Bare toy sitting on top of fake gold medals

Community Psychiatry’s Leela Magavi, M.D. was featured in Lifehacker discussing what it means to be an overachiever and how it affects your mental health. 

How to Know if You’re an Overachiever

Elizabeth Yuko, June 26, 2020 | Lifehacker

Starting when we’re children in school, we’re often labeled based on how other people perceive our “achievement.” Some kids are dubbed “underachievers” if parents or educators don’t believe they’re “living up to their full potential” (whatever that means). On the flip side, others are deemed “overachievers,” if parents and educators think they “take on too much” and maybe overextending themselves, or are concerned about children putting too much pressure on themselves in order to accomplish what they think adults expect of them. We rarely hear about general “achievers,” or even know how, precisely, one’s achievement is measured (other than by grades in school). Yet these are concepts that can follow us the rest of our lives.

Once you achieve your goals, you make some more

Overachievers typically have multiple goals and projects going on at the same time—including ones that aren’t necessarily related. Maybe you want to get a tenure-track position, and learn to swim, and to work through a difficult childhood in therapy and run for your local city council. In these cases, Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, says that an overachiever remains committed to strive for excellence in each aspect of their life where they’ve set a goal.

You’re hard on yourself, but try to avoid the negative judgment of others

For many people, anxiety is a major component of their overachievement. This can manifest in different ways, Magavi explains. First of all, overachievers often blame themselves for failures and hold themselves to sometimes unrealistically high standards. “They are usually outcome-driven,” Magavi tells Lifehacker. “They may be perfectionists and rigid in thinking.” So, overachievers usually have high expectations for themselves (and sometimes others), and tend to be diligent and succeed under stress.

Then there’s the flip side of the coin: Overachievers may struggle with receiving constructive criticism, according to Magavi. Of course, there are few people out there who truly enjoy hearing about their flaws and ways they can improve, but overachievers take this one step further. In an attempt to preemptively avoid negative judgment from others, they may invest additional time and energy in countless tasks, some of which may be entirely unnecessary. The idea is that doing this extra work will provide some sort of cushion when it comes time for their work to be reviewed.

For instance, let’s say your boss asked you for a list of 20 organizations working in a particular space. You’re happy to accept the task, but immediately start questioning your methods and don’t want to disappoint anyone or make more work for them. So, “just to be safe,” you make a list of 50 organizations and include extra information that wasn’t part of the assignment to try to make sure that you not only complete the task, but go above and beyond, thereby avoiding criticism. Not surprisingly, Magavi says this could result in increased stress levels and anxiety—not to mention frequently working long hours and disregarding other important things, like their own health, wellness and relationships.

Click here to read the entire article on Lifehacker.

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