Forever an overachiever

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

The addiction of success.

In the midst of finals season, I always tend to be burnt out. But even though I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted, I find myself with an asinine zeal to overachieve. Among all of the hours spent in sweatpants and oversized t-shirts with my hair coconut-oiled and tossed into a ratty looking bun, I also have that self-inflicted need to produce award-winning essays, over-study for my exams, channel my inner Rory Gilmore and declare, “Who cares if I’m pretty if I fail my finals?” 

The pressure to excel is absolutely insane. 

This is a deep-rooted issue and I’m more than aware of that. Since grade school, I got report card comments like, “Saskia is such a pleasure to have in class!” and the aftermath of parent-teacher conferences were along the lines of “Saskia is very bright and mature for her age!” Because of this, I’ve naturally wanted to maintain that standard. 

Being an overachiever means being someone who performs beyond what is expected or to a really high level, and it often goes hand in hand with academic success. Overachievers are typically perfectionists, and tend to do impressive things at a high level. They typically engage in excessive self-criticism, and sometimes even berate themselves when they don’t live up to their own high expectations. 

University students are continuously under the pressure to push themselves beyond their limits, to aim for the best—in the midst of that, it is easy to begin measuring self-worth by academic success. Especially since so much depends on post-secondary education, anything deviating from getting nothing less than a degree with flying colours can be seen as failure. 

The pursuit of success along with the sheer volume of work leaves students feeling drained, and from this emerges the lovely cycle of self-sabotage. Even though you know that you’ve got three essays due in one week, with a final around the corner, you’ll put off your work because you’ll just “get it done later.” Not only is this self-sabotage (let’s face it, will you actually get it done later?) but also procrastination, which is a pretty big evil during finals season. 

As a self-proclaimed overachiever, I focus on the future and am motivated by fear: the fear of failure, regret, embarrassment and ultimately, disappointing others and not living up to potential. While I’m obviously happy about the accomplishments I achieve in school, such as a good mark on an exam or an essay, they aren’t things I dwell for too long on. In fact, even if the grade is good I still find a way to nitpick and think that if only I’d done this better or that better, I could have gotten a higher grade.   

While the overachiever in you might just feel inescapable, let this be a reminder to take breaks and give yourself time to remember that not everything you submit and not every test you take will be the best one you do! At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is okay to cut yourself some slack—it’s been a hectic semester.

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