Are you a high achiever on the brink of collapse?
In my field of work as a counsellor and personal trainer, I am fascinated by high achievers, by A types, the seemingly successful, driven and ambitious men and women. I speak with them on a professional level, I listen to them speak on podcasts and at conferences, I have dated them, and in recent times I can admit becoming one of them. They exist in many different environments, in fitness, in business, in competition, and politics or even in family life.
The one thing I have learnt in many conversations and my own personal relationships and experience’s is that this badge of achieving, which is carried with pride, can also become a troublesome and heavy burden to carry.
Your identity becomes wrapped in the pursuit of more
I’ve noticed when these behaviours: drive and commitment, the relentless pursuit of gaols, the stop at nothing attitude become part of someone’s identity is when difficulties begin. The identity of being a high achiever, competitor or perhaps being the smartest or most successful becomes all consuming.
We know the types, corporate high achievers whose relationships take a back seat and consequently are completely falling apart. Or the bodybuilders who are addicted to steroids because what they see in the mirror is never good enough. And finally, the weekend warriors who punish and drive themselves relentlessly through injury and illness who never rest.
I can see where they are stuck, completely backed into a corner where they feel they have an image to uphold, that they need to show up with the air of success and having it all together. Slowly but surely this corner becomes one of high stress, high anxiety, and holding it together becomes impossible.
No matter how hard they go or how successful they are, it will never be enough.
On the outside all looks fine, the mask they show the world is happy and smiling. Their social media stream looks picture perfect but behind the smile, the feelings of being overwhelmed and shame persist. These striving behaviours have become an identity and creating change feels impossible.
A 2-dimensional identity
This complete engross in a 2-dimensional identity of success makes admitting there may be a problem, talking about vulnerability and asking for help incredibly difficult.
Soon embarrassment and shame grow, and along with destructive ways of coping.
What if I stopped, what would others think of me?
What if I asked for help, would I be seen as weak?
How can I even begin to show up differently when so many others are relying on me?
Slowly but surely standards start to slip because perfect is impossible to maintain. Deep seeded fears bubble up and accumulate. Overflow starts to happen and slowly but surely the walls begin to tumble and things start to get messy.
To stop listening to that voice that tells you every day you are not enough. To stop chasing that validation and success that you will never find.
It takes awareness to recognize there is a problem, but courage to take action.
When the dust has settled and it comes time to receive help it can be harder still because the old way of bash, crash, push and grind is no longer working. After all, these methods of operating created this difficulty in the first place.
There is no greater strength than reaching out, than taking that first step, than wanting things to be different and having the courage to act on those thoughts.
Change takes time to readjust, to allow space for a new identity, to allow space for thoughts, feelings and difficult emotions, not just a 6 week turn around, but months or perhaps years.
It takes time for new pieces of the puzzle to be added to the sense of self, to shift the thinking from black and white to shades of grey.
To let go of the old way of functioning and embrace the new.
Learning to stop takes time.
Learning to lean into kindness and compassion for self can be hard. Once you start that journey of unpacking, unpeeling the layers and seeing yourself in different light things will start to shift. Your priorities, your values may change.
You don’t need to wait for the walls to come tumbling down, you can start to make changes now.
If any of the above resonates with you contact me today and learn more about my lifestyle coaching and personal training.