The truth about underachieving

I recently read this amazing blog post: 9 Traits of Underearners. I recognized myself in all but one of the characteristics. Yikes. But not a surprise.

I’ve always considered myself an underachiever. And yet, if you ask people I work with, they would describe me as an overachiever. In fact, I was regularly called Overachiever in grad school – and not always in a nice way.

But here’s what my former grad school classmates didn’t know about me: I overachieve in areas where I know I can do well in order to compensate for my underachieving in just about every other area of life. Hey, look how smart and organized and poised I am over here in this one little corner and hopefully you’ll be so wowed, you won’t notice that I don’t try very hard in any other area!

I think underachievers (a category into which underearners fall) are living with a secret shame. We’re terrified of letting anyone else see how incompetent we are. And we assume that it’s incompetence that’s at the root of the problem. Most of us don’t even realize that there’s no incompetence there, at all! It’s just fear. The fear is so big that we can’t bring ourselves to try. And god knows, we don’t believe in ourselves enough to face those fears – or even to acknowledge them. Because if we did acknowledge the fear, we’d have to do something about it.

We cannot tackle this issue by trying harder, negotiating more, looking for better jobs, dating more, etc. There is no “doing” that will heal this. There is only being and believing in our worth.

As Iyanla Vanzant says (and this will give you chills):

Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.


Seriously. I’m going to put that on a pillow. And a poster. And tattoo it on my arm so I can look at it every single day.

So, dear fellow Underachievers: Let’s make a pact right now. No more overachieving to cover up our underachieving. And no more underachieving. Period. Let’s look at ourselves as our own mother, in every situation. Would we want our daughter to be with a man who doesn’t respect her? Would we want our daughter to take a job in which she is not properly compensated? Would we want our daughter to accept something that is less than she deserves just because it’s available?

Where are you currently underachieving and what step will you take this week to recognize your worth?

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2 thoughts on “The truth about underachieving

  1. Ooh girl I love me some Iyanla! I was a true believer back in her Oprah days (go watch old YouTubes if you haven’t seen ‘em), and saw her live back in 2000 as well – it was like CHURCH! Her book “In the Meantime” is one of *the* great books as far as I’m concerned, whether it be love or career or family or whatever.

    OK and now to your actual topic (heehee) – fearing risk (i.e., underachieving) is something I definitely have experienced. For me it was always being told I was “too much” in relationships and therefore I shirked being who I was, rather than finding a partner who loved me exactly for me (fortunately that’s changed as my fella now is awesome). And in my career, I’ve had to push myself to be forthright in expressing my opinions when I think a client is talkin’ crazy, and whether or not they take my advice, I have realized they respect me a lot more for being exactly who they hired me to be – their advisor. Kind of awesome how that happens. Walking through the fear rather than around it – never once regret doing it!

    • @EcoGrrl: I’m obsessed with Iyanla. In the 90′s, my sis, mom and I used to literally gather around the Oprah show with our journals and yell, “Heal yourself!” at each other. It was so fun – but more than that, she has really taught me a lot.

      And yes, you are so ON it!

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