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10 Feelings All Overachievers Understand

The overachievers out there know who they are. They’re the only ones who attempt the extra credit problems in a homework set, the ones who get a flood of emails from all of the clubs they are committed to, and the ones who somehow have managed to squeeze two part-time jobs into their already packed schedules. “I can’t” or “I’m too busy” are not phrases that they are familiar with and their veins run rampant with caffeine or simply an unnatural amount of energy.

For all those overachievers, we salute you. Here’s a list of things only you will understand–but read quickly, because we know you’ve got a meeting, a class, or a project to go work on soon!

1. The frustration of unattainable satisfaction

Overachievers often come with a heavy dose of perfectionism. Because they are used to working so hard, it tends to seem impossible to reach a point where the work is actually 100% complete. Satisfaction in an overachiever’s work seems like settling, and settling seems like a dead-end on the road to improvement.

2. Feeling like a jack of all trades, but a master of none

Being an overachiever means that you’re constantly taking on new challenges and tasks. In your lifetime, you’ve probably signed up for every class, club, or sport that has been offered to you. But sometimes being so involved makes you doubt your own ability. You do so many things, but how thin are you spreading yourself? Can you really be that good at that many things?       

3. The horror of the never-ending to-do list

Your whole life revolves around a to-do list. Without a planner, a calendar, or some scrawled list on a spare scrap of paper, your life would be a chaotic scramble. But it seems like the moment you cross one thing off your list, two more items need to be added. It never ends.

4. Sacrificing your social life

Your packed schedule offers so few holes that it’s nearly impossible to make room in a single day of your life for anyone. If you want to meet for lunch, you have maybe a 15-minute window between class and the start of your work shift. Dinner? It will have to be late since you have band rehearsal, but not too late because you have to meet your study group tonight. And weekends are no better because they’re just as full as you try to catch up on all of the work you didn’t have time to finish during the week.

5. The salvation of caffeine

There is a distinct correlation between how much work you have in a given day and how much coffee you prepare in the morning. You could plot an exponential function between cups of coffee and how much sleep you know you will lose to finish all of the stuff you have to get done. At a certain point, it becomes a habit. If you don’t get your caffeine fix in the morning, even if you’ve gotten a rarely attained full night’s rest, your whole day feels off.

6. Wondering if/when your hard work will ever pay off

            The biggest question on every overachiever’s mind is: is it all worth it? When will all of this hard work turn into something valuable? Nothing feels worse than feeling like no matter how hard you work, you may not get what you want.

7. You don’t really know what you’re going to do with your life

It seems like a ridiculous thing to complain about, but because you’re so involved and you have so many interests, your road map to the future has about a million different possible routes to take. Personality tests do little for you because often, your result is that you could do anything, go anywhere, and be anything. But the sense of having no distinct direction is often much more stressful than it is comforting. You’re working so hard, so shouldn’t you have a good idea of what your future will look like?

8. Your only real moments of free time are really moments of procrastination

Almost all of your so-called “free time” is riddled with guilt because it seems like there is always something you could be doing. During the time you spend doing things you enjoy, there’s that nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that you should get back to work. Everyone needs a break sometimes and oftentimes you need that procrastination, but you never feel completely comfortable with it.

9. Not knowing your own limits

One of the biggest downfalls of the overachiever is the inability to define their own limits. Asking for help or quitting when things get too hard seem like the only truly impossible tasks for overachievers. Everyone has a breaking point, but for those who believe that they can take on anything anytime, it’s much harder to admit to it, and nearly impossible to back down and give into that point.

10. The rare, but wonderful moment of euphoria when everything comes together

            It often takes an overachiever aback when their hard work finally produces something tangible and, dare I say it, flawless (or at the very least, acceptable). Due to the constant drive towards success, the moments of visible achievement, recognition, or payoff are moments to be savored and enjoyed. When someone appreciates your work or you get what you were working for, all of those sleepless nights, social life sacrifices, blood, and tears suddenly seem worth it. And in that brief moment, being an overachiever doesn’t seem quite so much like an insult, but rather something you could actually take pride (or even a bit of satisfaction) in.


Carly is currently a junior majoring in Technical Writing at Carnegie Mellon. She is a Midshipman in Naval ROTC, an athlete on the Track & Field team, and a Career Peer Mentor at the Career Center. In her seldom moments of down-time or frequent moments of procrastination, she can be found writing, daydreaming, watching Disney movies, or working out (or at least attempting to). She lives in Pittsburgh during the school year, but calls Maryland her home.
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