Diary of a (Relatively) High Achiever

June 9, 2024

Today I want to be candid about one crucial part of my life—being a (relatively) high achiever. I feel like I need to let this out of my system.

I remember I always had good grades during school and was always one of the top students in my class. My worst was 4th place during 2nd grade. I graduated with an almost perfect GPA. I wrote before that I am a “relatively” high achiever because my school and university weren’t the most prestigious. I don't think I can even go to Harvard or work in a prestigious consulting firm, but within my bubble, I think I am a high achiever. 

Just like a lot of  Asian parents, my parents appreciate academic success. I could only get things I wanted if I was a top student. I remember I got cold shoulders by not being the 1st place in my class. I remember my mom comparing me to other top students and demanding that I surpass her.  To be honest, I am still conflicted about whether it’s a good thing or not. My family used to struggle financially but we are now in a far better place—which I believe also because of this.

But internally…. Internally it wrecks me. To the point that now I have “you don’t have to win all the time” tattooed on my wrist. I easily feel competitive with other people for no good reason. Trust me, it is not a nice feeling. It becomes necessary to always get validation and recognition for my work, whether a sincere compliment or something more tangible like a promotion. I become super sensitive to feedback. One bad feedback is enough to make me feel like a failure. Maybe this correlates with how I feel like I am quite a people pleaser. I don’t want people to think that I don’t do a good job. I can’t even enjoy my achievements completely. I keep worrying that this is the best I can be, that I can’t live up to people’s expectations, and that I can’t achieve more than this. I find myself only aiming for things I know I can achieve—maybe because I crave constant achievement and can’t handle failures. 

As I grew up, these feelings made me exhausted. I feel the urge to appreciate peace and happiness more than achievement. I despise competitions. I started to long for a simple life. I read that it’s usually high achievers who dream about having a simple life (yes, what an irony…) I long for it so much to the point that I wrote in my journal something like: “One day, there might come a time you need to say no for bigger opportunities. Remember there are a lot of more important things than being good at work.”

I don’t want to fail, but at the same time, I want to fail badly so much - believing that if I can accept it, then I will be free from the pressure of always achieving something. But I have so much pride in my achievements - would people think of me less if I become mediocre? Would people think I am stupid if I decided to stop and let go of this pressure? Would I become less because I don’t aim for more? Would I like myself less? 

To be honest, I don’t know exactly yet what mindset and actions I need to adopt. But now I try to really identify my values and what is important to me. I want to make sure that nothing will eat another. I want to aim for the right things that matter to me, not to be drawn in by what others want. Gosh, I think I have been thinking and talking about this since many years ago. I just hope that I’m progressing.

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