Saturday, June 26, 2010

OverAchievers, Sit Down

I just did an interview with Marcia Reynolds, the author of the book "Wander Women: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction." I wish it had a different title - it's really much more interesting than you'd expect. Particularly if you're one of those women.

The wandering women she describes are over-achievers, the baby boomers who were raised to believe they were amazing, significant beings put here to achieve great things.

"They were told, 'you can do anything'," Reynolds told me. "What they heard was 'you can do everything!"

And we try, don't we? I've heard the analysis which says that women don't know how to say "no" because they were raised to be helpful. That's never felt right to me. Reynolds agrees. She says women who don't know how to say no say yes to everything because they think they're the only ones who can do the job right.

Bingo. That would be me.

I knew a counselor once who was my biggest fan - as I poured out my frustrations, my fears and my dreams she'd assure me that I was simply amazing, a true powerhouse. But once, just once, she did pull me up short.

"You take on everything because you think you're the only one who can get it done right, don't you?"

I nodded.

"You do know that's neurotic?" she said solemnly.

It is. But there are bunches of us wandering around, women with a burning conviction that they're here to do great things. They do them, too. But it's never enough. We're always looking for the next achievement, the new frontier.

Aren't you tired?

Don't you just want to sit back and let somebody else do it for awhile?

Wouldn't you like someone to step up, grab the reins and say, "I've got this. Relax. Take a break."

Reynolds says the first step is to see what we're doing. Step two is trying to figure out who we are separate from our achievements. What do we want? What do we like?

Finally, sit down. Let someone else do it. Teach them how if you must, but let them do it.

As one person she spoke with in her book told her, "When I raise my hand now, I make sure I know what I'm raising my hand for."

1 comment:

Jo said...

I worked with someone like that. She would march around the office saying, "What would this place do without me?" When she finally retired, she was not replaced because everyone else had taken up the slack and was doing her job just fine -- without her.

She was a truly miserable person, and quite unpleasant at work. We have all taken great pleasure in the fact that she knows she was not only completely dispensable, she has not even been replaced. Management has saved $95,000 a year by getting rid of her position.

I think a lot of over-achievement is just ego. We are all dispensable, even those of us who think we can do it all.