The Overachieving Underachiever


Are you an Underachiever or an Overachiever?

Is your answer based on hard evidence, the opinion of others or a personal view?

Have you always been an Underachiever / Overachiever or is this a more recent realisation?

I would say most people would admit to being Underachievers. Whether it’s feelings of modesty, our level of self-confidence or a fear of the Tall Poppy Syndrome if we stick our head up, most of us tend to downplay our abilities.


The self-confessed Overachiever is rare. But if you are one, feel free to confess in the comments below. You can balance out all the self-confessed Underachievers. All on your own. Because you’re an Overachiever, right?


I suppose you could be one of those truly rare breeds – the Normalachiever. One of those who believes they achieve just the right number of things at just the right level of attainment. If this is you, I give you my deepest admiration. Also, I hate you.

Not really.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

So which one are you?


Which one am I?

Ah. There’s another category for the Jacks of All Trades of the world. We are the Overachieving Underachievers.


Jacks of All Trades always see themselves as Underachievers. It’s in the name. Why else would we claim to be “Master of None”?

To the outsider, however, a Jack of All Trades appears as an Overachiever. “You mean you run half-marathons, write songs and can fix computers? What can’t you do??”

But a Jack of All Trades does all these things because she is looking for that one thing at which she might actually excel. That one thing she can achieve at the standard she expects of herself. And because a Jack of All Trades always views herself as an Underachiever, that standard – in her eyes, at least – is never attained.


And just so you really understand, here’s an example of how a Jack of All Trades’ mind might work:

Let’s say a Jack of All Trades completes a half-marathon. Unless she wins the half-marathon this is an underachievement. If she does win a half-marathon, this is still an underachievement because it isn’t a full marathon. If she goes on to win a full marathon, well, other people run ultra-marathons, don’t they? If she then wins an ultra-marathon (you realise this is all hypothetical, right? really, really hypothetical…), did she win it in the fastest time ever run? If she did, was it the hardest ultra-marathon you can do? And so on and so forth.

See? Overachieving Underachiever.

Now excuse me while I go and decide whether to take up the bagpipes or pole-vaulting…



All images courtesy of “Motivational products don’t work. But our Demotivator® products don’t work even better.” Click on any image to go to the website.




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54 thoughts on “The Overachieving Underachiever

  1. I’m underachieving at the moment…laying in bed, not the least bit concerned about doing anything. But it’s Saturday and when I finally arise, I’ll be overachieving at a rapid pace, trying to accomplish far too much in a short amount of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These days, I am an underachiever’s underachiever. But that is my opinion. I appreciate the question you posed “Is your answer based on hard evidence, the opinion of others or a personal view?”
    Years ago, during a rebellious phase, I left the corporate world to be a bohemian. That was fun. [ironic font] When I reapplied to work for the same company, one of the questions on the intake form asked, “What would your old boss have to say about you?” When I sat for the interview, I was stunned to learn that my old boss not only agreed with what I had to say, she had a lot more good stuff to report about me, too. That was a learning moment for me. The fact that your question startled me this morning tells me I need to hear the lesson again.
    Let me ask a personal question: this quest of yours, are you pulled toward something like bagpipes or pole vaulting because of the appeal? Or are you driven to achieve because you feel prodded and poked? Carrot or stick?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love that you tried being a bohemian for a while. Only good in small doses though, eh?

      I’m glad this post may have prodded some thoughts and I hope you were listening when you remembered that lesson. Because I don’t believe you are an underachiever’s underachiever at all. I read your blog. I’ve seen evidence to the contrary. 🙂

      As to your question: Hm. A bit of both. Carrot on a stick? It’s true what it says over there on the side of my blog. I really am trying to find something that I am instantly, spectacularly good at. You know, that thing that people say “My goodness, you’re a natural.” I haven’t found it yet. It bugs me.

      But I also have a bit of a “SQUIRREL!” tendency for things I haven’t tried. The pole-vaulting? I was running around the river, training for the last half-marathon, and as I ran past the athletics field, I saw someone teaching a group how to pole-vault. And I went “SQUIRREL!” or, more truthfully, “Oooh. THAT looks like fun.” 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The worst thing to be would be neither an underachiever nor an overachiever…..then you would be at the top of the bell curve….the middle of the mountain, as it’s said in Latin: in medies ocris, or “mediocre.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now, Cynthia: Residing in the meat of the curve does not mean one is mediocre. The majority may excel. Or the majority may at least be competent, or on the right track. I believe it is the very competent Jiminy Cricket who says in one of the Disney cartoons:

      “It could happen.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Listening to you and Maggie gripe about being dissatisfied makes me want to demotivate the two of you by knocking your over-achieving overly-competent heads together. After dressing you both like penguins.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Having been an underachiever throughout my younger years, it has been a hard thing to shift. Not that I’ve ever been an over achiever, but I might concur with Janet to be mediocre and happily satisfied.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess satisfaction is the key. Whatever you are, or wherever you sit on the bell curve, if you’re happy with it, then there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s those of us with the unsettled feeling that this is not who we’re meant to be or what we’re meant to be doing that get stuck on this endless quest.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. For once I feel sorry for you. So much pressure. And all self-inflicted.

    I’m a non-achiever: I do enough to get by and forever ignore the fact that I can’t play a musical instrument or sing, haven’t mastered mathematics, can’t draw, bake or sew, can’t snow ski or ride a horse, have no wit or comedic timing…(I think you get the picture).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t feel sorry for me, BB. It is, as you say, self-inflicted. And, you know, there are some significant people in my life who would not be there if I hadn’t always been searching for the next new thing. 🙂

      You are not a non-achiever. Just look at those photographs you post on your blog. Amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I used to think I just had no ambition; and my motivation, enthusiasm to do things tends towards being there in spades or not all. I started wondering yesterday if I might actually be an underachiever by default. Normalachieving underachiever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mm. Sometimes we want to climb the scary slide and ride it down at speed and sometimes we just want to sit in the sandpit. I get that. A Normalachieving Underachiever, eh? That’s a new twist on the theme. I see where you’re coming from. I think, as it has been said before, you have to find what you’re happy with really. Who says you have to be ambitious if you don’t want to be?
      Thanks for sharing and commenting. 🙂


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