I’m not sure when it all started. From the time I can remember: I put my toys away neatly while other children played with reckless abandon. One day I grew up, lost the shyness, became a professional young woman and a chronic over-achiever.

I was extremely competitive (particularly with myself). I was compelled towards perfectionism. I thought all of these things were excellent character traits guaranteed to get me ahead in the world of business. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Being an over-achiever will hurt your career growth.

The Wake-Up Call

It was Performance Review time. As one of the leading project managers at my organization, I was responsible for a significant amount of revenue. I strove for excellence and set high standards for myself, including my team. I was never satisfied with the job I did and I was certifiably polite and professional at all times. I didn’t necessarily demonstrate how much I valued others because I was SO busy.

The result: I got a bad peer review.

The Pivot Point

Through the process of shock and disappointment into reflection: I realized that I had blinders on for most of my life. Being an over-achiever will hurt your career! I was fearful of failure and determined to be perfect. I expected that over-achievement (including long hours) would bring success and I was convinced that being strictly professional was what you were supposed to do!

In actuality, I made my life a lot harder and was denied the true success that comes with a balanced approach.

Downfalls of Over-Achievers

Expecting Too Much. Driving yourself and others to a (sometimes unreasonably) high standard not only makes you hard to deal with it guarantees that you will never be satisfied with anything you do. Perfectionism is not attainable. Those that want perfect outcomes are always destined for disappointment.

Being the Best. No one likes people who always have to be the best at everything, even if they are. Constantly being driven to out-perform others is a sign of weakness. You may as well hold a sign that says: “I’m afraid to fail!” Failure isn’t a bad thing although we are conditioned to think so. All true development comes from mistakes.

“Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success” – John Maxwell

Superhero Complex. You may logically admit that you cannot be everything to everyone. But, if you constantly put too much on your plate, over-book yourself and don’t ever ask for help: you have the Superhero Complex. In all likelihood, you are also seriously stressed out, overwhelmed and feel underappreciated.

The Firefighter. This often happens to the chronic over-achiever. Because I exhibited excellence in managing my projects and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, I eventually became the project ‘fixer’ when things went sour. At first, this constant firefighting seemed to equal success until I became burned out.

Curing Chronic Over-Achiever Syndrome

Finding a balance that will satisfy the over-achieving personality can be challenging. However, to ensure professional and personal success: it is critical to develop a broader perspective. Most over-achievers find it hard to connect with others. This often results in becoming a victim to office gossip, suffering from a lack of satisfaction in self and feeling more stressed than the average employee.

Understand your Strengths. No one is great at everything. Discovering your true strengths is critical to focused professional and personal development. The first step towards any career action plan is obtaining a solid understanding of who you are. Take one of the many personality or strength finder tests to understand your strength zones.

Prioritize Your Focus. Throw away the super-hero cape and take a deep breath of reality. It’s OK to not be able to do EVERYTHING well. Understanding your strengths is the first step. The next step is a gut-check. Scale back on your expectations and set priorities against your goals. Ask yourself: what will get me to my goal and what won’t?

“Being busy is not the same as being productive.” – Tim Ferriss

Embrace Failure. The road to success is paved with… you guessed it: failure. The two aren’t separable. The difference between those that are successful and those that aren’t is how they respond to failure. We are great at taking one mistake and turning into a lifelong personal brand. Accept the mistake, learn from it and move on.

Make Connections. You don’t have to chit-chat or gossip with coworkers, but you can be intentional about investing time in others to get to know them. Instead of emailing someone down the hall, go see them instead. Don’t work through lunch – go with a group or another person to lunch. Making connections with others is perhaps one of the most valuable traits we can acquire towards personal and professional fulfillment.

Learn When to Say No. Resist the urge to take on more. It doesn’t make you look good to others and it won’t help your stress level. Take a moment to reflect honestly and determine if the new addition to your List (1) aids you in the direction of your goal(s), (2) is feasible and (3) is in your strength zone. The person that constantly takes on more is typically also the person that gets ‘dumped on’ by others. Respectfully set boundaries and stick to them.

One Step at a Time Towards Fulfillment

It may be shocking to you to learn that being an over-achiever will hurt your career. In fact: a chronic over-achiever is also destined for chronic disappointment. I invite you to take a step back and consider a balanced perspective.

We have so much being thrown at us at all times. Our society is always ON thanks to mobile electronic devices, instant information, and constant communication. When you have a personality that is already ON to begin with: adding unnecessary stressors will only complicate the path to fulfillment. Allow yourself the space to be content and happy!

Originally published at besomebody.com


  • Erin Urban

    Career growth & leadership development coach, author and speaker focused on lifting others up into powerful positive transformations.

    Erin Urban, LSSBB, is a certified professional development coach, speaker, and author with a mission to inspire powerful positive transformations. With an extensive background in leading individual, cultural and organizational change initiatives: Erin is a certified leadership development coach, Forbes Contributor, and founder of UPPSolutions, LLC. For more information, visit uppsolutions.net and connect with Erin on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.