High Achievers & Anxiety
Although people look at high achievers as professionals who are ambitious, organized, and put together, sometimes that’s not the case. Some high achievers wear a mask of confidence and ability, when underneath, they feel like failures that will never be good enough.
Healthy high achievers gain pleasure from the work they accomplish. They like to work hard, make changes, and feel accomplished when they succeed. They take risks and think outside the box, asserting themselves in the workplace. They accept the mistakes they make and turn those failures into learning opportunities. They accept constructive criticism and see it as a way to grow and become better.
On the other hand, anxious high achievers push themselves until they’re running on empty, drained from working long hours and obsessing over details. They doubt the accomplishments they receive and don’t take compliments from co-workers and superiors well. They are unwilling to take business risks because they’re afraid of failure. When a mistake is made, these high achievers see it as a failure and use it reinforce their feelings of worthlessness. When others offer suggestions on how to do something better, these high achievers become defensive and feel put down.
Characteristics of the Anxious High Achiever
On the outside, anxious high achievers seem to have it all. They work hard. They stay late. They’re accomplished and well respected. In reality, they’re full of self-criticism and doubt.
These high achievers are always busy. They don’t take breaks at the water fountain or chit chat at the time clock. Instead, they stay as busy as possible because it helps keep the anxiety at bay. Even though they’re always busy, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re productive. These people create busy work for themselves, so they always have something to be doing to keep their mind distracted from their anxiety.
The anxious high achiever is often eager to please and seeks approval from both management and co-workers. Unable to recognize their intrinsic value, they need this approval to feel validated in what they do and accomplish. When they don’t receive it, their negative thoughts reinforce their low self-esteem, encouraging feelings of failure and self-depreciation.
Often, high achievers know anxiety is a problem. It keeps them up at night. It gives them a stomachache. They know they’re anxious, but they feel it’s the price they have to pay for success. They believe if they don’t keep pushing harder and succeeding more; then they’re failures.
High achievers often feel like frauds. This feeling creates additional anxiety, and they become afraid someone’s going to find out they’re not as good as everyone thinks they are. This negative self-talk encourages the feelings of worthlessness and the need to push harder.
Healing from Anxiety
When people feel anxious all the time and are always worrying, they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. When anxiety is so severe it interferes with day to day activities; it’s time to seek professional help.
With a variety of treatments available, including medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes, people can learn to identify those threats that are real and those that are not, and reset their anxiety responses.