Being an Overachiever Almost Killed me

I’ve only had one panic attack in my life. This happened in college when I had hit a point where I didn’t have any time for myself. My downfall? – Being a YES person.

I wanted to share this story because I think that we all get lost in information overload. We put pressure on ourselves to be successful but success is measured differently from person to person.

I am through and through an overachiever I always have been and I always will be. I don’t mean this to sound like I am bragging, but I always expect to win. But my ability to handle many things at the same time brought me to the tipping point.

Being a Natural Overachiever

I didn’t even know how tired I was. To give you an idea of my reality, I was voted “most likely to sleep in class” my senior year. I’ve been called out, had things thrown at me to wake up and I have had teachers embarrass me in front of the whole class but I could not help it. I was SO TIRED. 

I don’t even remember ever doing homework. All the kids in my class were the same and we helped each other out on tests and homework. Those were my people… and they’re still my friends today. These are the kids that showed up to every school function, took all the honors and AP classes while doing at least one varsity sport. Then, on the weekends we would get trashed because we were so tired of living such an activity filled life.

The High from Overachievement

I somehow balanced being Cheerleading Captain, Concert Mistress in the Orchestra, ColorGuard Captain in the Marching Band, Treasurer of my class council, and an active member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society – All while graduating 28th in my class of about 700.

It made me feel good. I have to admit. I got a lot of positive attention, something I wasn’t getting at home as a middle child. This is how I became the person I am. I LOVED being a leader, getting accolades, and being recognized for my achievements. I worked hard to get them.

Saying YES one too many times

I will always say yes. This is one of my strengths, and can be my biggest weaknesses. I am overconfident that I can take on many responsibilities at the same time. I believed that I can achieve more than most people and I enjoy achievement.

The breaking point I mentioned earlier came at a time where I was putting pressure on myself to gain experience in college. It was my senior year and I felt that with my state college degree, I needed to impress hiring managers with my resume, so I said yes. I said yes to every opportunity that came my way. 

I said yes, when the marketing club president quit and recommended me for the job. I said yes when a department in the school needed an intern. I said yes to a part time free-lance marketing internship. I said yes to volunteering to read to preschool children.

But when all this piled up, I was looking at 52 hours a week minimum on school, plus all the other things I said yes to that semester.

I came home during my first week of balancing all these commitments and had my first and only panic attack walking up the stairs to my room. I felt out of control and tense. I didn’t know what to do – this was a new experience for me.  It was an experience that I NEVER wanted to happen again.

So I had to learn how to say no….

OK I admit, it didn’t kill me, but I have never been an anxious person. This was a feeling that my body didn’t know was possible and I caused it. I did it to myself because I was addicted to achievement. 

I have learned so much in the past 6 years, in terms of my self awareness. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to accomplish. The main idea here is that we are all human. I am human. I don’t need to have my hands on everything. My health is more important than anything and anyone.

What sucks is that I know many people can relate and that is not healthy human behavior. You have to work hard to be successful, but you don’t have to do it all to be successful.


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