The concept of the insecure overachiever has been thrown around in relation to global consulting firm McKinsey & Co to describe the type of people they tend to hire. A former McKinsey employee himself, Matias Dalsgaard has connected what he has learned about insecure overachievers over the course of his career to his existentially unbalanced protagonist, Rasmus, in Don’t Despair. He analysed the insecure overachiever, and has discovered that their approach to work and life is not sustainable in the long term. The insecure overachiever, unless he or she is able to change, will struggle to find happiness, balance, and sustained success.
What is an insecure overachiever, exactly? To put it simply, an insecure overachiever is a personality type which applies particularly to young people in the early stages of their career. However, individuals of all ages and places on the career ladder can be classified as an insecure overachiever. Though the word “insecure” might not immediately imply a desirability in the business world, the insecure overachiever is actually a highly sought after type among many large companies.
Here are five signs you might be an insecure overachiever:
1. You Are Inconsistent
Insecure overachievers are very often fundamentally inconsistent, a trait which comes from a lack of a solid/stable foundation to build upon. Dalsgaard compares the behaviour to faulty construction work. An insecure overachiever builds upon a shaky foundation, hoping no one will notice as long as they continue building and building. This creates a state of panic – when will they be found out? They keep building as rapidly as possible. As soon as they stop building, it will be evident that the foundation is not solid and the building is sinking.
2. You are always trying to compensate for something
As an insecure overachiever, you stand on top of a foundation that is shaky at best, but you build upon this foundation anyways. As an insecure overachiever you are driven to achieve by your insecurity. You always have this idea in the back of your head that you are not good enough, and you feel the need to prove to the world that you are.
3. You experience inner chaos
On the outside, insecure overachievers appear to be making great strides in their accomplishments. If you are an overachiever, you probably went to a well-respected university and received top marks. You had all the right extracurricular activities and outside projects on your CV. You were able to make great strides in your career, possibly through advancing quickly and earning promotions. This is the face you show the world. Your inner self, however, is struggling – the insecurities never go away. The more you succeed outwardly, the more you start to fall apart inwardly. The inner human experience is unchanged by outer growth.
4. You fear confrontation
The last thing an insecure overachiever would like to face is confrontation. It is an inevitable part of the human experience to confront yourself. When the superficial and beautiful things you have built your life upon disappear, you are left alone to finally confront your shaky foundation. It is this metaphorical “dark night” which reveals the truths you worked so hard for so long to avoid. To speak more specifically, the last thing an insecure overachiever wants to confront is themselves.
5. You are proud of being an insecure overachiever
In Don’t Despair, it was evident that Rasmus was not only aware of his status as an insecure overachiever, but he was proud of it as well – it was something he bragged about. Rasmus, and many of his fellow insecure overachievers, know that they have been sought out by the elite – the prestigious, large companies. The rest of the world, the 99% if you will, sees this state of being for what it is. But the insecure overachievers don’t care about the 99%, they care only about the opinions of the 1%. The approval from this 1% is what drives them.
The paradox of the insecure overachiever, however, is that the praise and approval is never enough. They continue achieving in order the approval of others, and it becomes a never-ending cycle. One will never be able to achieve happiness and balance in this manner.
For more insights on the plight of the insecure overachiever, check out Don’t Despair:
by Matias Dalsgaard
Available in print and digital.
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