeated in the end”. Discussed below are four ways being an overachiever can hinder your performance at work and ways to shift your mindset.

The first step to being happy is shifting the definition of success. Instead of success coming from money and power, being happy and living a fulfilling life is a more adequate definition of what success truly feels like. In addition, it’s important to realize money does not equal happiness, and power does not allow you to live a life true to yourself. To shift your mindset, begin thinking about each aspect of your life and what it would look like if you were truly happy. By doing so, it will become clear that living a fulfilling life encompasses much more than strictly your career.

Overachievers are typically perfectionists. With these titles comes a fear of making mistakes or failing at something. These fears can become crippling and cause you to go over the same task many times to ensure there are no errors. At some point, whatever you’re working on doesn’t become better, just different and potentially worse. From this mindset, the simplest tasks become stressful. To combat this mindset it’s important to acknowledge no one ever is, has been, or will be perfect including you. Therefore, what you’re working towards is unattainable. However, by reflecting on your strengths and attitude towards work and other aspects of your life, it will allow you to see yourself as a work in progress. This mindset lets you focus on the improvements you’re making rather than feeling not good enough.

With the mindset of perfectionism and overachieving comes the lack of ability to be vulnerable. Always putting on a happy face, never acknowledging struggles you may be having can be exhausting and have a negative impact on your mental health. “Invulnerability is a lack of empathy and an inability to tolerate mistakes, which are human”. Functioning this way can also induce a lack of trust between employees and their employer as people become afraid of their vulnerabilities. To combat this feeling, try owning your flaws. Everyone has insecurities and by owning them you take back your power over them. Acknowledging your flaws increases your self-awareness and humanizes you to the individuals around you. This creates a more productive home and work environment, as people feel more comfortable being themselves.

Shifting the focus from self-esteem to self-acceptance is the last important step. Self-esteem relies on the opinions of others whereas self-acceptance comes from within. Funcitoning through the lens of self-esteem requires your actions to please others, causing many to make decisions that lead to unhappiness. To combat this, it’s important to be kind and forgiving to yourself instead of being consistently critical. Shifting this mindset takes time, but by making choices based on your desires instead of other’s expectations, you’ll begin to lead a happier more fulfilling life.

If you feel you’re an overachiever and feel it’s negatively impacting your life or career, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!