Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG: Confessions of an Overachiever

 

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so you know what that means ... it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group meeting. IWSG was created by the awesome ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can find out the other members of the group here.

Okay, this will not come as a surprise to most people, but here it is: I am an overachiever.

That's right. I was the girl in school who felt bad about getting a 100 grade point average in a class instead of the usual 101. I remember being disappointed in my Advance Algebra/Trig class because I got a 108 on my exam instead of the possible 114 (14 extra credit points) because I couldn't find six of my previous tests for the additional extra credit. In my senior year of high school, I was not only in choir, guitar, rec soccer, indoor soccer, drama club, forensics club, Spanish Club, the Spanish National Honor Society, and the National Honor Society, but I also performed in seven theater productions. I never took a study hall the entire time I was in high school, so I always had seven classes every day. Even in college, I had a semester where I took 21 credit hours, which I wouldn't recommend because I finally just broke down.

By that point, I was a tad suicidal, clinically depressed, had social anxiety issues, was cutting myself sometimes to relieve the stress, had a tension headache for the seven or so years, and was basically a mess. I'd crashed and burned. 

Through medication for about a year and slowing down for a year and a half after college before I found a part-time job, which led to my recent full-time job, everything got much better and easier. I enjoy my work. I love writing and reading. I like that I'm able to make some money from what I love--even if it's a little bit here and there. I am happy.

But being an overachiever is hard to overcome. My mind races to do everything I can as if I'm being timed. Right now, I have enough story ideas for the next twenty years, and I'm already making to-do lists (in my head) for what I would like to write through 2017. I feel the rush to do everything now. Sometimes it's harder to be happy at what I accomplished because all I see is what more I should've done. This year I've managed to self-publish nine ebooks and two paperback books. I should be damn proud of that, and I am ... in a way, but I still have a hard time not wishing I could've done more.

I don't want to crash and burn again.

So I'm telling myself to slow down a bit. Not be so rigid in my timelines. To take a breath. If I need a few weeks of just reading or watching TV or playing some games on my Kindle Fire HD, then I should do that and not feel guilty about it. It's okay not to be online every day or respond to all emails quickly. It's okay. Really. And since it may take awhile to sink in, then if you see me doing too much, just take me aside and tell me to stop and calm down. Sometimes we overachievers need help in getting the message. *smiles*

So what are your insecurities today?

37 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

Yikes! Slowing down world probably be a good idea for you, but I'm right there with you. I have a five year plan with the stories all mapped out. I can't help myself.

jaybird said...

Aw, Cherie I'm so sorry to hear about your struggles. Having that kind of personality has it's benefits for sure, but whoah those consequences of pushing yourself don't make up for them. I hope you can learn to take it easy, and not be quite so hard on yourself! xo

Tonja said...

You are not alone in the club.

I got some perspective when I had kids - I try to give myself the same advice I would give them. But I still play those same games with myself - timing myself when I do things, setting impossible goals, etc.

The good thing about writing for me is that it is a slow process. It has very gradually helped me be more patient with myself.

Laura Eno said...

I can so relate to this and it's scary. I crashed and burned after my third book in three months and ended up on medication - annoying for someone proud of picking themselves up by the bootstraps. :)

Thank you for sharing. Many writers have the depressed and anxiety emotions you describe but are afraid to admit it. We all need to reach out to one another.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Definitely don't want you to crash and burn! There's plenty of time to get everything done. Don't rush. I tend to have the same drive to want to accomplish everything now. Taking a step back and relaxing helps me to keep a level head. If you ever need anyone to talk to ever about anything, you know I'm here for you. :)

stu said...

I know I've had similar things, trying to persuade myself to slow down a little and enjoy life, rather than doing the frantic overachieving thing. Like you, it took burning up to learn that one.

Patricia Lynne said...

=( I know how you feel about not being happy at what you've accomplished because of what you want to get done. Sometimes my head spins with all the stuff I have planned and I need to stop myself and relax. I like to tell myself the world won't end if I slow down.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! I thought I had that overacheiver bug bad . . .and I did take a 20 credit quarter in college and it happened to be the same quarter I had arm surgery and had to type one handed for all my papers . . .and then the next quarter I burned out bad even with an easier course load.

You have done amazing things this last year! I am always impressed when I read your blog, your books, your plans . . .you amaze me and inspire me!
You've accomplished so much!!!

I have ideas for books for about five years, and at least three years of plans too . . .but my family reminds me to take breaks. I'm thankful for them.

So, here's me, a bloggy buddy from miles away saying, you can take a break. It's ok. Give yourself some freetime. Read. Watch TV. Hang out. Take a walk/bike ride/your preferred activity break. Give yourself a big hug, eat chocolate, take a moment to just enjoy.

Smiles and Big Virtual Hugs!

Georgina Morales said...

Cherie, you did an amazing job this year and I'm sure next year will be the same. Just think that enjoying what you do is a big part of being good at it. If you start to overwork yourself, not only you will crash and burn but your books will suffer too. I hope you keep winning the everyday battle against that part of you. We are here to help, if you need us. =)

Happy holidays!

M.J. Fifield said...

If I ever received a 108 on a math test, I'd promptly be accused of cheating.

And yes, it's most definitely okay to slow down and not be so timeline oriented.

I don't know if you follow tennis at all, but a lot of experts feel that the William sisters have had such longevity in the sport because they've had periods when they didn't focus solely on tennis.

Catherine Noble said...

I think you thoroughly deserve to take it easy a bit. If you feel anxious about taking a break from it all, just think of it as refilling the well. Sometimes it can dry up when you're working too hard. Best of luck to you and I hope you're getting all the support you need.

Samantha May said...

I'm glad you were able to take a step back and realize that you need to slow down. That's the hardest part. I, too, was quite the overachiever in high school. I struggled tremendously in my first year of college though and kind of shut down too, just in a different way. I nearly flunked out and lost all of my scholarships.

Luckily, I was able to step back and realize that I'm not superwoman. This semester has been ten times better just by making that realization. I'm on the right track now, but I had to learn the hard way.

Thanks for sharing your story!

J. A. Bennett said...

I have the problem of wanting to do everything now as well. But 9 books? Honey, you're amazing. Don't discount how far you've come. It will all get done, even if it doesn't happen right away. I admire you for doing what you have without crashing, I think as long as you keep that in mind, you'll be safe. best of luck to you!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, take a breath! (And feel free to share some of that over-achieving with me.) I think it's incredible how much you've written. I don't even have one idea right now.

Jenny S. Morris said...

It is hard not to do everything all the time. Or feel like we have to do it all to perfection. But it sounds like you have the right attitude. Slowing down and enjoying the fun stuff is important.

Candilynn Fite said...

Wow, Cherie! Your publishing accomplishments this year are amazing! But I agree. Slow down and breathe. It's okay to set big goals, but it's not okay to put too much pressure on yourself.

I deal with an overachieving daughter. She's a freshman this year, and involved in about as many clubs and sports as you were, not to mention the all AP classes. I try super hard to keep her in check. But I worry about her and the stress she puts herself through.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. (((((Hugs)))))

Gwen Gardner said...

Whoa, you DO need to slow down. I didn't realize you did so much this year. You're way ahead of me. I was never an over achiever at school. I was, uh, doing other stuff that I shouldn't have been doing. But at least you recognize that you need to give yourself a break every once in a while. Sounds like you're on the right track:)

Allison said...

It IS okay to take a break once in a while. It won't kill you, I promise :) Sometimes our brains really need that time to relax and reset.

Allison (Geek Banter)

noonebutabloghead said...

I didn't really follow all the technical jargon, but you sounded really impressive!

I was a little bit of a perfectionist at school myself, and went through a bit of a rough patch around the time of the exams.
I feel a bit embarassed about the fact I got more or less straight Bs, so I can sympathise with that trend towards perfectionism.

I'd like to actually meet one of my self-imposed deadlines once in a while, maybe you and I can meet somewhere in the middle!

Camille Picott said...

Cherie, I can totally sympathize. I, too, am an overachiever and had experienced many of things you listed. Just know you are not alone. I have to have constant chats with myself about my goals and timelines. On an intelluctual level, I do know the planet will not stop revolving if I don't achieve X,Y, and Z on my self-imposed timeline, but I am very familiar with the anxiety that comes to failing to meet those goals. Just keep reminding yourself that it will all be okay.

L.G.Smith said...

Wow, that's some serious overachieving. Burnout seems like your body's way of forcing you to stop. But that's not a roller coaster you'd want to be on for long. Definitely allow yourself some downtime so you don't end up running on fumes.

Mina Burrows said...

Wow. That's a lot. I think women are notorious for doing this.

I'm glad you're slowing down. I know when I slow down and focus on less, I'm happier.

Nancy Thompson said...

This is you slowing down? Man, you put me to shame! As someone who suffers from OCD, your symptoms sound awfully familiar. I'm glad you got it all under control. Still, you amaze me!

Jeff Hargett said...

uh, wow! I thought I was bad. Perhaps we should start a second support group? (was gonna put my usual LOL here, but it seem appropriate... too much truth to it maybe.) PLEASE don't burn out. Maybe you'd do better at pacing if you actually scheduled downtime in the very same way you schedule other things? Then when you do it, you can check it off the list just like anything else. Just a thought.

And yes, you should be proud of what you've accomplished.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Wow, that's an incredible story, I'm so sorry you had such a major slump. I'm lucky enough to be a person who lives in the moment - I stare at sunsets, I take pictures of rainbows, I look out of the window every time I cross the bridge to the next town to see the view I've seen thousands of times before... just taking time out like that makes me happy and slows my brain. I wonder if trying to do that would help you?

Elise Fallson said...

OMG, woman slow down *pours two shots of tequila*. I certainly don't want you to crash and burn ever again. But I do understand how you feel to a certain extent. I have bouts where I feel the pressure of getting so many things done yet they should have been finished yesterday. At times my anxiety has gotten so bad it was paralyzing and I couldn't get anything done. Getting out of bed and getting dressed was a miracle. So please, take a breather and try not to be so hard on yourself. You can and should be proud of all you have accomplished. Now, bottoms up. (;

Al Diaz said...

It's a good advice and I also keep repeating myself it's ok if I do something else.Not always listening, though. Take it easy and reward yourself for what you've done already instead of scowling yourself for what is still to be done. :)

Doreen McGettigan said...

Wow, you are too busy. I have a hard time with a book a year.
You should definitely slow down....

Doreen McGettigan said...

Wow, you are too busy. I have a hard time with a book a year.
You should definitely slow down....

Doreen McGettigan said...

Wow, you are too busy. I have a hard time with a book a year.
You should definitely slow down....

Doreen McGettigan said...

Wow, you are too busy. I have a hard time with a book a year.
You should definitely slow down....

dalesittonrogers said...

I know what you mean about over-load. I had some semesters in college that were pretty bad. I've heard one way to avoid stress is to take on less than we think we should. I'm still working on that.

I also identify with you concerning that feeling of doing everything NOW. I think that stems from my growing up in a family that puts things off & then does everything at once--in a hurry. And there's no letting up 'til it's done. Now that I know it doesn't have to be that way, I can try to get away from that pattern and the feeling that I have to work myself to death to please people.

L.G. Keltner said...

I was that same girl in high school, and I understand that you can push yourself to the breaking point, then feel bad when you can't do everything perfectly all at once. At least you've learned through those hard times that you need to slow down and not stress over everything.

Also, thanks for displaying my blogfest badge so prominently! You rock!

Heather H. said...

You self-published nine ebooks and two paperbacks in a single year?! Whoa! That is beyond impressive, and more than deserving of a break, despite what your inner overachiever might think. My need to achieve has never been this extreme, although I've definitely dealt with my own fair share of stress and panic attacks, so please find the time to just unwind. It will only help you achieve more in the long run!

Christine Rains said...

Yes, even you need to take a break now and then. Catch up on your reading. :) You've achieved so much. Even just this year! You amaze me with how much you do.

Empty Nest Insider said...

Since you are constantly coming up with so many ideas maybe you can delegate some of them. Santa has elves, and even Alex has helpers. Try to take a break, and hopefully you'll find a solution that works best for you. Julie

Shell Flower said...

Wow, you were a serious overachiever. Glad to hear you have learned to slow down. As my sister used to say about school, "don't be Anal, just B." LOL, but yeah, it's better to have some chill time and do just fine than to stress out for A's, or whatever. Easier said than done, but as long as you are aware of limitations, I'm sure things will not get to a breaking point again.