The insecure overachiever is a person who pushes themselves relentlessly to improve, but never quite arrives. Corporations love this personality because they work extra hours, keep giving more and more, and often self-manage. The end result is a burned-out leader who hides behind a lifetime of trophies, awards, and titles. In this episode, Tony Lister explores the ways to break the habit of overachieving and how to actually enjoy the journey. He shares with you how you can learn to live by the flow and connect with yourself to become what you truly want to be.
It's an honor that you've joined me. In this episode, I'm going to be talking about The Insecure Overachiever. I learned that in an article that I read and I thought it was this cool phrase. I went to Google to give credit to the person that came up with that phrase and 100 articles mentioned it. I tried to give credit to someone and I couldn't remember her name. The insecure overachiever, when I heard that, I was like, “Wow.” The concept was that the corporations are looking for that profile of a person, the insecure overachiever.
I try to find a location that resonates with me to do the show. I am sitting on the playground equipment next to the school where I grew up, where I went to grade school. I'm outside the sixth-grade room where a lot of my insecure overachiever tendencies were honed and developed. In particular with one of my teachers who I had a real struggle getting her approval. I was thinking about this as I was sitting here. I remember when I had gone to junior high school, this was the grade school. I've moved on to the next level. I came and maybe this is when I was leaving here or something. I said to my teacher, "I'm going to run for class president in seventh-grade." She laughed at me. She's like, "Who's going to vote for you to be the class president?"
It became this thing that I had to do. It was this completely irrational thing that I had to prove in my life. When I got to junior high school, I ran for class president and I did an obnoxious speech. I went as far as making fun of the principal and everything. All the other kids thought it was funny that I would be willing to make fun of the principal that I won the class president. It was funny because there was nothing about it other than to head this election, and then I was the class president and I didn't ever do anything.
In my broken ego and identity, it was important to achieve. I came back one day after school and I went up to my teacher here and I was like, "I'm the seventh-grade president." I wanted to rub it in. I wanted it to be like, "See, I told you so and you said I couldn't do this and I did it now, I proved it." She didn't remember saying it. She's like, "Okay." Inside me, it was critically important. This profile of the insecure overachiever, this article that I read said, "Corporation likes it because they don't need someone to manage them that much. They need someone that person is going to seek the approval of."
It's not so much a taskmaster that prods them along. It's maybe a bit condescending, difficult to please manager or supervisor that the person is self-motivated to please. Often when we are striving for success in our life, contemplate this within you. We have these goals. I want to be a successful person and those often include money, "I want to have money. Why do we want to have money? I can buy stuff with that money." The ideal relationship with money is that we buy stuff because we want to have certain experiences. We want to have it because it feels a certain way. We buy shelter, eat food and buy clothing because it makes us feel a certain way.
There's then this intangible side of the money where we think it's going to make us feel significant in some way, those possessions or that money. That's where this insecure overachiever piece comes in where we get that first round of things that we think we're going to buy and that are going to satisfy us. All of a sudden, there's this whole new world of things that we didn't even know that we needed that we need so that we can feel a certain way and relationships. We can fall into this trap in relationships of needing to be needed and loved or fearing rejection and abandonment on a level that becomes toxic with our body and our relationship to our body.
This ideal standard, this Photoshopped, unrealistic, unaging eternal youth game that marketing, media and advertising have demonstrated to all of us and none of us can live up to it. I was fascinated when I had some clients that were models that I coached. They were on magazine covers and in photoshoots and all these different things. They were very beautiful women. I was surprised at how harshly critical they were towards their bodies and look. There's this thing that we play and I was contemplating it. Back in the day, the school system that most of the world uses to educate children, a lot of it was put in place in the United States by Henry Ford. Henry Ford had this idea of the assembly line where he could pump out these Model T cars and rather than having each car be a uniquely designed vehicle, they would have uniform parts and uniform processes to create that. You could push it through the conveyor belt
Each person would have that one task that they'd be doing and move on to the next person and they pop out a car at the end of the day. When he started hiring people for his factories, people would leave the farms and come into the factories. He had a hard time getting someone that had worked in a farm to stand there all day and turn the same bolt over and over. When you think about this, the flow of living on a farm is a lot of work. There's no question. You'd get up in the morning and you'd have the morning activities that you would do.
You need to take care of animals. You do these different things and then midday when it was hot and you do different activities, you might even rest. Evening activities will be different. Maybe you sharpen your saw by the fire. There are these different levels of activity and that person that was used to that flow and variety had a hard time sitting there all day, turning a wrench and bolt in the same direction over and over. Henry Ford came up with this idea and when I first heard this, I thought it was bullshit. I started looking into it. As far as I can tell, maybe somebody is going to look this up on Snopes and be like, "Tony, you're wrong. You’re reading fake blogs." If that's the case, I accept that I've read it on the internet. Therefore, I think it's true.
As far as I can tell, he came into this and he designed this way of educating children. They put them in a hard chair, make them sit at a desk, do repetitive tasks. They ring a bell and change tasks immediately and go to the next task and do that over and over. He designed it to create good soldiers and good factory workers. This became the standard of education, which is insane to me that this is still the standard of education in a lot of parts of the world. The question I asked you is, "Do you want to be molded to be a good soldier or a good factory worker?" The modern education game is molded to pump out a product and that product is an insecure overachiever. The person that will work longer hours motivated by themselves to do it, driven to try and prove something.
I would have you contemplate within yourself and ask within yourself, "What is it that you're trying to prove? What is it that you ultimately want to get to with your success?" Think about the possessions that you want to get. The house that you want to live in and the car that you want to drive with, the watch, the phone, the staff, the trips or the experiences, what is it ultimately that you want to get aside from the actual product itself? There's something that we want it to soothe, fill in us, to make us feel a certain way. It's important, particularly moving forward as there's going to be all kinds of disruption. There's going to be societal changes. There are going to be businesses that come and go.
If we're too attached in our identity to this stuff, business, job, status, house, car, relationship and to all these different things, our entire identity becomes brittle and fragile. As those things change, we break. I'm saying this because I was attached to my identity as a speaker, with my physical possessions, houses, cars, stuff, my identity and money that when the markets changed. I was not prepared for that change and I got completely wiped out. There was something inside me that broke and it took me years to connect with again. There was this piece in me that was deeply ashamed at failing that I couldn't come out and create again for several years.
I'm suggesting that having an adaptable story about yourself not being fixated on, “I need to be the seventh-grade president. I need my body to look this way. I need to have this possession, degree, role,” or whatever those things are that we ended up getting caught up in. That you allow for there to be space that maybe there are other stories that will bring you greater satisfaction in life. Maybe there are better stories in place that you don't have to be the seventh-grade president in order to be happy. This is the challenge of the insecure overachiever. The conversation I want to dive a little bit deeper into with you in this space is your identity and your story about yourself and what your story says you need to achieve in order to be okay, enough and successful.
Let's look at this in the major areas of life. Let's start with money because it's the one we all have a certain need for. I live in a pretty remote part of the world and I'll meet people that live almost entirely from their land, occasionally, but they still need money sometimes. They still got to get gasoline. They sell vehicles and all this other stuff. Money is this thing we have to have even if we try hard not to. If we play the game and when we pretend to go, "I don't need money, I don't care about money," then we end up without resources. Maybe this is super judgmental on my part. I'm sure there's some human being that that could potentially be reading this that goes, "No. I live my life according to my purpose and money is not a part of that."
If you can pull that off, I freaking envy you, honestly. I don't disrespect you. I haven't been able to figure that out. I got five kids and money's an important part of my life. I spent a lot of my energy and a lot of my time pursuing money. It's very important. Is that the most important thing to me? Not even close, but when I don't have it, it becomes freaking important. This story and this identity and the insecure overachiever, what do we make up about money, or what are we expecting money to do when we have this profile? I fit this profile. I won't even pretend that I'm not still sometimes insecure. I'm an overachiever. I question myself sometimes why I do this.
I had a conversation with a billionaire. I was having dinner with her in London and I was digging at why she was busy in her life? I spent 3 or 4 hours with her that day and her phone rings many times. It was unbelievable. I said, "You can live anywhere. You can do anything. Your businesses are managed. You don't have to do this. You don't have to travel so much. You can buy anything on the planet. Why are you busy?" It was uncomfortable for her. We were in this restaurant and I could tell she was a little uncomfortable that someone's going to hear the conversation. Her body language was there but I didn't let up. I laid into her like, "I don't get it. Why are you doing this?" She finally goes, "I feel like I haven't done enough."
She had been a published scientist. She had raised three children, she had overcame breast cancer. She had done things politically and moved forward some beautiful endeavors for women in her country. She had done so much. The story was that she hadn't done enough. I would have you contemplate this and there might be this conversation going on inside you be like, "This is the show. What does this have to do with the flow?" Here's what it has to do with flow. If we are governed by a voice outside of us, we can't hear the inner voice. Learning to live by flow is learning to connect with yourself and learning to hear the inner voice and learning to trust the inner voice and cultivating radical intuition so that we can create things in the world that we can be up to the things that we want to be up to.
Whether it's big or small, it doesn't matter. If it's the life we want to be living and it's the life we want to create, that's what this is about. It's about learning to follow that inner guidance system to create the life and relationships you want to have these experiences in your body, energy, mind, heart and the actual creation. Getting stuff done and making the things real in the world that you want to experience in your life. That's what this flow is about. When we are insecure overachiever, we have a story outside of us that we let money run us. This story says, "What are they going to think? What if I don't have enough or they have more than me?"
One of my first coaching clients, he put on this big event and he brought in one of the guys from Shark Tank, Robert Herjavec. He brought in Gary Vaynerchuk. He brought in a lot of big-name speakers and authors and people to this event and I helped him put the event on. We've had a trusted relationship for over a decade. I was behind the scenes. I got to meet some of these people that were at the top of their games and I went to the VIP dinner with these people. It was in Las Vegas. It was a VIP lounge thing and it was all the speakers. This interesting experience for me as I walked in and the guy that put the event, I was like, "You've got to come to this. I want you to meet some of these people. I want to do this stuff." It wasn't like I was not welcome. I was welcome. I was on stage with them completely side-by-side part of the event but my insecure overachiever started to go into overdrive.
I would look around the room and be like, "That guy has 100 million views on social media. That guy sold three companies for over $100 million. That guy is on Shark Tank or this woman ran this organization." There were all these different people that were up to big things. There was a person there that ran one of the biggest charities in the world. As I walked into the room, my insecurity, I was in the doorway of this VIP lounge and it was going crazy. That inner voice of like, "What the hell am I doing here?" These people, most of them have more money than me and many of them have done bigger things than me.” I was talking myself down and out of my value.
That's what will happen if we will let this insecure overachiever run the show. We stay small and we don't show up and it talks to us out of things. It talks us out of being vulnerable in intimacy. It talks us out of taking risks around making more money. It talks us out of being connected to our body and then we do stupid shit to make our body feel different. We overstimulate the body or we numb the body out because we're not able to be present with our self. That's why this is important to flow. As I stood there in that doorway, I was like, "A lot of them have made more money than me? Yes. Have they done bigger things than me? Yes." Am I going to be able to come into this and have the contest and peacock around and be like, "Look at me I make all this money or look at me, I did this big thing?"
That was what people generally do at these events. Everybody peacocks around and all these insecure overachievers are like, "Look at what I did. Am I enough? Please, validate me. Am I enough yet, please?" I stood there in the doorway and I was like, "Is it true that I have nothing to offer because they've done different things than me?" I was like, "No, that's not true." I was like, "What's possible if I have a different story?" What was possible is I can be a unique resource in this room because I've developed a skillset that a lot of them haven't developed. I've developed this place of Flow. I've developed this connectedness to self. I've developed this radical intuition and place of learning to love myself despite all the mistakes and all the whatever.
I know that a lot of them haven't developed this. I can show up in this space as a unique resource and serve them in a way that going, "Look how much money I have. Look at what I did." That doesn't serve them. That's not what they need. I was like, "What is my story about myself needed to be to show up this way?" The story was, “I'm a unique resource.” I was like, "This is my story." I walked in and the first conversation I had, and I see a thing about myself, I talked to this guy for twenty minutes, asked him question after question about him, his world and his challenges. Finally after twenty minutes, he's like, "Who the hell are you?" I'm like, "This guy's coach. This is what I did I helped him put this on."
The next person I talked to is the same thing. It wasn't about me, and it was about them. I made it about them and I got to have this whole night, hours of interesting conversations that those people were not going in the place of going, "Look how much money I've made." We went into the real challenges in their life, relationship, and the different things that they were dealing with. It was a beautiful experience for me and it was a deep connective experience for both of us. Me connecting with this human and looking past the success and looking past the things that they peacock around with.
Looking past the insecure overachiever to a human being who was trying to figure things out and the money and success wasn't fixing it. That there were these problems that those things we’re not addressing. We got to dive into that and it was great and rewarding. With our money situation, that's why this is important. If we don't learn to change the story of the insecure overachiever, the insecure overachiever is listening to these things on the outside, and caring about what the other people, society, media images, and all these other things think. We care too much about that and we don't listen to the inner voice. We don't listen to when our intuition says, “Go.” When our intuition says, "Go talk to that person or get out of the way, get out of this deal." We don't trust ourselves enough because we're listening to the noise outside of us.
In our intimate relationships when we show up as the insecure overachiever, we don't let ourselves be seen by that other human being because we show up and we want to perform. We want them to like us or we want to keep a certain distance or keep a wall up. We're afraid if they see the brokenness behind all the looks, stuff, clothes, money, sex, and all these different things. If they see the brokenness behind the scenes, that there's no way they could accept us. What happens is we don't experience intimacy. We may have sex, conversation and connection, but we miss out on the intimacy of being seen by another human being.
You might consider this in some of the work that I do with clients, particularly when we're doing journeys. Some of you may be like, "Journeys, what does that mean?" We'll talk about it in another show. When I'm doing journeywork with people, with plant medicine, we're going deep into their broken parts. One of the exercises that were transformative for me was with a healer that I worked within a journey space. She said, "You didn't feel like you were seen as a child. Your parents had so much on their plate, they couldn't see you." As a little child, you were looking around going, "I'm aware of something. Can someone see me? Can someone validate me? Can you acknowledge me?"
One of the exercises that we'll do, and I did this to my seminar, is being able to look this other person in the eye and have a human being say, "I see you. You exist." The insecure overachievers out there are going, "See me, please. Can I be seen?" When we can learn to let our guard down and become kinder to our self, what's possible is letting more and more parts of us be seen when we're in a relationship that wants that. I don't suggest that this intimacy should be shared with anyone. This is not a Tinder date intimacy. This is someone that you have to develop trust with that has demonstrated that they will be kind to your intimate places. They'll see you and they'll honor these spaces.
What happens is as we get more in alignment with our self and connected to our inner voice, the insecure overachiever driver doesn't run the show anymore and we can have an incredible connection that's rewarding in our physical body. When we step out of letting all the things on the outside, like that noise of that hyper-awareness of how we look and how our body looks and all these things on the outside, how it should, we are back in connection with self. We do this by getting in the flow state. We get back in connection with self, then what happens is we start to pay attention to what our body needs. The result of that is greater energy and vitality. We start to feel good about this thing. Our health improves.
What happens in our physical body when we begin to change the story of the insecure overachiever is that we're able to listen to what our body needs instead of being governed by this thing outside of us. The standard of beauty for the standard of, how we need to appear or look? How does our body need to show up? Instead of driving this thing, pushing it and being harsh on it, we start to pay attention to it and listen to it. When we give our body what it needs in return, we get energy, vitality, and wellbeing as we tap into this flow state. This flow state is a body, mind, and spirit experience. All of this is a collective experience of who we are as a being. That's why we have to set this as a lifestyle.
If we want to break these patterns of being the insecure overachiever and get to experience the life that we want to live and move in the direction. I want to say it differently because I get tired of this. I see these posts on Facebook, Instagram, social media and they're like, "Are you living your dream life? Are you living exactly the way you want to live?" It's funny because there's like, "I've done a whole bunch of things that were my dreams, but I've never felt like I was fully living my dream life." I don't want to perpetuate an idea that I haven't been able to live up to. What I do believe is that we can continue to move in the direction of more and more of the life that we want to experience with our deeply connected relationships with the physical body, with how we make money, with the impact and the contribution that we make.
It may never feel like we're arriving, that we're fully there and that's okay. When we stop making the story, it means that I have to feel like everything's perfect for my life and my life to feel perfect. We can start to live and experienced now. If this has been an issue for you of being an insecure overachiever, I know it has for me and I've spent a lot of years breaking these patterns and cycles. I have created different courses and programs that are designed to align with how the brain changes, how change takes place from a physiological and emotional standpoint within us.
The tools and processes that will take you through this step-by-step process of, “How do you shift out of that story of being trapped by this insecure overachiever thing? How do you more often get in alignment with yourself and come from that true inner voice?” If this is something that can help you, I've talked about this on other shows. I created a 21-day audio course called Water Weed Repeat. It's the process of natural creation, you water, weed and repeat. This course is designed to cause the shifts in your emotions, which then caused the shifts in your neural pathways. It’s these exercises that you'll go through. Writing different times and you have different steps that you'll take.
As you do these steps, you're creating the shift in your brain and it starts to break the pattern of the insecure overachiever. If you don't break this pattern, you should expect that it will continue. You have to proactively do something, otherwise you'll keep getting the same results that you're getting. If this would be helpful for you as a gift to you, the first four CDs or the first four audio downloads of this program, you can have those for free as my gift to you. It's a process that takes you through challenging the core story of who you are as a human being. Creating a shift in that story, which is how we then shift out of the insecure overachiever, and then we begin to have the ability to follow that radical intuition and take those steps to create the life that you want.
I hope this has been helpful. If this is something that's been a challenge for you, be easy on yourself. It's not your fault. That's telling the kids that were raised in the Henry Ford system of education that they should somehow be super intuitive and be able to function on a farm well. It's not how it works. We make these changes incrementally over time and begin to create more and more of the life that we want to live by being in this flow state. I look forward to talking to you in the next episode. In the meantime, create yourself a fantastic day.