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The Climb: Is Overachievement a Hollow Victory?

Updated on May 19, 2011

In school we are often told that by doing our best we can achieve great things. I've also noticed that teachers seem to respond to you better when your grades are higher. To me, and to who knows how many others out there, the field of academics has become like climbing a mountain both to please adult authority figures and to secure future success. But once you get close to the top, then what?

When you're overly-concerned with getting A's on almost everything, you start to be held to that standard both by those around you and consequently yourself. Those who expect you to be perfect are disappointed when you make a mistake, and it makes you feel like you're walking on a tight-rope. Others will take the chance to jeer at you and kick you while you're down, thinking that you've been rightfully knocked down a peg or two. Stress levels at maximum, you may feel like there's no margin of error, that you aren't allowed to make mistakes, and that when you do you will be faced with disdain from your elders and mockery from your peers.

Even if you do manage to reach the peak of the mountain and graduate with honors, what does that mean? Conditioning yourself to be an overachiever just trained you for more academics, not necessarily the workforce, and you probably had to sacrifice a major part of your social life in order to do it. I've often noticed that underachievers have more fun and can get away with it because others have long since stopped holding them to any kind of academic standard. Those who are skilled at something and can get a decent job out of high school without being pressured into getting straight-A's are probably the best-off right now, especially with college grads struggling to find work in their field to pay off their massive student debt and get their lives started. That's not to say a college education doesn't have its benefits, but people shouldn't be forced into it or be made to feel bad for not going.

Something needs to be done socially about the disparity between average students and the overachievers. If a student tends to score higher on tests, they are pushed to always score at or above that level. If a student scores in the lower ranges, they are advised to do better but are told that being on the honor roll is overrated. To some extent, being an honor roll student is in fact overrated (I myself declined to join the Honors Society because I didn't want to give up my Friday afternoons, but that was also because I attended other clubs most other days of the week as well), but what kind of message does that send to the people who are on it? It hurts the brain to think that what you've accomplished is only a hollow victory and that not everybody is held to the same standard as you. All that time and effort seem to have been for nothing, especially if you can't afford college or can't find a job with the degree you got there because you don't have the years of real-world experience to qualify.

The goal of this hub is not to incite a war between the different levels of achievers. Rather, it is to point out the disparity of expectations and the unfairness associated with them. If we are expected to move mountains, perhaps we should simply turn the mountain on its head and push it into a deep chasm so as to level the playing field, at least in an emotional sense. Those unsuccessful in any area, whether academically or in the real world, should all be allowed some form of relief as long as they keep trying their best at it. Otherwise, we will spend our whole lives wanting what the other half has, whether that's the ability to relax or the recognition for achievements no matter how hollow.


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    • JenPsych profile image

      JenPsych 6 years ago

      Very interesting point. As a pseudo-overachiever myself, I am constantly frustrated at being tagged and ignored as an "average student". I am eager and willing to learn anything, yet educators seem to pay the most attention to only the best and the worst in the class. I have heard teachers complain that "it is a challenge" to keep the most knowledge-hungry unbored, while still helping those who are lost to still achieve. What about the middle? I want to be lifted up into the cadre of "the smartest and the gifted", as I believe everyone does. But maybe there are limited spots.

      Well written, voted up!