My Addiction to Overachieving

Photo by Han Lahandoe on Unsplash

I have always been the queen of overachieving. I get a high from it. I chase that high. I’m addicted to it. And while I never liked failure much, I embraced it when we met. Why? Because failure offered me another opportunity to overachieve. To the outside observer, this philosophy has served me pretty well in life. I’m well educated, have a successful career, a beautiful family. Most would miss the havoc that my addiction has created in me. I certainly did. Until now that is.

The thing with my type of addiction is that it depletes your emotional reserves. Overachievers aren’t just laser focused on succeeding at things like school or work — where there are definable metrics and clear starting and stopping points to reign in the obsession. They are obsessed with overachieving at much more complex things, like emotional relationships. Herein lies the crux of the problem for me. My obsession for overachieving in emotional relationships means I can give and give and give to another person in hopes of getting back the high that I crave. The problem with giving so intensely to another person is that it never ends. They just keep taking until you are left emotionally bankrupt and emotionally stuck — no longer able to get high and with no idea how to function without it.

Twenty-years-ago a friend confessed she was concerned about the things I did for love. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. None of the unhealthy things I believed others did for love resonated with me at all. I had convinced myself that I didn’t need anything or anyone. I was fiercely independent. I knew that I wasn’t making decisions because I needed love … after all, I didn’t need love. Or anything for that matter. That thought process carried me through twenty plus years of my life. That’s how long, I lived in denial.

I now realize that the high I seek when I overachieve is reassurance that I’m a good person. That I am worthy of love. I need that reassurance more than I care to admit. And now that I’m out of denial, I need to figure out how to reassure myself of this in healthy ways — that do not require the cooperation of others. I need to do the work of healing me. So, I am telling myself that I am valuable. That I am worthy. That I am light. And hopefully at some point I will make myself believe that. I can’t do anything about the fact that I didn’t receive these affirmations growing up, or that I lived half my life trying to get these affirmations from others but I can gift them to myself now as an act of radical self-love.

I am a queer, woman of color, scholar-activist. writing about parenting, loving, forgiving and struggle

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