Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Over-Achievers Anonymous

I want to foster meaningful relationships, practice my hobbies and develop new ones, weigh ten pounds less than whatever I weigh at any given moment, cook all locally organic food from scratch, read books that will teach me more about the world, and excel at my work. For some reason, I can’t quite pull that off. So, I end up feeling vaguely guilty when I am sitting on the couch eating canned soup for supper.

And it’s not just me – I’ve had this conversation with multiple friends recently – when I summed it up as I have at the beginning of this post, one of my girlfriends said “Get out of my head!” – that’s exactly the way she feels too. So here we are, a bunch of over-educated thirty-somethings paralyzed by the weight of the expectations we put on ourselves. And what we expect out of ourselves isn’t bad. It’s good to want to be creative and to want to care about our footprint on the earth and our physical health, so it’s hard to break out of the pattern.

On the other hand, though, we just can’t achieve everything that we want to. And while I don’t want to make it an excuse for spending every night of my life sitting on the couch eating canned soup, I’ve been trying to give myself grace for the times when I can’t achieve everything – maybe sometimes I need to give up the organic meal or adding another workout into my weekly schedule to spend time with friends, or get a bit of quilting done.

I also try to acknowledge the little steps that I have taken – I am not eating all local organic food cooked from scratch, but we’ve moved to eating about 90% local organic meat, and trying to make sure there are homemade soups and stews in the freezer at all times. It’s a good step. I am not learning any new hobbies, but I am finding a few that I like and trying to make time to keep them up.

Another way to get over the guilt associated with falling short of your over-achiever expectations is to honestly examine how much of those expectations really come from ego. Yes, it’s good to be fit and well-rounded and competent at work, but do I want these things so that people will look at me and see how good I am at keeping all the balls in the air? If I examine my motivations, and they aren’t as pure as they might seem on the surface, this also helps to let go.

I am a long way from being a recovered over-achiever (though going to law school was great for putting things in perspective . . . I’ve managed to find a profession where I am slightly less type-A than most of the other type-As, so I look positively slackerly at times . . .), but I am trying to keep a balance, and giving myself grace to accept that I am only one person with only so many hours in the day.


Anonymous said...

aw yes. I concur. and, this was just what i needed to read (except for the fact that I actually need to be studying for my chemistry final tomorrow, ...not reading blogs!!)

Simone said...

you are only one person with only so many hours in the day. be kind to yourself. I had the work girls over the other day. They were impressed with my sister the lawyer who also knows how to sew and make other neat things.
our goal this winter was that each of us would cook once a week from a recipe - anything else is bonus. the key is when you do cook make lots so you have lots of lunches!(I'm sure you know this) tinned soup other days (and you can always buy organic tinned soup if you really want to HAHA).

you've accomplished a lot. compare yourself to the TV watching masses and you'll feel better.

don't beat yourself up. I sometimes think I should have a cooler job and be making more of a difference. and then I think that maybe I'm better off just being happy and making the best of what I have, enjoying life and the people that I have around me.

There will always be someone who's done more than you... but lots who've done less. I think we are often too hard on ourselves.

just some unarticulate thoughts as usual ;-)

el Maggie said...

Thanks, ladies! Rah, I hope you kicked your chemistry exam's butt. Sim - no making your sister get teary at the office.

Simone said...


Dawson said...

Touche! I love this post and truly believe it to be true for my own self. It's funny though, it's a different kind of over-achiever than what the rest of the world expects. Though you think you are in the majority, my recent experience seems to indicate to me that you are in the minority, and doing a great job!
Thanks for the inspiration.