The Cost of Overachieving: How to Accept Yourself, Let Go and Be Happy

You wake up at 4am to work out. You put in a 12 hour day at the office because you have a critical deadline coming up. If you’re lucky, you have enough time to make dinner while studying before class. Or another networking event. Finally, you wind down by answering emails before passing out on the couch.

The next day you do it all over again.

I get it. I’ve been there before.

There’s only so much time in the day, but there’s so much you need to do.

Let’s take a step back and ask a question.

A hand holding a wristwatch and the hands on the watch are spinning fast

What is the cost of overachieving like this?

You might say it’s a high level of stress, mental fatigue, and physical exhaustion.

And you would be partly correct. Those are the most obvious consequences because we can feel them on a daily basis.

But you would be overlooking the much higher price you’re paying in the long run.

So why are you constantly striving to do more?

If you’re like I was, it’s because you have ambitious goals for yourself.

You want to make more money, get that promotion, buy that dream home, launch that world-changing app, or build that business you can be proud of.

Man working on his laptop overlooking city skyline

But in the process of overachieving, you may be neglecting other important parts of your life as a human being—like family and friends, or your own health. This focus on achieving while neglecting everything else can lead to a number of undesirable consequences down the line. Consequences that include loneliness, depression, or anxiety. The stress alone can result in accelerated aging, heart disease, or even death.

There is even a growing phenomenon in Japan around hard‐working white‐collar workers called karoshi, meaning death from overwork.

But what if I told you that there was another way? What if I said that achieving more success is as simple as accepting yourself and letting go?

First, let’s talk about the serious cost of overworking.

Frustrated woman staring at her tablet

The toll overachieving takes on your own health

Being an overachiever is tough. It takes a hardened mental fortitude to push yourself day after day.

But our brains and bodies need rest.

When you sleep, your body is repairing itself and your brain is processing everything you learned that day. If you compromise your rest by getting less sleep or low quality sleep, you are:

  1. Hindering your body’s ability to operate effectively when you need it most, like nailing that game changing pitch for a potential client.
  2. Obstructing your body’s ability to repair itself after working out and burn fat, thus restricting your gains.
  3. Preventing your brain from processing and multitasking, thus pushing those goals further out of reach.

It is easy to neglect important aspects of our lives in an effort to accomplish more tasks on the lists we create for ourselves. But this can lead us down a self-destructive path where we cut more and more corners to get a little farther ahead.

Short periods of acute stress promote growth. That can come in the form of activities like working out, tackling a difficult homework assignment, or trying to finish a complex project at work before a fast approaching deadline.

Woman asleep on a bench with a textbook open and covering her face

But long periods of stress, or chronic stress, is detrimental to our health. According to WebMD, chronic stress can lead to a host of issues including:

  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin and hair problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Remember to give yourself a break. Regular rest and relaxation will allow your mind and body to operate at peak efficiency. 

Success is great, but if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it then what’s the point?

A nice watch

The toll overachieving takes on relationships

Are you so focused on achieving your goals that you disregard your friends and avoid social events?

Unsurprisingly, this will result in a non-existent social life.

But hey, who needs a social life when you’re hustling everyday, right?

It turns out, YOU need one!

If you want to live a long, happy, and healthy life.

A famous 80-year long study conducted by Harvard found that:

“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”

What good is all that money and success you’re chasing if you don’t have anyone to share it with? What are you going to do when you reach the finish line and no one’s left to celebrate it with you?

A lonely man sitting on a snow covered windowsill looking out over water

Why you should let go of the need for unrealistic expectations

Many times we are overachieving in order to meet unrealistic expectations. Sometimes those expectations are set by people around us—parents or teammates or an employer. And sometimes we set those expectations ourselves.

If we are always holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations, we are bound to get frustrated or angry when we don’t meet them day after day, week after week.

And beating yourself up for not meeting those expectations can lead to self-doubt and low self-esteem.

So it’s important to ask again, why are you constantly striving to do more?

Are you trying to make yourself happy? Or the people around you?

Overachieving may feel rewarding in the moment. But it can be a sign that you are not accepting yourself and your accomplishments for what they are.

You are enough.

You do not need to be more than what you are in order to be worthy of respect and acknowledgement and love.

A hand holding a single burning sparkler

Ways to stop being hard on yourself and accept who you are

We are our own worst critics. Backing off and showing yourself more compassion won’t happen overnight. But you can use these tips to stop being hard on yourself and accept who you are now:

  • Set boundaries with others and yourself. Make sure you are not overworking, or overextending your time for people who don’t value your time as much as you do.

  • Take a break when you start feeling overwhelmed or overworked. Allow yourself permission to rest from things that may be turning acute stress into chronic stress. Remember, rest is not a waste of time. It is vital for your brain and body to recover between periods of mental and physical exertion.

  • Break down your goals into smaller and more manageable tasks. This will help you see the progress you are making in a shorter amount of time, which can motivate you to keep going and reach those milestones without running yourself into the ground.

  • Give yourself credit where it is due by acknowledging all of the things that have been accomplished this year so far. Those small victories are just as important for your physical and mental well-being as the big victories.
Someone pouring a glass of champagne and setting a dinner table after the sun has set

The benefits of letting go of the pressure to be perfect

No one is perfect and no reasonable human expects you to be perfect. If people in your life expect you to be perfect, you should consider having a sit-down conversation with them to set healthy boundaries and reasonable expectations.

We are all trying to do the best we can with what we have. And there is no need to feel bad about not being perfect because accepting your imperfection has many benefits!

  • You’ll be happier and less anxious when you stop overachieving or setting too many unrealistic goals for yourself.
  • Accepting your own imperfection will help you to be more compassionate towards others.
  • You’ll stop overworking yourself and getting burned out, helping to avoid serious health problems in the future.
  • Accepting your imperfections will help you to become a more authentic person. There’s nothing wrong with accepting who you are today and still wanting to get better.
Two couple dancing on the beach with the sun setting in the backgound

In a nutshell

There’s nothing wrong with working hard and pushing yourself every now and then. That is how you get stronger, faster, and better.

The problem arises when you keep pushing yourself beyond your limits for extended periods of time because you think milestones and achievements equal happiness and fulfillment. It takes a toll on your health and relationships—both of which affect your ability to enjoy life in the future.

Do you have kids or want kids? Because I bet they would like to have their parents around often and for as long as possible.

You need to find that balance between giving 110% and not losing sight of who you are as an individual outside of achievement and success. Letting go of unrealistic expectations will give you some much needed breathing room. Self-care can then become priority number one again instead of just another item on the long to-do list that never gets checked off.

There is always more work ahead and there will always be greater goals to strive for. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be content with who you are now.

If you’d like to learn more about accepting yourself for who you are and the work involved in becoming the best version of yourself so you can accomplish your dreams without burning out, we’re here for you! We can help you make this happen by providing expert coaching in our X-Factor Accelerator mentorship program. You’ll learn how to tap into the potential you already have and live life on your own terms.

Rick Ahlgren - author of 17 posts on The Art of Charm

Rick is a 35-year-old human who spends his time freelancing as a writer, deadlifting (with his scrawny high school physique), and performing odd jobs for friends. He takes satisfaction from helping humans become more aware and better at life, which means he has to know what he's talking about for him to be able to help others. Rick enjoys long walks and bike rides because they help him slow down and pay attention to the details of this crazy ride we call life. And he digs reading fantasy like George R.R. Martin and science fiction like Frank Herbert and Alastair Reynolds. Sometimes when Rick finds himself staring into space without any distractions, he'll ask himself "What am I doing?" Usually the answer is nothing.


in Art of Personal Development, Empowerment, Productivity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.