Being Exceptional is Overrated
This is a public service announcement. I officially give up on trying to be exceptional in my career and everything I do. That kind of self-inflicted pressure got me to where I am, but it won’t get me to where I want to go next. So I hereby say good-bye to my unrelenting standards for excellence.
This is a blog post for insecure overachievers. You know who you are. If you don’t, how many times do you say “yes” to the below?
- You have reached burn-out at work and/or are frequently approaching burn-out at work
- You are a very high-performer who has frequently been told that you will run the company some day but you don’t really feel fulfilled in your day-to-day
- You get plenty of positive feedback but aren’t satisfied with it
- You push yourself to go above and beyond what’s expected of you all the time
- You haven’t taken a single sick day or paid time off leave in a year and you’re proud about it
- You have a dysfunctional relationship with work that often feels one-sided
- Your sense of self-worth is tied to your usefulness. The more people who need you the better you feel
- You think about work non-stop and have trouble unplugging to sleep or rest on vacation
- You over-identify with your title and don’t have other commitments or hobbies outside of work
- You are obsessed with getting promoted and a raise every two years
Insecure over-achievers are a gold mine for companies. They are super smart, hard-working people who have low self-esteem. They give their power to corporations and bosses to dictate what they are worth. This leads to 70 hour work weeks becoming normalized and acceptable for employees. These insecure over-achievers trade their personal health and sleep for a pat on the back and a big bonus. By the time we understand that the trade is rigged, we are dealing with chronic diseases that are a result of stress, anxiety, and insane work habits.
It takes us a while to catch on because we get hit with the full effects of our stress through a delayed feedback loop. In the last 5 years, I have been dealing with major sleep issues that took me down a medical path. As I’ve been learning more about the science of sleep, what I’ve found is that my sleep problems today may be compounded symptoms from my lifestyle in the last 10 years. A decade-long feedback loop is pretty crazy, but I’m finding that that’s how it works with our bodies and mental health. And now, to course-correct, I need to start creating healthy habits for the next decade! It’s mind-blowing, honestly.
So, let’s stop letting a corporation or manager to tell us we are exceptional. Exceptional inherently implies someone else is not as good as you. Let’s start believing in our self-worth regardless of a performance review. Let’s stop letting others decide what success looks like for us. Let’s start to define what success looks like ourselves.
Level 1 – Addressing the “insecure” part of Insecure Over-Achievers. True self-confidence comes from knowing our inherent worth regardless of what gets mirrored back to us. Some people need to hit a ceiling in their career progression to get to this, but this insight is available to us at all times. Doing the deeper inner work of foundational self-confidence is key to breaking the toxic patterns of ambition.
Level 2 – Addressing the “over-achiever” part. Let’s get better at understanding our core needs and how we can meet those in more ways than one. Prioritizing self-care through habit formation and habit tracking can massively help with the behavioral shift of putting oneself first more.
Level 3 – With those things in place, this next level is about self-actualization and the deeper understanding of one’s purpose. Impact can come in many shapes and forms, but it first requires clarity on how you ultimately want to make the world a better place. This is a lot more fun, joyful and fulfilling than it may sound. And this is the part where working with a coach pays dividends for long-term success and well-being.
Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment below if this resonates with you.