Singing Bird Holistic Health Coaching

The Perils of Pleasing and Over Achieving

Photo by Jeana Marino

I can identify people pleasing fairly easily; it tends to leave certain telltale signs or symptoms in its wake.

I don’t want to rock the boat. I really didn’t want to say yes, but she would have been so disappointed. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I just want the people around me to be happy.

But people pleasing can also be a bit of a shape-shifter and there is one type that is so sneaky and insidious that it often goes unnoticed or unnamed for what it truly is:

OVER-ACHIEVING.

Achievement is a hallmark of our culture. It is heralded as strength, something to consistently strive for. We are given accolades for it. Its pervasiveness makes it a whole lot harder to see, and its uniform acceptance makes it a whole lot harder to unhook from than straight up pleasing. On the surface it seems like such a good thing. It is what strong, independent women do.

We achieve.

We are driven. Motivated. Capable. Consistently proving ourselves, time and time again.

But proving ourselves to whom? And at what cost?

Because over-achievement is so embedded into the voice of our masculine culture, at some point we internalize that voice as our own. The line between us, as unique individuals, and the culture of which we are a part becomes awfully blurry.

Driven to succeed. Type A. Over-achiever. We believe that is just who we are. It becomes a part of our identity. We think it is in our DNA, when in reality it is this way of being that we learn.

If you identify as an over-achiever, and you believe that’s just the way you were made, think back. Was ever a time when you weren’t so concerned with achieving or doing or proving, whether to yourself or someone else?

Was there a time, and you may have to go a long while back, when you were more curious than driven? When life wasn’t solely about having a goal to strive for, but was something that you lived and enjoyed? When your self-worth wasn’t determined by your accomplishments?

When did that desire to achieve begin to bully aside the joy of spontaneous living? And where did that new voice come from?

I was pretty much a straight A student for all of high school and college. I still think of those couple of B’s as smudges on an otherwise perfect academic record.

But before high school was another story. I didn’t care much about grades. In elementary school, I preferred to stay home with my mom, play outside, and watch cartoons. In middle school, I was frequently in trouble for talking or goofing off in class.

Suddenly that changed and I took on the role of “the achiever”. It was as if a new voice came in and overrode my own essential voice. This new voice was much more serious, critical, black and white. It knew that there was a certain way that things had to be done. Right or wrong, good or bad became very clearly delineated, and I wanted to be firmly on the side of right and good. This meant tucking pieces of myself away and not letting them see the light of day.

I was good at being the achiever and I was rewarded for it. I got those straight A’s. I was art student of the year. I got into the college of my choice. I got a scholarship. The funny thing is, I never thought of myself as an over-achiever because many of my friends and classmates did so much more than I did. And that’s the thing with achievement; there is always room for improvement. There will be someone who is doing more or better than you are that you compare yourself to. Constant striving is built into the equation. You are never enough.

For years I pleased the patriarchy by achieving and I was externally rewarded for it.

But in the process I lost myself. And even more detrimental to my soul, I took on that patriarchal voice as my own. I was believed I was achieving for me.

But I wasn’t.

It was simply yet another form of culturally sanctioned pleasing, but one that felt stronger somehow. This wasn’t the pleasing of my mother’s generation! It led me to believe I was thwarting the system when in reality I had become the system.

The voice of my inner achiever, who constantly pushed me to do more and be more, was the voice of the patriarchy.

Until we realize this as women, we continue to solely fight an enemy “out there”, not realizing that he took up residence in our very own psyche long ago.

The last several years of my life have been about me finding my own voice. Reclaiming my truth and my experience. Stripping away the thoughts and the beliefs and the fears that stand in the way of me knowing myself at the root level. Exploring what actually belongs to me, to my essence as a being, instead of the garments of the culture that I cloaked myself in to belong, to be liked, and to succeed.

It is a journey that is by no means done. I am still visiting the places where I gave my worth to someone else to hold and judge, and pulling that locus of validation back within myself. Reclaiming me for me.

It is not an easy three-step process, but it is so worth it. For those moments, even if they are fleeting, where I can say, “This is me, this is really me,” and find pleasure and joy in that. Meeting myself as if for the first time. Welcoming all parts of me back home.

I work with women who have been people pleasers and over-achievers for pretty much their entire lives. The women I have the honor of working with are extremely intelligent and empathic; they care deeply and have so much to offer the world. But they are tired. Bone tired. Their over-giving, over-doing, and lack of boundaries are catching up with them. They struggle with standing fully in their truth and offering their authentic voice to the world for fear that people will see them differently or not like them. They have boxed themselves in to a cage of their own creation.

If this is you, and deep within you know if you are a people pleaser or an over-achiever, there is another way of living and being in the world. A way that is more rooted and authentic. My passion is helping women to uncover what that means and feels like to them. Schedule your 30-minute Discovery Call today. Let’s chat and see if the Wise Woman Mentorship would be a good fit for you.