I grew up as an Honor Roll kid, an over-achiever who had to give it 150% and do it myself if I wanted it to meet my standards. My drive, intrinsic motivation, autonomy, and creativity served me well to always achieve at whatever I was doing. As an adult, I worked up the corporate ladder for the big jobs, but somehow despite my successes I felt misunderstood and drained. I would set unrealistic expectations for myself, and that weight became heavier over time. I have always been a high-achieving introvert.
In 2016, I started my own company. In the first year of business, my personal drive which has always gotten me where I was going finally came to a tipping point. I was now my own boss, and the realization that I was the only thing holding me back became a new problem. When my unrealistic expectations no longer had a ceiling, they exploded.
I knew starting my own business would be hard, but I imagined I was better equipped than most. It turns out that despite knowing how to run a business, I was blindsided by the fact that my inner gremlins found the runway they needed to thrive. And I was being crushed by the rising expectations for greatness because I didn’t have anyone holding me back any more.
Do all high achieving introverts fight this internal battle? Probably not all, but inevitably there is someone out there noticing for the first time the heaviness of the self-induced weight they feel. There is the inner monologue, constant strategizing, and incessant scanning of the surroundings that gives introverts strength, and when paired with intrinsic motivation it can be a powerful base for action.
We all have inner critic voices telling us we aren’t enough of something. They whisper to us to sit down, or play small. This is the place where perfectionism breeds, and where nothing is ever good enough. I always thought that I needed this weight and that I was successful because of it, not in spite of it. But what would it be like to be a high-achiever without the weight? It would feel easy, free, present, and without fear of what might happen. But could I be successful without it? I had lived my whole life thinking that was the only way to success, when in reality perhaps it was the one thing holding me back from even bigger greatness.
If I could go back in time to give advice to my childhood self, what would I have wanted to know? What do I wish someone had told me (not that I would have listened)? I would have wanted to know that it was enough, or that I was enough. I would have wanted to know that my value was not dependent on how much I accomplished.
What I have learned in these crucible moments is how I can choose my future. I now strive to do less “stuff,” but to play bigger. To focus on my passions, and be really good at them. While I know the inner critics will always be there, and I will always want to achieve great things, my value is no longer attached to how much I accomplished. In fact, I now find more value in the attempt, the journey and the experience. And that is even better.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or sign up for our mailing list for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Facebook and Twitter.