For as long as I can remember, I've always went above and beyond the requirements when an assignment or activity caught my interest. While I wasn't this way in every single activity I participated in, nor did I live in a state of unaltered success, I have always put 100,000 percent into the things that I have cared for, expecting very little in return.
However, since being in college, this character trait I possess has somehow negatively impacted relationships, and I cannot even begin to understand why. From close friends to classmates I barely know, the words "try-hard," "psycho," and "hardo" have been used when describing those who possess this overachiever characteristic that I do. Why should I be shamed for my passions (and the self-imposed stress that comes with them), rather than rewarded or applauded for my achievements? And why is the negative stigma of being boring placed upon those who categorize themselves as overachievers?
Just shy of turning four, I started taking dance lessons a few days a week, and even performed in recitals. By five, I was swimming competitively in the summers, and committed to Irish dance lessons twice a week as well. At seven, I was swimming three times a week (year-round) for one of the most intense teams in the country, while moving up fairly quickly in my dance classes. As a child, I was both a dedicated and a highly-respected hard worker.
Throughout my teen years, things began to change. I couldn't train physically for dance or swimming due to a car accident, nor did I have the motivation to do so in the eyes of my peers. I lived in a perpetual state of angst, and felt my life was perfectly symbolized Simple Plan lyrics and my closet full of black. But behind the scenes, I was studying seven hours a night and editing papers five times before handing them in, just to try and reach perfection.
The bragging in the halls of high school consisted of students talking about how drunk they got the night before, and how many assignments they blew off -- doing just enough to get by. It had almost become respected to be "the one who didn't try," and a competition to become that person. I could never let my friends know I was doing just the opposite.
When I arrived at college, these competitions to try less became even worse. I soon stopped trying altogether because I felt it was more important to socialize and fit in, than to focus on my work. I became the overachiever of partying and not caring.
Of course, this quickly came back to bite me. I transferred, and thankfully got a fresh start to my GPA. This do-over allowed me the chance to return to my roots of real hard work, and I welcomed it with open arms.
But for some reason, not everyone did.
My occasional Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights-in were deemed "awful" because I wanted to work ahead. And people in my group projects were annoyed with me doing my portion of the work (and often theirs when they refused to put any effort in at all) extremely detailed and ahead of schedule. Eyes rolled when I, or other overachievers in my classes, stayed after for advice on our work, or raised our hands to answer questions. Even some teachers said I care far too much, and I was completely baffled by these responses.
Why has being categorized as an overachiever become so negative? I will not judge those who choose to not do their work (unless it impacts my grade or success), so why should he or she judge me for actually doing mine ahead of time?
I still make time to go out with my friends, enjoy many glasses of wine, and attend social activities. The only difference is that now I am proud of both sides of me. I am happy to now admit I spend twelve hours a week actually doing the readings for my classes, watching documentaries about my future career path, belong to six clubs, and turn every assignment in on time. It does not make me a better person, nor mean I get better grades than those who do it last minute (because I often do not), it just means I try because I am proud to be an overachiever -- whether I succeed or not.
I recognize I will never be perfect, and I don't try to be for anyone but myself. I may receive a C on an exam I study 14 hours for, I may get a job offer for a less successful company than those who don't put much effort in, yet are naturally intelligent, and I may miss out on the occasional Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night out, but I will no longer be ashamed of being the overachiever, "try-hard," "psycho," and "hardo" that I am.