All overachievers have probably had this problem at some point

All overachievers have probably had this problem at some point

Does maintaining a standard of excellence take a toll?


Janice Rodrigues

Published: Fri 20 Apr 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 27 Apr 2018, 9:10 AM

When I was younger, I had a friend who seemed just about perfect. Anna (name changed) had stellar grades, was popular with both teachers and students, and took part - and routinely won - numerous competitions. Her elder brother was an overachiever as well and as time passed everyone, including Anna, took it for granted that she would excel in everything she tried. But pressure mounted, and Anna was suddenly more prone to stressing out or bursting into tears at the smallest of mistakes. What was average to most people suddenly felt like failure to her.
This 'overachiever complex' is not a new phenomenon. In 2014, high school student Quincy Bulin wrote about her own experience in HuffPost, describing the pressure to stay perfect. "What if I couldn't make things happen anymore?" she asked. "What if I stopped succeeding? Would people still hold the same opinion of me? What would that say about me as a person?" 
In the episode Under Pressure in popular sitcom Modern Family, fictional character Alex Dunphy has a meltdown because of the feeling of 'being overwhelmed, but also like you're not doing enough at the same time'. Sound familiar?
"Overachievers often hate or fear failure as they view it as a slight on themselves," says Adam Zargar, director of UAE Coaching, a personal, professional and child NLP life coaching service in the country. "They are future-focused and worrying about what the future holds and achieving everything that needs to be achieved in that time is a recipe for stress and anxiety."
Much of this pressure is external, aka, stemming from outside sources such as friends, family, peers, teachers, bosses or colleagues. Of course, these external factors put additional pressure on overachievers, causing them to work  harder or risk feeling like they're disappointing people around them. And biting off more than you can chew has consequences. 
"It can lead to them feeling stressed and exhausted," explains Adam. "Overachievers may tend not to sleep that much or have interrupted sleep as their brains are engaged and active. Working on everything - regardless of the value it adds - can cause resentment in the long run and eventual burnout."
However, it's not all doom and gloom. The solution does not lie in letting go of one's ambitions but simply prioritising - and learning to accept imperfections. 

If you have a love for food and social media, you probably know UAE-based food blogger Naomi D'Souza. Follow her on any platform and you'll find sugary sweet dessert pictures and charming puns. But what most people don't know about the blogger is that she spent last year working on her blog while getting her masters in science (in mechanical engineering) and working full time as a consultant with IBM. All this at the age of 23.
"I've always had that mindset to do things differently," explains Naomi, who recently turned 24. "It's how I've grown up. When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I started training in karate and I was used to the bruises and scrapes while fighting. While I was studying, I used to concentrate more on extracurricular activities. I was volleyball team captain and studied the keyboard."
As an all-rounded achiever, Naomi is no stranger to wearing many hats and that undoubtedly helped her during her hectic year juggling studies with a full-time job, a popular blog, social media and brand collaborations. Multitasking became a must. 
"After coming back from work, I would have to go for events," she explains. "And after that was done, I had to come back to edit my pictures and manage my website, which takes a lot more time than people think. My lunch break at work used to go in working on my thesis and I tried to meet my family or friends during food tastings so I could spend time with them too. It got quite insane. I used to barely sleep four to five hours a day."
Eventually, the routine took a toll on her health, causing her to develop several intolerances, including towards gluten and dairy. However, it did help her take a step back and re-evaluate what was really important - and eventually emerge stronger and better. "I've learnt that it's impossible to be on top of your game all the time. One month you will be on top, and the next, your health starts to deteriorate and you physically won't be able to do it."
As a food blogger, it stands to reason that Naomi also deals with increased external pressure of having to keep her followers updated (she has a following of 73.5k only on Instagram alone) - and, with food blogging being cutthroat in the region, it must be no mean feat to keep a legion of fans happy. How does she manage?
"I've learnt that you can't please anyone," says Naomi. "But you have to try to please a few. What I do is get feedback from people closest to me - my family. If they are happy, I'm happy. No fame or money in the world will be worth it if you don't have your loved ones by your side."
Today, Naomi confesses that she tries to switch off social media every two or three months for about a week. Her advice to other youngsters when it comes to finding success with minimum stress is to strive towards being better - but not towards being perfect. 
"I always tell people you don't get what you wish for but what you work for. You should always strive to be unique," she explains. "But I hate perfection. I've found that a lot of people relate to my Instagram feed because it is not perfect. If you show yourself to be perfect all the time, no one will relate to you. Because who in this world is perfect, really?" 
Founder and CEO of the Middle East's online car buying service,, Saygin Yalcin is not a fan of perfection either - and for good reason. "I think being perfect is the worst thing that an entrepreneur can do," he says during a brief phone conversation. "It takes an infinite amount of time to do anything perfect. It leads to overthinking and not doing. If an entrepreneur tried to make everything perfect, nothing will ever get done."
And Saygin's credentials are proof that he knows how to get things done. He may be in his early 30s, but he is widely hailed as one of the most successful Internet entrepreneurs in the Middle East. Apart from being the founder of, he is a partner at, which was acquired by Amazon for $650 million last year. And when he's not busy managing the e-commerce companies, he's managing his YouTube channel that has over 664k followers. So, how does this overachiever balance his different roles and responsibilities without burning out? 
"I used to get stressed out for the simplest things when I first started," says Saygin, who was in charge of a team of around 100 people when he was only 24. "I lost hair and weight. I stopped sleeping. These things happen. But over time, you notice that there are certain patterns and that you can't plan everything. Instead, you have to learn to react accordingly."
Reacting accordingly, in his case, meant putting together certain routines - and good teams - to help him maintain a high standard of performance without taking in too much stress. Today, he has business managers and personal managers. He handles big tasks by splitting them into smaller, actionable tasks that have to be maintained every day and so a schedule is created in such a way that every five minutes are accounted for. It all sounds rather daunting, but Saygin is used to the schedule. 
"Stress is just a situation you're in when you haven't planned things right," he explains. "But don't let it get to you. Work on the solution rather than the problem and the stress will disappear."

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