Even writing this post, I recognize that my overachieving personality is going to make sure it’s perfect and it will never be as perfect as it needs to because I am an overachieving teacher.
It’s just who I am and I know this, so I actively try to not be me (and sometimes I even overachieve at that). Some people call it being uptight. Others think I’m a perfectionist. I just feel like I like things done right. And to be honest, it hasn’t served me well.
If this resonates with you at all, then read on.
It goes against my very nature to not do something to the best of my ability. I secretly envy the people that can go about their lives not fussing over every letter and piece of punctuation in a text message. The generation that decided socks don’t need to match make me with I was younger.
Were You An Overachieving Child?
This type behaviour usually starts in childhood (I mean, what doesn’t). There is no amount of therapy that’s going to give you all the answers as to why. Some of it is personality. A bit is your environment. Your parents are probably easy targets to blame (and if you’re a parent you understand why).
You might also be shaped by your school experiences. This can include your teachers-the good ones and the not so good ones. I had some teachers where I genuinely felt loved and nurtured and others that wouldn’t have noticed if I faded away. The ones that paid me no mind often fed the overachieving bug because I’m a people pleaser.
I also had two very different academic rivals. One was your stereotypical nightmare who bragged about her marks and always seemed to rub my face in her reasons why she was better than me. I spent twelve years of my education trying to outlearn, outperform and outshine her. My sole purpose is being a high acheiever was to rub her nose in it-not at all productive.
Another academic rival was actually somebody I truly admired and respected. She was an athlete (the complete opposite of me) and while she always got top marks, she was helpful, collaborative and friendly. There was always a word of encouragement or a few extra minutes to show me how she figured it out. When I lost to her, I did it with a smile because I knew that she earned it and wasn’t going to make me pay for it.
So, while both of these people influenced by overachieving behaviour, the intention behind it was very different. Who are your childhood influences and why did you want to impress them so much?
Were You An Overachieving Student?
It’s not well-known, but one of the ninjas is hearing impaired and has been since before school started. A music teacher in grade two told her she wasn’t going to be a good musician because of this.
That student grew up learning musical instruments and singing. In fact, she joined a children’s choir that gained international attention when it sang for the visit of Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they visited Canada for the opening of Expo 86 in Vancouver. She sang at the opening of the Calgary Olympics and in a choir that performed for Queen Elizabeth the Second at the opening of the University of Northern British Columbia.
In addition to the singing, she learned to play seven musical instruments, taught piano lessons for fifteen years and became a certified elementary music teacher.
Take that Mrs. White!
Another teacher told a ninja that she’s wasn’t really going to cut it as a writer. F you Mrs. Pedersen. Published writer. Blog writer. Author of thousands of teacher resources.
Who needs a story about a dragon in a basement now?
So, if these negative nellies drove a fire to become an overachiever, you might have your answer.
Are You An Overachieving Employee?
There is no job that I can do half-assed. And frankly, it has gotten me into trouble. I end up doing things above my paygrade for no support or pay.
It’s hard to stop because I’m not the kind of person who can let a problem continue without fixing it.
I once worked in a university library where my soul job was shelving books. One day while I was gathering books from the circulation desk, a student came up and asked a question. I didn’t know the answer, so I asked the librarian. She publicly reprimanded me for butting in to her job. In fact, she reported me to my boss.
I quit that job when I realized that being a pion for minimum wage was not a good fit for me (or that’s what I told my boss). The truth is, I didn’t enjoy being accused of stealing a ninety-year-old librarian’s job for simply asking a question. Perhaps if I didn’t care so much, I could have stuck it out.
The trick was finding the right job where I could have some freedom to do work that would help. Teaching is a good fit. There are so many aspects of the job that you have complete control over (hahaha-sorry, the laughing in my head distracted me).
Are You An Overachieving Teacher?
Yes, teaching is often micromanaged. This is especially frustrating when the micromanager does it from an office in another building. But aside from that, you do have a lot of control.
You can make assignments, decorations, lesson plans and class websites until your heart is content. While that is fun, it doesn’t always help.
If you are fussing over a font or a piece of clip art or making your lessons always look like they can be put on Pinterest, you’re probably struggling with your overacheiver status.
Having everything perfect all the time, might be causing you more stress than you need.
Overachieving Can Ruin Relationships
I was invited to lunch by a few other teachers. It was the one and only time I went because the whole experience stressed me out so much that it took me a few days to recover.
We were late coming back. And this wasn’t just a jaunty stroll in as the first bell rang. This was a full five minutes after the second bell rang.
So, I’m already late and I’ve missed my few minutes of calm where I think out the afternoon, check all my supplies and prepare myself for the rest of the day.
That five minutes ruined the next two days of school because I felt rushed and unprepared. More over, I felt guilty. Us overachievers are rule followers.
Some people laugh, but it’s a real affliction. I envy people that don’t give a crap, but that’s just not me. I would probably survive just fine in an autocratic society because I would just want to please the divine leader.
So, instead of explaining that I didn’t like the late feeling to my fellow teachers, I just didn’t go out for lunch again all year. I could have driven myself or preordered my meal to save time. My overachieving ways undermined those relationships.
Even more, I never heard a word about it from my principal. It wasn’t a big deal (that one time). Of course that group went on to get in trouble when it became a weekly event, but that’s another story for another day.
The only thing worse than an overachiever is one that imposes their achieving on others.
Do Rules Make You Happy?
Some people (me) actually thrive with rules. They provide structure and comfort, but when other people can’t or don’t follow them, rules are stressful.
There’s no right answer here, but if you are expecting everyone in your life to live up to your standard, you will be constantly disappointed.
Quite often, the rules found myself following were the ones I was self-imposing. There is no rule that all my lessons need to have perfect formatting or all my school assignments need to look a certain way.
I was making up rules about how my classroom should or should not be decorated. Why?
There are not rules about how many hours outside of class time I needed to work.
Once I recognized that most of the rules I followed were just in my head, it became much easier to break some of them. Not every school assignment is perfect. In fact, some are literally scrawled on the board and then I take a photo. They don’t usually get typed up and made pretty until there’s more time available.
How Has Being An Overachieving Teacher Served You?
Frankly, it hasn’t served me well.
Overachieving has stood in my way more often than it has helped me get ahead. The fear of failure prevents me from trying new things. Worry that people will judge less than perfect lessons, keeps me from publishing some of my ideas. Overwhelm with self-imposed deadlines keeps me from enjoying the process.
Some people call it work ethic, but overachieving goes beyond having a strong work ethic. There are lots of people who put in their best all day and then forget about it once the day ends. Overachievers stay up all day and night obsessing and reassessing how they could have done better.
It’s easier than ever to be an overachieving teacher thanks to social media and sites like Pinterest. Even sites like Teachers Pay Teachers can make a teacher feel inadequate, but you have to remember that these images and lessons are carefully curated. Many of these stores (including ourselves) hire professionals to help with marketing, graphic design and even editing.
Don’t compare your classroom to what you see online. To be honest, I’m glad my formative teaching years happened before social media. I’m sure the comparison would have driven the overachieving ahead.
Advice from an Fellow Overachiever
It’s a daily struggle to not overachieve. I have had to create new rules in my life to keep myself from overachieving.
I started with things around my home. Why did my house always need to be perfect while I was working fulltime (with two jobs) and raising children? It didn’t. I’m busy and it’s not always possible to have everything done.
I learned to delegate and then to let it go. When my children help with the dishes, they might be put in the wrong cupboard. If my husband does laundry, we might lose a sweater. When I let someone else do it, it might not be perfect. But, I do gain the time back. It’s worth it.
I learned to not join every committee. More importantly, I learned to say no. This is so hard to do and has taken me YEARS to accomplish. You can read about some of the things I changed in the post: Teacher Tired Habits to Break.
As an overachieving teacher, you might benefit from using our Teacher Gratitude Journal. You can find it in our Resource Library or we can send you a copy when you sign up for our email list.
Sometimes the overachieving is caused by the environment. This might mean it’s time for a teaching job change. That doesn’t mean leaving teaching, but if this is one your mind, read: When to Quit Your Teaching Job And Why It’s Ok.
Start small. Leave a dish in the sink until morning.
Go out for lunch.
Let your students proofread the assignment and fix it as you go.
Wear mismatched socks.
Let any proofreading errors in this post go. 🙂
Accept that you’re an overachiever. Once you accept it, it’s much easier to avoid.
What other advice would you give to a fellow overachiever? Leave us a comment below so we can add it to our list.