Gather around children, today we’re going to talk about a little problem called “overachieving”. Yes, you, put down your April Grandmaster List revision number three, get off the stationary bike, stop doing your squats while trying to style your hair and practice your Spanish. This is for you— but not just you. It’s for you friends and family of type A’s too, who might, oopsy daisy, leave some crumbs on the counter (gasp) until AFTER you’ve actually sat down to eat your meal. Who forgot about the new “labelling system” for the spice jars, and well we all know how that’s going to result in the dissolution of the family in a skinny five minutes. Who….dun dun dun, left a wet towel on the bed (cue scary music and shake the camera for effect). And last but not least, friends who long to join the ranks of the highly driven, accomplished, gold star winning crowd, but fight a life long battle with “mediocre” performance or procrastination, even. THIS IS FOR YOU.
Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t like a beautiful stack of country fresh towels to feast their eyes on after a long day, with all the edges round and even and lined up just so? Or the dizzying high of ticking off an entire day timer page worth of to-do bullet points? I get you friends. I get you, and your poor peeps, and your blood pressure readings when something gets in the way of your workout rotation or your P.L.A.N. I am picking up what you are putting down, giving it a good dusting, and placing it in alphabetical order on the shelf.
What does it mean to be an “over” achiever? Is it GOOD, or BAD? Who makes up the rules? WTAF is too much achievement anyhow, in an age where folks are actually slapping down 85 grand USD to get help in the getting shit done department, to epically, jaw droppingly, achieve?
What is the baseline acceptable amount of getting ‘er done?
How proficient do we need to be at all of it?
And is it the path to bliss and holiness?
Well, guess what? Wish I could help but I am going to the beach so you’ll have to figure it out alone. I am totally over that shit.
I am not over it.
Or you. I am definitely not over you.
So what do I know about overachieving? After all, I know my kids names. I even know my dog’s name. I occasionally get 8 hours of sleep. I even have a friend or two.
Clearly I am not trying hard enough.
Well, psssst, let me let you in on a secret.
ONE TIME I BROUGHT STUDY NOTES TO AN ACTUAL MOVIE THEATER. Yep. I was in law school at the time. I invite you to take a moment to let this sink in; the depth of inner conflict that must have been going on for me, to find myself at the movies, the place of stories and laughter and escape, of M&M’s chased by salty, butter dripping kernels of puffy, happy corn washed down by watery fountain diet soda—where flawless faced celebs act out our problems ever so glamorously, without any of the soul sucking minutiae of daily life and then wrap them up nicely with a win, or a happily ever after, or at very least a SOUL MOVING revelation to add meaning to our pain. I wanted it bad. Bad enough to pay the price of admission, and yet it was utterly unacceptable to me to admit that I might not get something done for an entire 90 minutes. So instead of blissing out, I blissed a little, and then read a few lines, then sunk back into the story, then read a few lines. What a win! Wooh! Atta overcome tomfoolery. Sneak up on it with a handful of study notes during break time. Let’s just call this step one of how to turn bitter and hateful and burned out in one easy step (I may have take my inner child to a late show later I’m feeling so sad for her right now).
Yep, I did it. And other overachieving stuff too. But eventually I asked myself, is this normal? The answer was no. And I stand here before you today (like, metaphorically, because I’m writing this while doing squats and vacuuming) to spread the word, because if I can spare one other person a senseless tragedy like movie ruin, if I can save one little lamb, well, redemption folks. Sweet, butter soaked redemption.
Here’s the salty skinny:
We are born.
We cruise along for a few years hearing the message, at least generally, from The World, that we are important. We deserve basic happiness, health, someone to give a shit. And then we turn, like eleven, and well, the good old World, takes it back. Nah. JK! That “your needs are important” thing was JUST A LOAN!!! And welcome to The World of the Adult, IT WAS A LOAN WITH INTEREST. I mean Sicilian all-in-the-family we got you but also we’re gonna smash your fingers kinda interest.
The World says, “I owe therefore I am. I am therefore I owe.” I call this the MODEL OF DEBT.
You’ll recognize this model at play in the following fun Q & A:
What are you going to do with your life?
How are you going to make money?
What is your plan?
Suddenly, it’s scary. Suddenly it’s high stakes. And it’s on you, little you, to avoid living under a bridge, becoming a meth addict, or epically failing to win the Nobel Peace Prize, cure cancer, invent Apple, and run the best Iron Man in your age group with one arm tied behind your back while reciting the Quran.
And the same WORLD that’s giving you the sweat-spinning inquisition, one answer to get it right and no chance to even call a friend has been secretly coaching you to respond since you were old enough to, well be kicked out of the womb.
It says: Try and try again. Overcome. Shoot for the moon and crash in the stars. Rise above. Beat the odds. Never give up. Fight. Compete. Outsmart time. Outsmart money. Outsmart the game. Outsmart your pain. Be and feel glorious while you Flashdance yourself into your dream life like a maniac in your cut-up bronze shoulder revealing sweatshirt and look bloody fierce and sexy doing it. Die hard. Die trying.
IF THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY.
Well I have some news for the author of this gem.
I’ve broken your code, and what you are really saying is “If it doesn’t work, or hasn’t paid off it’s your fault and you had better kill yourself trying until it does, or you actually die”. That shit is toxic.
Please note. I am not dishing out the whole conspiratorial capitalism rant. I’m not blaming political or economical systems for indoctrinating us because our efforts serve the powers that be. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just breaking it down for you (can I get a beat?) so it ain’t so heavy, yo. Okay sorry for rapping. That was a genre violation. My bad.
Even our quest for peace is framed by overachieving. Have you practiced gratitude, drank your spirulina, eaten clean, calculated your macros, achieved mindfulness, had your me-time, self cared effectively, spent your wellness account thriftily and taken your yoga teacher training? How dirty are your chakras? Do they look like my carpets?
All of this “PRESSURE TO” adds up to more than just a survivalist fear-based agenda that propagates a work ethic and ingenuity under fire. It becomes something new – a sickening, heartbreaking quickening that looks like this.
I achieve therefore I am.
Which is short for I achieve therefore I am worthy.
Which is short for I achieve therefore I am worthy of love.
NOW is the time to take out your emergency tissues folks, because guess what?
For all of that shit you never got done, and you ain’t never gonna get done?
I forgive you.
For all of those times you measured yourself in blood sweat and tears?
I forgive you.
For all of that shit you got done, that just made more shit, and didn’t get you off the hook or win the Hunger Games?
I forgive you.
For all those you didn’t measure up to and who didn’t measure up to you?
I forgive you.
YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE. Before you break out of the birth canal. Before you lift a finger. Before you try, or get too scared to try, or can’t stop trying. And after that. Unchangeably so.
YOU ARE WORTHY OF GIVING AND RECEIVING LOVE.
So, if you are wired like me? Well take your hyper-vigilance and hand it over to your WORTHY self. S/he knows what to do with it. She won’t use it as a movie spoiling weapon.
If you are using your achievement to outrun your pain, stuff your feelings or fill the void in your heart, well, see above.
Or call me.
That’ll be $85 grand USD, please. Feel free to tip.
— Love, Erin.
P.S. If you would like help lining up your achievement with your happy, contact me.
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