I have always been the kind of person we refer to these days as a “high achiever.”
From the time I was a little girl, I didn’t just show up to do a thing, I did it the best out of anybody, and never apologized for it.
I didn’t just get good grades, I got straight As and was valedictorian of my high school class and ended up with a 3.97 GPA in college.
I didn’t just sing in the choir, I put myself up for concert solos and got them every time.
I didn’t just act in the plays, I auditioned for lead roles and won awards for them.
I didn’t just play in the band, I put in the extra time to go to state competitions and always came home with multiple ribbons.
Later on, when I was graduating college, I didn’t just accept the jobs offered to me, I sold myself as the best candidate for the one I wanted.
When I started a business, I didn’t just provide a service, I worked hard and showed up for my clients and became the go-to, talked-about, preferred expert people wanted to work with, have on their project, quote in their article, speak at their conference.
And those things are all things I’m damn proud of, among many other examples of my high-achieving nature.
They’re also things that came at a cost.
People used to ask me how I stayed so motivated to do so many things so well, from working out consistently to building my business to writing, speaking, networking, running marathons. I’d answer that I’ve always just been internally motivated. It was never a question for me. I’d be at the top or I wouldn’t be there at all.
And to a certain extent, that was true. My parents never pushed me or put expectations on me. They supported me in my choices and skills and desires and talents, but they were also fine when I failed at or quit something or was just plain mediocre at it.
It was always me who wasn’t fine with it. I was, and sometimes still am, exceedingly hard on myself.
Alas, the curse of the high achiever.
We love the idea that being hard on ourselves makes us better, tougher, more successful. We think it’s the reason for our achievements, so we keep beating ourselves up for motivation, like a badge of honor. We love to push push push, stake our claim in good, better, best, always.
When really, all we are is stuck in the belief that anything less is a reflection of who we truly are at heart – a failure, an imposter, not ever good enough.
And even when the people in our lives who love and believe in us, who we trust, tell us it OK, we are good enough, we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves, we refuse to listen. We say that’s a nice thought, but it would just mean we were lazy or making excuses if we weren’t always pushing ourselves. We get defensive and say that we can’t possibly do it any other way, or don’t even want to.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve learned and internalized the idea that it’s not OK, it’s never OK, to show any kind of understanding, care, kindness, or compassion to ourselves. We’ve learned that the only way to be is unrelenting, ruthless, strict, and totally unsympathetic to ourselves. That while absolutely everyone else deserves care and compassion, of course they do!, we absolutely do not.
God, I can hardly type this without crying.
Because oh how wrong, wrong, wrong we are.
There’s not a human living in the world today who doesn’t deserve compassion and kindness, but the person who deserves it the most is you.
I said that all those high-achieving achievements came at a cost, and they did. Because the more and longer you beat yourself up, the more beaten down you become. And it wasn’t until I finally let up on the beating, when I was able to practice being softer on myself, that I started to see so much more – more of who I was, who I could be, and what my life could really look and feel like if I lived it authentically, confidently, and somewhere in the middle. I finally understood that I was enough, regardless of my achievements or lack thereof, no matter what. It was like the tunnel vision of the high achiever suddenly opened up to a whole new world with absolutely endless possibilities on the widest, most beautiful horizon.
Quite honestly, that feels like one of my highest achievements.
Oddly enough, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done too. Learning to be kind to myself? First of all, younger me would flat-out say that’s fucking stupid and pointless, dismissing it out of hand.
Wiser me knows it’s a hugely difficult, but highly effective, practicable skill. A skill that leads to being even more genuinely confident in everything I choose to do, at any level. A skill that leads to better outcomes and the results I’m seeking. A skill that not everyone has, which ends up setting me apart and offering even more opportunity in a world bent on the cold detachment of a high-achieving mindset as the only way. And a skill that actually lets me be at ease with who I really am and everything I’m doing (or not doing), every single day.
Listen, I’m not saying I don’t still fall into old patterns sometimes. I shared a story about this just the other day. The difference now is that because I’ve made a conscious investment of time, energy, and dollars over the past several years, I’ve learned a slew of new tools to keep me out of old patterns, or to at least be able to pull myself out of them so much quicker and easier. Among them is being kind to myself, or practicing self-compassion.
I’m telling you, it’s a game-changer.
It’s been a game-changer not only for me, but for all my clients over the last several years too – despite how skeptical they were of learning this skill at first. And that’s why it’s one of the foundational pillars of my Self-Discovery Strategy framework. At the most basic level, self-compassion invites a shift from constantly asking yourself, “Ugh, what is wrong with me and why can’t I just do better?” to “Huh, well, this is a rough spot, but what’s working for me?” And that’s a powerful shift, indeed.
If you’re the type of person who can relate to the high-achieving lifestyle, always pushing yourself, fear of failure, negative self-talk, beating yourself up in order to get motivated, or lack of confidence in who you are and the level of what you’re achieving – well, you’re not alone.
I see you. I’ve spent a ton of time in that space. Which means I can easily see it when someone else is in it too.
And also, I can help. And who better than someone who totally fucking gets you? And will, um, also call you on your bullshit…but with a truckload of kindness.
I want to help.
Let me show you more about self-compassion and teach you all the practical tools you need to cultivate your personal kindness practice in Foundations of Self-Discovery. You’ll practice on your own and with the group, and a month from now, you’ll feel comfortable, confident, and excited for a different future that doesn’t involve being really hard on yourself for who you are and everything you do.
Whaddya say? Are you ready for a different way?
Grab your spot in the group today. We start in two weeks.
Just a reminder it’s not enough to preach and practice kindness and compassion for others without giving those gifts to ourselves. We can’t even truly be kind and compassionate to others if we don’t know how to act the same way toward ourselves. It’s hollow, it’s a shitty cycle, and it sets a terrible example for whatever our future looks like to say the only way we’ll ever be worthy human beings is to beat ourselves into submission and sameness along the path to whatever the accepted version of achievement looks like. Let’s build a different future, OK?
Know someone else who struggles with the high-achiever mindset? Forward them this post or invite them to check out the group coaching program.