Overachievers are individuals who “perform better or achieve more success than expected.” [1] The implicit presumption is that the “overachiever” is achieving superior results through excessive effort. In a teaching context, an “overachiever” is an educational label applied to students , who performs better than their peers when normalized for the instructor’s perceptions of background, intelligence or talent . In the workplace context, individuals who are deemed to be overachievers are those with the drive to complete tasks above and beyond expectations. The opposite term is underachiever .

In educational settings

Primary and secondary school

In an educational context, “overachiever” is defined as “a student who attends higher standards than the IQ indicated.” [2] Overachievers are generally contrasted with underachievers , who perform less well than the instructor thinks they should given their intelligence. An Encyclopedia of Psychology notes that “[g] enerally, these terms are not used by educators or psychologists.” [3] While the concept of overcoming and underachieving has wide acceptance among practicing teachers, it remains controversial topic on several points. :

  • Both are labels which implicitly affect teacher behavior. This frequently leads to the labels of self-fulfilling prophecies .
  • The labels are based on a static and incomplete understanding of the nature of intelligence. The ability to concentrate and to work in a native way is a “native” or “raw” intelligence in any directionally testable way.

A 2007 book about overachievement describes the “cult of overachieving that is prevalent in many middle- and upper-class schools”, in which “students are obsessed with success, contending with illness, physical deterioration.” [4] “When teenagers inevitably look at themselves through the prism of our overachiever culture,” the author writes, “they often come to the conclusion that they will not be enough.” ” [5]

Colleges and universities

For college and university students, “there is a fine line between being a high achiever and an overachiever.” In the US, by “self-imposed but unrealistically high standards.” According to Dr. Modupe Akin-Deko, a senior psychologist at Buffalo State College’s Counseling Center, “… they are unable to achieve their goals for themselves, thus lowering their self esteem when they never reach their goals.” [6] Clinical Psychologist Marilyn Sorenson, in her book Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem , maintain that people with low self-esteem often find themselves driven to overachieve to build self-worth. [7]

In the workplace

In the workplace, you can get ahead.

In the workplace, “overachievers have the drive, determination, passion, and energy needed to move huge projects forward.” “Overachievers are more likely to become known as ‘ workaholics ‘.” [7] For workplace overachievers, “fulfilling tasks above and beyond expectations provides the physical and mental high as a drug.” However, managers need to deal with the negative side of the overachiever: “Over unrelated expectations, work insane hours, and take risks to succeed at any cost”, which can lead to “become obsessed, dysfunctional, unable to perform. ” [8]Other issues with overachievers are that they “… typically forget to inform vital information, often take shortcuts, and leave the details to someone else.” [8] As well, they often have difficulties interacting socially and are at high risk for burnout. [8]

According to “Dr. Richard Rawson, Associate Director of UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, [methamphetamine] … is popular with workers in overachieving, highly productive economies such as those in Japan and South Korea.” [9] Methamphetamines “have graduated into a formidable problem in the workplace”; in the US, the California Bar Association “says one in four lawyers who voluntarily enters drug rehabilitation programs is addicted to methamphetamines.” [10]

According to psychologist Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, there is a “curse of the capable,” which is “a complex web of emotions that drives people to hide their true needs behind a mask of over-achievement.” He claims people often seek “the” quick fix “of over-achievement to compensate for self-esteem wounded.” As well, he states that “chronically-overachieving people often do not realize unrecognized needs are driving the conditions for fulfilled lives.” He says that “compulsive overachieving can stimulate production of dopamine”; however these “temporary” lifts “will pass, triggering a spiraling non-fulfilling cycle of achievement and disappointment.” He claims that “[11]

Figurative usages of term

The term “overachievement” is sometimes applied in other contexts; for example, a country with an unsustainably high per capita income could be described as “overachieving”. In sports , players or teams that significantly exceed the general preseason expectations are called “overachievers.” “Overachievers.”

See also

  • giftedness


  1. Jump up^ “Overachievement” in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. Jump up^ “Overachiever” in WordNet 3.0on. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
  3. Jump up^ eNotes Encyclopedia of Psychology. Available athttp://www.enotes.com/gale-psychology-encyclopedia/overachieverAccessed on Oct. 1, 2011
  4. Jump up^ Review ofThe Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kidsin Publishers Weekly. Available athttps://www.amazon.com/Overachievers-Secret-Lives-Driven-Kids/dp/1401302017Accessed Oct. 1, 2011
  5. Jump up^ Alexandra Robbins. The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids. Hyperion Books, 2007
  6. Jump up^ Maria Pascucci. “In pursuit of perfection-students who are overachievers may pay a high psychological price”. The Buffalo News. Available online at:http://www.creativetypeco.com/images/marketing_on.jpgAccessed on September 28, 2011.
  7. ^ Jump up to:b eNotes Encyclopedia of Psychology. Available at http://www.enotes.com/gale-psychology-encyclopedia/overachieverAccessed on Oct. 1, 2011
  8. ^ Jump up to:c Laurie Sullivan. “How to Manage Overachievers”. BNET. November 26, 2007 http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/ Accessed October 1, 2011.
  9. Jump up^ Daniel Costello. “Once a party drug, the move to the workplace: Stress in the workplace to boost concentration and stamina.” But accidents and absenteeism tell the real workplace story. Los Angeles Times. September 13, 2004 Available at:http://articles.latimes.com/2004/sep/13/health/he-meth13Accessed on Oct. 2, 2011
  10. Jump up^ Daniel Costello. “Once a party drug, the move to the workplace: Stress in the workplace to boost concentration and stamina.” But accidents and absenteeism tell the real workplace story. Los Angeles Times. September 13, 2004 Available at:http://articles.latimes.com/2004/sep/13/health/he-meth13Accessed on Oct. 2, 2011
  11. Jump up^ Chris Bergeron. “Hopkinton psychologist helps people rewrite their ‘stories'” MetroWest Daily News. Nov 01, 2010. Available at:http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/archive/x370073513/Hopkinton-psychologist-helps-people-rewrite-their-stories#ixzz1ZeyaJN9gAccessed Oct. 2, 2011

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