What do you have to do today?
Does your stomach twist into knots in response to this question? Are you feeling overwhelmed by a long list of claims on your time? Do you ever feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin, even though you’re a willing participant in everything that’s eating up your time? If the answer is yes to any of these, it sounds like you could be struggling with the so-called “overachiever complex” afflicting collegiettes nationwide.
Why Do We Need to Do It All?
It’s amazing how many collegiettes today freely admit to being overachievers. As University of Michigan senior Erica Avesian asserts, “I would definitely describe myself as an overachiever. I'm always on the go and I put 110% effort into every single thing I do. Joining one club is not good enough for me; I have to join 4 or 5 clubs and take on a leadership role in each one. I strive for perfection and don't quit until I've done something just right. During the school year, I have classes, extracurriculars, internships, a part-time job, etc. I do it all and then some.”
Young women today are faced with an unprecedented amount of stress, due to the fact that we’re conditioned to try to “have it all”—the enviable job, the perfect body, the dream house, and someday a beautiful family of our own. These overwhelming expectations trickle down into our everyday college lives. Our youth and sense of invincibility give us an added boost of confidence as we chase after every opportunity. While it’s fantastic that the current generation of collegiettes believes we can do anything, over-ambitious individuals can easily fall into the habit of piling on more and more commitments at the expense of our health and well-being.
Why do we do it? Sometimes it’s an issue of pride—we simply can’t bring ourselves to say no. As Saint Louis University senior Jen Long explains, “I constantly have to tell myself, ‘Don't be a hero.’ I want to cover everything that I can by myself, because my personality is to give 500% on whatever I'm doing . . . It's really hard to say no to a project, or to an extra shift at work when someone is sick, and I feel almost guilty.”
Another factor is the fear of missed chances. “I like to think of myself as an opportunity capitalist in the sense that I never turn down an opportunity to progress my burgeoning career, but admittedly, the volume of commitments I take on is often overwhelming,” says Kristen Pye, a junior at McGill University. College campuses tend to create environments that encourage competition and often feed the overachiever complex. Dr. James Reinhard, Associate Director for Psychiatry at Virginia Tech’s Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center, says, “You’re around a bunch of overachievers all in one spot, and it’s hard to go backwards once you’ve had the taste of success. You can’t let yourself or anybody else down.” This peer pressure is only heightened by today’s social media, where the achievements of others are constantly being posted online—tweets about impressive internships, Facebook photos from a friend’s service trip abroad, and more.