Confessions of an Overachiever.

  1. I was always the last chosen for teams in gym class. Always isn’t an exaggeration. It would 100% be between me and a kid somehow slower than me, which was usually baffling because, yeah, I was slow, unathletic, uncoordinated, terrified, all of it.
  2. When my high school counselor gave me my Senior year final GPA, I saw the 3.0 (this is hardly a humblebrag) and where I fell in the senior class percentile–not top, not bottom, but the middle–and felt the deep twinges of disappointment.
  3. I once met a guy who asked me, three times throughout a weekend, whether we’d met before. He would look at me quizzically each time and smile unsurely, as if we hadn’t engaged in animated conversation barely an hour before, or the day before, and ask, “hey, have we met?” Before you can excuse him, keep in mind that we were part of a tour group in NYC that was sharing every moment together. So, it’s not like I went home and saw him several days later. We were always together. Yeah.
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

From my adolescence throughout my twenties, I felt my averageness, my unmemorableness (not a word, but feel free, all yours), in the pit of my belly. I hated it. I remember vowing to my mother that in college, I’d rise above that average 3.0. I’d get on the Dean’s List, I’d snag a 4.0 and prove that I was more than some average, forgettable girl who no one wanted on their team. It mostly worked. Save for a late-stage and woeful Math credit and some other non-humanities classes that pulled the numbers down (English majors will understand), I happily found myself seeing my goals through: Dean’s List time and time again, high class standing, etc. Without a doubt, the overachieving began and flourished during those four years.

Or did the seeds begin when, as an adolescent growing into a teenager, I didn’t hear the best things coming from some family members about me? I used to condemn myself a lot (you’ll note, if you’re new to TSP, that I had to do a lot of inner work to love and respect myself; that’s why my Square Peg nature and confidence is high; I proudly march to the beat of my own drum), believing that the words some in our family used to describe me (fat, lazy, etc.) were true. My mom mentioned recently that she saw a photo of me as a teenager and I looked so sad. I didn’t respond in detail and simply said, “could be.” (I rarely discussed my lack of self-esteem and self-worth with my parents, by the way. There was a big part of me that didn’t think they’d understand. Immigrant kids may get where I’m coming from. Discussing feelings just wasn’t a thing in my household back in the day. But my mom and I had a pretty revealing conversation about all of that years ago. Freeing and cathartic.) I clearly digress. The point is perhaps those toxic descriptions of my character were forming the overachiever that would come: the obsessive need to be good, perfect, and efficient at everything in order to prove them all wrong, the unflagging desire to seem valuable.

Overachieving didn’t end in my formative years, as I mentioned. As I began my professional life in corporate America in my early 20s, it bothered me when I didn’t understand something quickly at a new job, fearing that I would seem not smart, not capable. The fear of seeming average. Adding the fact that I was a young Black woman in corporate America and undoubtedly being judged made things exponentially stressful. Those little microaggressions made their mark, believe me. (“This Square Peg, we heard you graduated college! Wow! Did you go to a four-year school?”) I constantly pushed myself to have a reputation of efficiency and silently beat myself up when I fell short of my own impossibly high standards. And some exceedingly high standards were self-made, yes, and some were absolutely not. Either way, I was emotionally toast most of the time.

I’d love to say that presently being a grown woman who’s way more self-aware and happy with herself and who understands how adolescent trauma and insecurities can lead to traits like overachieving means I’m no longer an overachiever. That wouldn’t be accurate. I work on it constantly. (This new job brought it out like crazy.) I talk about it with a trusted friend, too. I pray about it. The high that comes from being known as dependable and efficient, especially in a professional space, is the same as the low that comes when you criticize yourself unfairly because of natural imperfections. I went through that this week and I was able to express myself to said dear friend who reminded me of a few things I hope to remind you of, if this is something you go through:

  • You did a great job and you do a great job.
  • No one is 100% amazing at everything.
  • See the areas you need to improve on and realistically find ways to make improvements, remembering that you may still fall short and that’s okay!
  • Is it really a necessary improvement or camouflaging as a normal thing that will happen and out of your control? Try to see the difference.
  • Speaking of differences, there’s a significant one between overachieving/perfectionism and simply being a hard worker. The lines can blur and it helps to understand this.
  • Read this.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Oh, and therapy! 2021 may be the year when I hang out with a professional. Being self-aware doesn’t replace doing some good internal work with someone who’s licensed.

Be good to yourself, okay? I’m certainly trying to.

Level Up. [2020]

So last year, I feel like you and I, dear reader, entered a new phase of realness on This Square Peg. This is a lifestyle blog, yes, and we discussed various aspects of my life, including openly sharing with you that 2019 mostly stunk. I initially wondered if these were things I even wanted to share. It’s not easy to be vulnerable, no, but it’s way harder when you have tons of eyes reading about your experience. Nevertheless, I’ve always been a fan of 1) catharsis; 2) encouragement and empowerment; and 3) helping people. If one iota of this life and working through those tough times helped anyone with any of those three things (even if sharing simply meant bringing some clarity and understanding to those who know me beyond this blog), then I’m happy and proud. In that vein, I’m here to announce that not much will change with TSP in this brand new year…

Except: we are leveling up. levelup

I will continue to remain real, vulnerable, and open with you. Highlights. Lowlights. Life life life. But as much as I love my privacy, I plan on sharing some tings with you this year and I don’t intend on holding back. I’ll still be private–don’t get it twisted; I have to protect my government name–but the process of sharing will be wider. Because at the end of the day, I need you to be good with you. And if I can add a ‘lil something to that beautiful end result by sharing tidbits of me, then we shall have all of that. Quite honestly, too, I need to continue to be good with me. That involves talking/writing through this journey. So, we’re in this together, dear reader.

My first share of 2020: I have a secret wedding board on Pinterest. It has categories. It shall remain secret because my inner 11 year-old doesn’t like folks taking her ideas. {shrug}

Happy 2020. How do you plan on leveling up this year?

In Review…

I can honestly say that 2019 was a tough one. I struggled a lot this year, and I can openly changingsay that it took a whiiiiile for me to get back to a sense of solid ground. And let’s be real: there will be ups and downs in life anyway. Hills and valleys. Light and dark. And although I wasn’t living in a dreamworld that life, my life, was all roses, this year presented a tunnel of darkness and deep emotions that seemed really hard to navigate. Here are some lessons I learned and am continuing to learn on this journey we call life:

  1. Speak. Even if it’s one person that holds your confidences, who helps you wipe your tears, who assures you that you’ll make it through that tunnel: say something. Let them know you’re barely holding on. I’ve been blessed with that person, and also others who intuitively hold me a bit tighter when we see each other. Those folks may not know the details of what I’m going through, but can sense that I need them. Even in an embrace.
  2. Exchange. My constant goal is to pay it forward. Be the person I needed when I was down. Be there for others as they were and are there for me.
  3. Write. Although I didn’t do a lot of fiction writing this year, I wrote a lot of my feelings down. I needed to work my way through them. Here’s to catharsis.
  4. Hope. It’s not the easiest thing to hold to the heart, hope. Especially when disappointment seems to reign and push you into deep negativity. My bestie and I were discussing this recently and she asked, with all the efforts I’m making to look ahead and not behind, whether I have any hope left. “A little,” I said. “Hold on to that,” she replied. I intend on doing just that.

A brief year-end review. I plan on doing another one as we drift closer to 2020. But I need to say the following: I’m so grateful to my awesome God, my wonderful family, and my dear friends who helped me to remember the light waiting at the end of this weird, endless tunnel I found myself traversing. If nothing else, with everything I witnessed this year, there was something incredible in there: the divine. 

How was your 2019 (so far)? I’d love to hear about it.

Self-Preservation or Nah?

One of my characters in one of my stories makes reference to not dousing her hope with her usual brand of doubt and cynicism. I am her and she is me. (Incidentally, one popular writer-related question I get is, “who are the people you’re writing about in your fiction?” I am them, they are me. What writer isn’t writing about themselves in some way? Anyway, digress. Back to the outside of the parentheses.) The truth is: I am terrified of hope.

We need hope. We thrive on it. It keeps us going. I hope in a lot of things. In a brighter future. In seeing my father again. In finally living what the Scriptures describe as “the real life.” But there’s one giant aspect of life that I hesitate to hope in, for fear of repeatedly breaking my own heart and spirit: love. I’ve discussed my track record when selfpreservequoteit comes to relationships. I’ve yet to meet my Person. The pathway to said Person hasn’t been easy; it’s been sad, disappointing, weird, head-scratching, and just ultimately completely unfulfilling. Naturally, when this happens more often than not, the wall builds itself. Brick after brick of solid, hard doubt. And when hope tries to poke her head in (could this be…?) I nudge her away and steel my chest for what realities may hit me in the face.

Admittedly, it stinks to look at things this way. But can you really blame me? Without the benefits of preserving myself, my sanity, my heart, I’d be in a corner somewhere, rocking back and forth and worse off than I already am. Of course, we must then discuss self-fulfilling prophecies. A good friend, more often than not, has reminded me that I tend to manifest negativity when it comes to finding my Person and finding love. She’s called me out on statements such as: no one wants me anyway, and whatever, I probably won’t find him, whomever he is. Regardless of whether my comments were made in jest (they were, on the surface), in her estimation, those comments end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies: if I am expecting these things for myself, then I’m basically writing my own future. I’ve agreed with her and have promised to work on not pronouncing such negativity for myself. Deep down, though, I’ve struggled to communicate that those comments and related, unspoken thoughts come from a fear that believing the opposite and resting in hope will just leave me completely wounded, waiting, and disappointed. And so I frame things in dry, deprecating humor, hiding truths. (I try to avoid the whole self-deprecation thing as a rule, especially since I’ve done so much work to not relegate my own self to zero status as I did in the past. But old habits rear their heads when we’re talking about fear.)

Where is the balance, dear reader? How can I be both hopeful and realistic? How can I stop submitting to fear by way of self-deprecation and be mindful of what I say/nurture my own self, without appearing as if I’m on a one-track groove whenever it comes to talking about my personal life with my friends?

When I find the answers, I’ll let you know.