Deconstructing the High Achiever

The high achiever in our culture tends to be a complex thinker, a multitasker, focused and driven, goal oriented, future focused and often intense in engagement. The high achiever has successfully linked his or her existence to the vehicles of business and thought that are the products of the dominant culture. As the fabric of the dominant culture and the rules of engagement are fracturing, the high achiever can lose all bearings.

Your reliance upon your competence, your need to prove yourself and the reassurance provided by your own sense of agency and control all fail to sustain you when the culture begins to suffer transformative crises that force you to surrender all previous ways of ordering your identity. As a high achiever, you can be cast adrift. There is a loss of inner organization, a failure to find meaning in old places and an inability to feel a sense of efficacy or agency.

In the dominant culture, the most lucrative and respected positions of power are given to those who are highly cerebral, high achievers skilled in human relations. This level of success and recognition comes at a great price. The denial of your authentic needs and inner knowing, a high degree of inner criticism, ego driven engagement and a kind of censorship that facilitates conformity enable you to succeed. Unfortunately, these traits also prevent you from deep self knowledge or an inner sense of sanctuary in times of crisis.

As a high achiever, you may experience crisis in the form of:

  • A Loss of Meaning – frustration, despair, dissatisfaction and a sense of purposelessness.
  • A Loss of Satisfaction from success or previously rewarding endeavors.
  • Disengagement– depression, disorientation, an inability to feel connected, a sense of inauthenticity.
  • An Experience of Loss– death of a loved one, financial or physical devastation, career disruption, a loss of moorings.

These experiences are all invitations for the high achiever to deepen your relationship to meaning that lies below the agenda of the egoic self.

The Struggle to Surrender

High achievement is a value that many gifted individuals incorporated  into the fabric of their lives as a way to relate to the world from early in life. Deconstructing the need for recognition and externally motivated meaning involves returning to early wounds and reasons for the value structure that was adopted.

There is often a dramatic crisis for the high achiever when gifts that have been trained upon adaptation and survival must be revisited. These gifts are core places that inform how one lives and makes choices. There is a requirement to untangle from external pressures that have been internalized. One learns to surrender the judgments and the expectations of others. The requirement becomes to focus on inner realities, not the needs and expectations of the outside world.

However, for the achiever for whom success and competence are priorities, disassembling your way of relating to life in order to live in the unknown and experience the highly uncomfortable are realities to be avoided at all costs. This leaves the high achiever in limbo.

Trapped by the Mental

Buddhism, yoga, meditation and numerous other teachings promise to offer techniques to help you move beyond the egoic self. However, without: access to information below the mental realm, a reframing of your adaptive mechanisms, and a personal vocabulary for your own personal landscape – anything that reinforces mental engagement keeps the mind fed and your authentic being trapped.

High mental functioning can make it next to impossible for any practitioner to access the deep and complex themes that live below the world of the mentally complex and highly cerebral. As highly complex individuals who function at multiple levels of awareness at once, finding a therapist, coach or healer who can hold the whole picture, follow numerous threads, and who offers a peer level sophistication can prove impossible.

You find you end up having to limit what you share and how you share it so as not to surpass the practitioner’s capacity to comprehend and synthesize.

Unhooking and Detoxifying

Deconstruction involves cutting the invisible chords of the culture that strangle the authentic self. This enables you to untangle from values that are not your own and judgments that mask clear sight of your own nature. Themes of how you relate to yourself  get tracked to your identification with the dominant culture. You recover what has been denied, shut away, disowned and pathologized in order to belong. You can then find a vision beyond the lens of the culture and live from your own inner authority.

There is a process of detoxifying from the need for external validation, limiting beliefs, focus on the future, fear based perception and living a life without trust. When power, comfort, wealth and status are no longer the barometers of success, the ability to relate to yourself and to others from a place that trusts the emergent from within allows you a kind of flexibility and neutrality. Self knowledge, comfort with not having answers, self acceptance and the ability to discern what is essential from the noise of the culture enables you to  live in a place of compassionate presence with the creative unfolding of things.

When you heal, you are able to:

  • Replace cultural expectations with personal truths.
  • Define and cultivate what engenders meaning.
  • Appreciate and nurture what is beyond the mental realm.
  • Experience alignment between internal knowings and actions in the world.
  • Trust times of emptiness or discomfort.