Are you an insecure overachiever at work? In the last post, we met Sebastian, who definitely isn’t. He takes a professional approach to work without excess devotion. When I talked to Sebastian, part of my mind went back to a conversation I had while a hot shot in my early thirties. I was a camping store, and the man behind the clerk told me that he used to be in marketing. I was polite, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I really looked down on him. “What a loser,” I thought. “He couldn’t cut it.” Of course now I get it. I’m on the other side of the fence, with some former colleagues who view me as the weirdo who left the beloved asylum.
I asked Sebastian if he thought achievement is important. “Many people want the big job, to get ahead. But if they get there, they realize they can’t enjoy it. They don’t have any time, and are being pulled away from their family. For some people, it’s just the accomplishment. I do get satisfaction from achieving certain goals. But in my life I try to make those personal goals outside of work, for example running ten marathons, or kayaking this river, climbing this mountain. I am proud of my accomplishments.”
I think Sebastian is an exceptionally secure person. One Machiavellian executive told me that he likes to hire “Insecure overachievers [because they] have to show they’re valued, wanted, needed, and work is a way of doing that. That’s the trap – when work represents your value as a person. Work is sort of is a bald gage of success which isn’t that meaningful, but it can be perceived as aha that’s my worth.”
Sebastian does not have that vulnerability, because he gets his validation outside of work. But thinking back to my reaction to the dude in the camping store, and my obsession with my blog traffic, I still have some work to do.
What about you? Could you be an insecure overachiever at work?
Note: This post is an excerpt from my book “Busting Your Corporate Idol: Self Help for the Chronically Overworked” which is available on Amazon.com