IS BEING AN OVER-ACHIEVER A SICKNESS OR A GIFT?
Each morning when I awake I lay there with my eyes closed and in my mind I go through everything that needs to be done in my business. Some times I feel overwhelmed because I think I'll never get it all done and sometimes I get excited, like it's my birthday and I cannot wait for the day to begin to tackle the tasks and challenges that stand before me. But today was different. This morning I just listened and I listened closely to my thoughts. Then I began to worry.
Instead of going over my long to do list, I heard my self talk. What I witnessed was a girl in pain. What I heard was suffering. In Buddhism, The First Noble Truth is all about dukkha. Dukkha is a Sanskrit word meaning suffering, but not in the classic sense of the word. Since dukkha is not totally translatable in English, a closer definition is 'life is in constant change.' It can also mean stress, discomfort, unease, and dissatisfaction-- pretty close the life of an over-achiever. As I went about my morning, Day #4 of my New Year's Cleanse, cut up my favorite fruit- cantaloup; gearing up to make a delicious whip, I finally heard my cry and that dukkha was in full effect.
While I have been making a conscious effort to slow down (it's one of my New Year's goals), I found myself in a personal massacre of people-pleasing. My long to-do list had everyone else written all over it. My desire to please my staff, my clients, my tribe of holistic leaders started to feel like a sickness. Banging my head against the wall trying to make sure all my i's were dotted and my t's were crossed (but even then, I miss a few), shook me to the core. I'd even find myself at times saying 'yes' when my gut was yelling NO!
How many over-achievers does it take to screw in a light bulb, I thought? And I suppose the answer is just 1. The over-achiever thinks she has to do everything by herself because she knows it won't get done the way she likes it. She has control issues; she has people-pleasing troubles, and she struggles with negative thinking from time-to-time, but in the end who is it hurting?
Being an over-achiever is a habit that I don't think can be broken. It's as if it's an auto-immune disorder that you'll have to care for your entire life, which took me back to the years when I struggled with psoriasis. As an over-achiever with psoriasis I read every book, changed my diet dramatically, tried every holistic measure under the sun, only to find the expectations of having clear skin were unreasonable. Life just didn't feel free; it felt contrived and overly strict, kind of like my illness with being an over-achiever.
So here I sit, waiting for my tasty cantaloup whip to finish vita-mixing and hearing myself loud and clear-- that over-achieving must be nurtured. Whether you label it as OCD, ADD, bitchy, trivial, know-it-all, rigid, strict, mean, or whatever you want to call that over-achiever in the corner who is making sure it's just perfect you and everyone else to enjoy-- perhaps it's time to rethink how you judge them and how I judge myself. Just like a devastated patient who learns she has breast cancer or the teenage girl who battles with depression, aren't we all plagued with a little sickness? Mine just happens to be over-achieving.
If dukkha shows up, I know my heart and health need nurturing. I know that my worries to do good for others comes from a very sincere place. I know that in my heart the pain might be deep, but the intention is always to do better, even if it shows up as anguish. Today I make a conscious effort towards nurturing my sickness, finding a healer to help me when times get tough, and to see the bright side in my efforts to do good in the world because at the end of the day, that's all the over-achiever really wants any way and that's a healthy gift.