The Unexpectedly High Costs of Being an Overachiever

When I was in 8th grade, I developed a stomach ulcer. Not exactly a normal thing for a kid, but my Honors Algebra class was stressing me out big time. I still remember sitting in class and watching the teacher write equations on the overhead projector and I felt like my brain had stopped working. I just couldn’t get it and I didn’t understand why. I was an A student... why couldn’t I understand algebra?

I felt so stupid, so embarrassed that I couldn’t grasp the “simple” concepts that all of my peers seemed to readily understand. I often quietly cried in class because I felt so frustrated.

Even though I knew I was smart, I never, ever felt good enough.

I’m not sure exactly when I started feeling the need to prove myself, but that kind of level of performance stress became my norm. If I got less than an A on a test, I practically had a nervous breakdown. I became the stereotypical student overachiever.  I was constantly trying to prove I was the best – or at least among the best – in order to bolster my low self-esteem, something I’ve only realized in hindsight.

I heaped mountains of pressure on myself. I was always striving, always trying to prove my worth through external validation. And yet no amount of achievement would snuff out that nagging feeling that I needed to do more and somehow be more. Can you relate?

The way overachievers unconsciously undermine themselves

One insidious way overachievers undermine themselves is through “compare and despair”. If we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others around us or the superstars in our field, we set ourselves up for feeling like we’re always falling short no matter what kind of herculean efforts we make. We even diminish our wins when they’re not as big as someone else’s.

I fell into that trap. After having kids and then launching my business, I continued to feed the low self-worth monster with a steady diet of mom guilt and entrepreneurial compare and despair. “So-and-so made a million bucks her first year in business, so why was I having such a hard time launching my business? Maybe I’m simply not working hard enough,” I’d think and I’d double down, working long nights and on the weekends, too… which then made me feel like a horrible mom so I’d overcompensate in that area. Up and down I’d go on an emotional roller-coaster as I repeated the vicious cycle.

The worst part, though, is what the “not enoughness” costs us. Unconsciously I found myself striving to be like the top experts out there, sacrificing my authenticity and diluting my message in the process. I constantly pushed myself to catch up to where I thought I should be as a mother and a Mama CEO, never letting up on the gas pedal.

Somewhere in the hurry to become a big success, I lost touch with a lot of the joy in my life and the reason I started my business in the first place: to help others by making my unique contribution to the world, be a positive role model for my children and have the freedom to do more of what matters most to me. Instead, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a steaming pot of burn-out, anger and resentment that I didn’t even realize I’d been stuffing down until it exploded in a volcano of molten crazy as I was making pancakes one Saturday morning not so long ago.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle.

How many amazing Mama CEO’s struggle with not feeling good enough as a mom and like they haven’t ever done enough in their businesses, even though it’s like they’re trying to juggle a hundred balls with only one hand? Based on recent conversations I’ve had, it seems like a lot of mompreneurs do, sadly.

It's time to call a cease-fire in the constant battle to do more, be more and achieve more.

I for one am tired of the constant pushing and beating myself up for not being a “better” mom or “more successful” business owner. I’m done with equating my value as a human being with how much I achieve. I refuse to play that game any longer... the costs are simply too high.

I’m planting my flag in the sand and declaring that I don’t have to be the perfect mom, be a top expert or have it all figured out to lead a life that matters… and neither do you.

So let me ask you…

What’s the message in your heart that you’ve been holding back from sharing because you’re afraid of what people will think? Share it now however you can.

Where do you feel like you’re sacrificing yourself too much? Make your dreams at least as important as the dreams of others.

What have you been afraid of doing because you might fail? Do that now. Imperfect action is better than inaction.

If you’ve been waiting for permission to accept all parts of you – the good, the bad and the ugly – and trust that you are enough right now exactly as you are to lead the kind of life you’ve dreamed about… this is it. I’m giving myself permission to let go of the mom guilt, to feel good about myself and to trust that I’m exactly where I need to be.

I invite you to do the same.  

I'd love to have you join the conversation and share your thoughts.

Have you pushed yourself to achieve more in your life and what has it cost you? Please comment below.

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Christine Parma

I help Mama CEO's ditch the overwhelm and mom guilt so they can have a successful business and feel like an amazing mom, too. Step by step I show them how to grow their businesses in a way that allows them to do more of what matters most to them and have a life filled with joy, freedom and meaning.