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The Dark Underbelly Of Being At The Leading Edge – Confessions Of A Former Overachiever

Written by: Andrea Spyros, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


You are a leader. From the outside, it looks like all the success has come very naturally to you. You are a picture of success. You expect a great deal from yourself and aim high when setting goals. You should feel good about all you've accomplished in your life.

The view from inside your head tells a different story. What people see is how much you’ve achieved, not the dark side. The side is hidden from the work where you worry about failing, about not being enough.

On the rare occasion you do share these feelings, people don’t take your fears seriously because they see your success, not your failures.

As a high achiever, you demand the best from yourself. The pressure you put on your shoulders to do well far exceeds any expectation you would put on someone else and often anything anyone else expects of you.

I know how you feel because I’m one of you.

When I was a kid, there was pressure to perform.

  • Get good grades

  • Do well on tests

  • Say please and thank you

  • Dress appropriately

  • Excel in activities

  • Read above grade level

  • Don’t talk too much

  • Don’t cause anyone trouble

  • Do what you’re told

Performance was who I was. Many kids grow up with these pressures put on them. We all can relate to the example of two young siblings playing checkers and when one loses, they throw the board because they can’t handle losing. (Yeah, I did that.) It’s kind of funny and cute because they are kids. But this comes from: an idea put on us to perform and be the best: that losing or failure isn't an option. And that's harmful.

In high school, I was on a debate team. We were top in the country and got to travel to national competitions. This should have made me feel proud and accomplished, but there was so much pressure to perform that I was stressed out all the time. I would break down if I didn’t win. I can remember crumpling into a ball in the van on the way home from a tournament, my face burning and buried into my knees, hands folded over my head, silently sobbing. I would feel worthless. I thought something was wrong with me. I lost therefore, I was a loser.

I didn’t understand it. 5 wins, 1 loss, and everyone else thought it was great.

By the time I hit high school, winning and achieving were firmly tied to my identity.

I began to think that what I did was actually who I was. No one told me anything to the contrary.

This carried over into my adult life. I ran a million-dollar business therefore, I’m a million-dollar business owner. So, if I'm not doing that, who am I?

My business was tied to who I thought I was. Arguably, it was a huge part of my identity and something I put years of blood, sweat, and tears into, but it wasn’t who I was. I had learned that along the way, but when it was time to close the business and move on to other things, I felt lost.

I had made my business my identity and wasn’t sure who I was without it. Worse, I wasn't sure who I could be.

We’ve all heard the stories of people who lose everything and have trouble moving forward. They think what they have is who they are and can’t understand what life could possibly be without those identifying things.

The same could be true if you’re at a job and not moving forward. If there's no mountain to climb, then what are you doing?

It’s challenging to just be content. You are a doer and achiever. You like the look and feel of outward success and there's nothing wrong with that.

This is the reason leaders and high achievers are often entrepreneurs. The rigamarole of working for someone else feels less than your abilities. It boxes you in and feels weird to do mindless work for someone else when you can be moving forward faster on your own doing things your way.

Leaders and high achievers are hard to box in, yet many of us find ourselves in the business world trying to find that light that helps us spark. We use the business mindset to help our go-go-go brain leap up the ladder of corporate or entrepreneurial success.

This is what I love about the business world. There are a ton of leaders and high achievers lying in wait...just needing someone to see them. Someone who can relate and show them a mirror of themselves.

Many of you, like me, are creative and spiritual. But you can see that spiritual people have their own issues, and creative people have theirs. You’re in the middle. You’re the leaders and high achievers and you are my people. People who can implement their creative energy into a successful career or business.

I work with business-minded high achievers and leaders like you all the time. Spirituality oozes out of me, but that is not who I identify with. I’d take a business conference over a spiritual expo any day of the week.

When I work in a corporate setting, my creativity and spirituality will come through, but in authentic and organic ways, in ways that are needed and missing from many of our corporate environments.

I’m a grounded woo woo. Not a magical thinker.

That’s what makes me a good speaker. Like many leaders and high achievers, I know I’m good, but I overanalyze and wonder if I’m good enough because I always want to be the very best.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

This is why I love this unique group of people. I understand it’s hard to talk to people about fears and unmatched energy in the workplace because people think it’s natural and easy for you to navigate those waters.

I get you.

I have empathy and a unique understanding of leaders and high-achievers energy because I live in your shoes even when I take them off at night.

Like all things, practice will bring you both achievement and balance.

It’s important to know that you are still valuable and worthy even when you are not leading or achieving.

That is what I offer.

There is an element to harnessing that power. You do-do-do, but if you’re not doing, that’s okay. All the universe is working with balance. You, too, must practice this balance. It is more powerful to harness that power like water through a dam.

Creativity comes when you are open and vulnerable to your fears and let yourself shine from the heart. It’s what real leaders and high achievers know.

It takes practice. Tiny Habit®s are done daily to get big results. I don’t have to explain the power of habit to you, I know you are already there.

I can guide leaders and high achievers to the next level using Tiny Habits that allow you to be creative and use your internal knowledge as your guide.

Book me to speak and get ready for a massive energy and production shift.

Here’s what clients say:

She collaborates with experts from around the world and teaches audiences valuable strategies. An engaging storyteller, she gives boots-on-the-ground advice with a welcome dose of humor and kindness. Dr. Judy Oskam, Professor Texas State University

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Andrea Spyros, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Andrea Spyros shows leaders, teams, and organizations how to optimize their efforts and get tangible results quickly and easily. Trained by Stanford behavior scientist and New York Times best-selling author of Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg, she combines emotional intelligence and spiritual wisdom with a proven system backed by science. Her keynotes and workshops marry innovation with practical, actionable steps so organizations can easily navigate change and create products, services and systems that work for all stakeholders.



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