Confessions of an Over Achiever

September 18, 2013

I’ve always been a hard worker.

When I was a junior in high school, I was working 30+ hours a week at McDonalds, taking my junior year classes at school AND working through my senior year via correspondence courses. I graduated a year early from high school.

I then went on to a three year Bachelor’s program to earn my degree in graphic design. I remember my first quarter (nope, no semesters for us year-rounders)… I had a full load of classes, was working 30+ hours at Pep Boys and was calling around trying to get freelance jobs or internships. Despite being told most students didn’t do this until they were Junior level, I was ready to work!

During my final few quarters of college, I was working over time as an “intern” at a fabulous design firm. Really though, I was functioning as a entry to mid level designer since I could keep pace. On top of this, I was taking a full load of classes and putting together my final portfolio for graduation (no easy feat my friends).

I don’t say this to brag… these are simply examples of how hard and fast I’ve worked in the past. How much I’ve done at once.

For the last five years of my life, I’ve been building businesses. The first, a design and branding firm. The second, the business you see today. Building both of these businesses was a lot of hard work, tearful nights and hustling, but those are stories for other posts. I also had another business in the works… but also for another post. 😉

Not to mention during ALL this time I moved about 14 times in 12 years, job hopped, changed serious relationships, was obsessed with my body to the point I would starve myself, trained for different runs (the Great Aloha in Hawaii, and most recently a half that’s going on in October), dealt with severe financial strain, and generally pushed myself and my body as hard as possible.

So here’s my first over achiever confession:

For the last year, I battled with digestive issues.

Pretty badly actually. I spent a good portion of my family reunion in the hotel room. When I started dating last fall, in order to feel well enough during and after a dinner, I had to eat pretty much nothing all day and work out extra hard. I tried going gluten free, probiotics galore, eliminating food after food, and also eating whatever I wanted because it just didn’t seem to matter. When my dad visited me in Hawaii last winter, there were a couple days I just chose not to eat. It was easier than feeling sick.

My second over achiever confession:

I had a cold a couple months ago which lasted three weeks. In the middle of summer, and for the third time since May.

That’s not normal. Three times in the middle of the summer I got run down with a cold. And three weeks? Also not normal or okay. That means something’s wrong, and it’s important we start paying attention to what our bodies are saying.

And here’s the thing I think many of us don’t realize soon enough:

Chronic stress is bad.

So many times we talk about our lives and how hurried and stressed and forceful they are, but we do so like it’s some badge of honor. As if the harder we work, the busier we are, and the more exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed, the more worthy we are. Worthy of what? Disease and exhaustion?

We also talk about it like it’s okay… it’s just the way life is.

Whether it’s working out, school, business building or any other goal, I’ve spent my entire life “tackling it” with force, intensity and stress. I’ve been a “go getter” for as long as I can remember. And while yes, I’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, it’s also taken a major toll on my body, and it’s not worth it one bit.

It’s also not the only way to accomplish things.

There’s ease, flow, gentleness and joy. Simplicity. Rest.


So I’m trying something different.

I’m choosing to take a gentler approach to LIFE.

I’ve stopped going to boxing classes and training for the half marathon this fall. I’m drinking more green tea every morning and stress-reducing “bedtime” tea before bed. My morning routine is now a serious practice where I write morning pages, meditate and move my body before I do anything else. I’m taking long walks outside and following them up with yoga. I’ve eliminated about 95% of processed sugar from my diet. I’m making more of an effort to eat clean, meaning no processed foods (if the ingredients aren’t clearly food items, I’m not eating it). I’m napping when I need to and reading more books. I’m making sure to sleep on MY ideal schedule, 10pm – 7am.

Since making these shifts, I’ve seen the start of some positive changes. I’m sleeping better, my digestion issues have begun to disappear, I feel happier, am less stressed (even when I have good reason to be), am in touch with my body’s needs on a much deeper level, and my energy is coming back.

My challenge to myself (and to you).

If you’re an over achiever like me, you love a good challenge. Starting today, I want you to practice choosing a gentler approach to life.

Where can you be better to your body? What self care practices have you been neglecting? Where can you make tweaks in your diet or sleep schedule? Where are you pushing too hard and how can you rethink your approach?

Stress comes from so much more than we’re aware of.

If you’re not eating the right foods to nourish your body, that causes stress. If you’re not sleeping enough hours, that causes stress. If you’re not drinking enough water, stress. If you’re working out too hard, stress. Creating unrealistic goals and plans, stress.

It’s not normal to be this stressed out all the time, despite what anyone else tells you. Yes, “we’re all stressed.” But instead of going with the flow on this one and heading straight toward disease, let’s be a little rebellious and try something different, shall we? By choosing a different approach, not only will you reduce your stress, increase your life span and feel better, you’ll inspire those around you to do the same.

Share with me in the comments below how you plan to shift your approach…

My writing has moved to Substack!

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