Confessions of an Overachiever


I’m not Martha Stewart.  I don’t remember to change the batteries in my smoke detectors before they start beeping at me.  I don’t grow my own vegetables ( even though I secretly want to.)  And I don’t make handmade birthday presents. But almost everyone I know would classify me as an overachiever.  I do what it takes and then I do a little bit more.  Whether it be on the job, at school, with my kids, in a relationship, my photography, you name it.  I want to be a cut above.  I’m driven.  But what am I driven by?  What motivates that drive in the first place?

The curious thing about me and maybe people like me is that I am far from confident.  Even though I succeed at most things I try.  Even though I get promotions, and have lots of things going for me, I have deep doubt about my looks, my abilities, and my overall worth.  I have a fear of failure.  I don’t want to fail.  Ever.  And here is the big kicker.  I always think I will.

So I end up doing everything I can possibly think of to make certain I’m not only still in the game, but also in the lead.  Not because I think I’m better than the next guy.  It’s because I think they’re better.

It’s not an inferiority complex because I never blame things on other people.  I’m extremely hard on myself though.

I see my own weaknesses, failings, and flaws so much easier than others. I’m always looking at other people’s strengths and measuring them against my own weaknesses.  ALWAYS.  It’s almost a disease.  Do I need help?  I’m sure I do.  Is it working for me?  Most of the time yes.  I am accomplished.

But where that attitude helps me in a competitive workplace –  it often taxes my relationships.

Yesterday I heard Harry tell me how great he thought I was and I sat on my bed with the phone to my ear, shaking my head wondering if he was delusional.  Wondering if like Martin he’d wake up out of this dream or spell or livvy-drug induced high and realize everything he liked about me he actually hates.

It’s always been my dream to be accepted for who I am.  But that has never been a reality for me.

With my ex I tested his love.  Many times I pushed him to see if he really meant what he said.  And that was clearly the wrong approach.  My ex probably did love me that much.  For other reasons, he strayed.  I think those reasons had much more to do with him than me.  Being me was just not what he wanted.  I wasn’t clean enough, or quiet enough.

With Martin I accepted so much madness because I thought I had found someone who truly liked all my sides.  I fed off his confidence.  He believed he, we or I could do anything.  To coin his phrase, “I was great.”  No one had ever told me that before.  He said it all the time.  I wanted to be around someone who thought I was great.  I thought it meant he saw my flaws and despite them still really thought I was great..  If that was true, I thought I’d found something in another person that you need to have a successful relationship.  Acceptance.  But I was wrong.  Very wrong. Because in the end he used every flaw, vulnerability, and mistake I ever made against me to make me feel worthless.

And now here is Harry.  He does not have time to see me but does anyway.  He showers me with sweet, loving remarks all the time.  Like yesterday…but he also just talks sometimes and says things either about me or himself or other people he knows that leaves me feeling arrested with doubt.  He says these things off the cuff without much thought and then moves on.  Sometimes they sound like criticisms.  Of course, I take it to heart, because I’m so hard on myself.  My brain gets stuck because it’s something I need to fix, or change, or erase, because if I don’t then maybe he will leave me just like everyone else.

Isn’t that crazy?  I know he is solid in his thoughts toward me.  I know he’s not fickle when it comes to friendship or love.  It’s nuts.

I’m owning it all the same because I know this about myself.  So I went out to buy new clothes yesterday thinking I would impress him more if  I figured out how to dress nicer.  I picked up my house and told him so, hoping he wouldn’t think I’m an inept housekeeper.  I’m trying to find ways to get higher marks. What could I cook him this time that he really likes?  How can I make myself more or less available so I don’t seem needy or too independent?

My stupid, stupid brain.

I know that part of my problem is that I’m so emotionally connected to my past.  I still love my ex, I still love Martin.  I know neither will ever be a part of my life again.  But I’m connected to the joys and sorrows those relationships brought me.  So each day I have to consciously choose to live in THIS moment only.

I just have to keep telling myself to be myself.  To breathe easy knowing he fell in love with the authentic me and I don’t have to change to keep him.  And if I do, I don’t want him anyway.  I keep telling myself to relax and just enjoy being happy.

Martin used to tell me that everyone else is just as worried about being accepted as me and to go in with confidence and let all that is in me shine because I was a star.

Problem is the last words I heard from him in person before he ditched me practically at the altar to go back to his wife  that I didn’t even know he still had was “Just remember, You’re great.”

Ironic isn’t it?

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