Are You a Toxic High-Achiever?

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Are You a Toxic High-Achiever?


If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you're a high achiever. High achievers constantly strive to do better, reach higher and achieve more. We want to be the best at what we do and often take on other people's expectations as our own because we don't know how to value ourselves for who we are instead of what we do. However, being high achieving is not sustainable if it's done for the wrong reasons. The need for approval is challenging to outgrow, but once you embrace your worth and value your time above all else (including pleasing others), you will only learn how much time has value.

The need for approval is difficult to outgrow.

The need for approval can be difficult to outgrow.

It's a learned behavior that starts early and manifests as underperforming at work or even in relationships with others later in life. When you're constantly seeking the approval of others, it's hard to be happy with yourself because there's always one more person on your list who hasn't approved of something about you. The problem with this is that it can lead to burnout—you're expending so much energy trying (and failing) to please people that there isn't much left over for anything else in your life - especially if those people are distant relatives living far away from where you live!

We are not taught how to value ourselves for who we are, as opposed to what we do.

We are not taught how to value ourselves for who we are, as opposed to what we do. Instead, we are taught that our worth is dependent on external factors: if you fail a test or get turned down for a promotion, it's your fault because you didn't try hard enough; if someone else succeeds, it's their privilege because they were born into a wealthy family or had the right connections.

Our culture teaches us that success is sometimes defined by material wealth and status symbols; if you don't have those things (or can't attain them), there must be something wrong with you. However, the need for approval is an acquired behavior that can be unlearned through introspection and self-awareness.

We don't know when enough is enough.

We don’t know when enough is enough.

We don’t know when to say no. We don’t learn how to value our time, health, or ourselves as much as we love being busy, making money, looking good, or feeling accomplished.

We set ourselves up for failure with perfectionism.

Perfectionism is not a healthy way to go through life. Perfectionists are often classified as having an “avoidance” coping style. An avoidance coping style means avoiding situations or tasks you feel like you might fail.

Perfectionism is also linked to self-esteem issues, anxiety, and depression. In addition, when we set ourselves up for failure by expecting things to be perfect all the time, it can stress us and our relationships with others.

High-achieving is not a sustainable lifestyle if you're doing it all for everyone else but you.

High-achieving is not a sustainable lifestyle if you're doing it all for everyone else but you. If you're sacrificing your health and happiness, or if your social life has become nonexistent because of the demands of your career, then something needs to change.

And honestly, it's okay to say no sometimes—even when people don't like hearing that answer. So what are some ways a high achiever knows when to say no? First, it's essential to be aware of your limits and boundaries. Some questions to ask yourself are: What are my goals right now? What is my life's purpose? If I accept this new responsibility or opportunity, will I set myself up for failure? If you're having trouble coming up with reasons, don't be afraid to examine your values, priorities, and time management skills.


Let's go back to the "high-achieving" concept and look into what it means. High-achieving is not inherently wrong, and I am not writing this piece to glorify low achieving or say that high achieving is terrible. High achieving is simply the idea that we are all working towards improving ourselves somehow, whether in school, work, or any other facet of our lives. I am here to illuminate the difference between enhancing for the right reasons and conforming for the wrong reasons. There are so many reasons people strive to be high achievers: because their parents push them to succeed; because they get money/opportunity when they do; because they feel like it's expected of them; because they crave external validation from others. There are many wrong reasons to strive so hard for self-improvement, but ultimately our identity will lack authenticity if we have driven ourselves towards greatness for the wrong reasons.