The Inner Emptiness Of The Super-achiever

(Image used with kind permission of the artist Angela Holland-Yousaf)

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Super-achievers excel and leave others in their shadow.

Paradoxically some people become super-achievers to avoid being engulfed by the dark emptiness of their own emotional shadow.

There are of course different personality types, as well as personal motivations and interpretations of success.

I'm focusing here upon those who are driven to produce and succeed whatever the cost to their health and relationships.

They can't settle for the income and recognition that most of us would be proud of. Their relentless efforts reflect their deeper craving for parental pride - and to be seen as worthy of their parent's time, attention and love.

Perhaps they have become over-achievers as an act of rebellion to their parent(s) – 'I'll show you!' - but there's never enough to be shown which could make the much desired difference to their relationship.

The craving to fill that empty void in the heart drives the over-achiever to always be searching for the next challenge and goal to be attained.

Being busy and productive can be a distraction from an inner bully and fierce task master who relentlessly shouts of their failures and inadequacies. They feel wrong and bad but know not why.

They wear a mask and play out a role which they hope will fool others into believing that they believe in themselves.

Keeping that mask in place, correctly playing out those roles and working hard to avoid the shame of exposure of emotional insecurities and 'weakness', causes deeper inner turmoil and stress – which is toxic to the soul.

No-one sees the real person beneath the praiseworthy behaviours and apparent success. No-one knows the overwhelming presence of loneliness – heavy and painful feelings which persist even when there are other people around.

The inner child of the over-achiever relentlessly puts on an act and is the only one who knows what's really going on behind the props and scenery – which have been carefully designed to fool everyone else.

When we haven't grown up to expect praise and attention for who we are - and instead are only seen as worthy of time for what we can accomplish – this skews our self-concept into being dependant upon our output. We feel fundamentally flawed without our impressive 'results' to offer up to others.

We all need to feel significant, to be liked and seen as of value. If we didn't get this from the adults who created, birthed and raised us then who else could we possibly be worthy of getting it from?

When the arms of love are missing a child will retreat into their thoughts and imagination. In the absence of unconditional love a child will punish themselves and either give up, or fight to be noticed for something they can have control over.

Years of undertaking academic study and research, or hard work climbing a corporate ladder cannot fill that aching void deep inside them - which imprisons their neglected, abandoned or abused inner child.

So they offer up the rewards of their academic qualifications, sporting achievements, major salary or even celebrity status as an olive branch to their parents – whether they be alive, absent or deceased.

Perhaps this might make an abandoning parent see them as worthy of their time and want to be reunited, or make the parent regret their loss.

This offering up of proof of worth is all the more likely if a parent is narcissistic and only values their child for the reflected glory which makes themselves look better... 'Look everyone...I must be a great parent to have a child who is so successful.'

Professional or business success and financial wealth become the 'evidence' that they do matter in the world, after all. The evidence doesn't fool themselves, they still feel empty and unworthy.

They may have read the statistics about happiness not being dependent upon material wealth or accolades but their inner child doesn't believe that. That vulnerable and emotionally neglected child aches with self-doubt and self-dislike (or even loathing). The raw pain which nothing seems to soothe in spite of wealth or fame.

Some of us might envy the super-achiever and wish we could also have similar levels of success.

In return the super-achiever might envy them for having had different family foundations in place – which meant there was nothing to prove to gain acceptance, that love and liking were unconditional, and that material success is not a valid currency to buy people's attention.

The inner child of the super-achiever might have all the toys and trinkets they want, but they remain emotionally neglected and adrift in a sea of despair. The land ahead is never reached no matter how big the yacht!

Compensation and consolation sink into the depths of loneliness and desperation for unconditional love, and acceptance.

In that respect we are all alike in our needs – we just have different ways to try to get them met.

As parents we owe each of our children our time and unconditional attention, interest, and loving care.

We must heal our own wounds and not pass these on to our children.

We should not expect our children to make us feel proud or happy – that has to be our own responsibility.

Our children may then choose to achieve more than their peers – but they won't be driven to do so as an attempt to feel better about themselves or to gain parental love, care, interest, time and compassion.

For help and guidance about how to heal and re-parent your inner child please read my articles HERE and HERE

Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR for women – where you'll find a page of FREE resources to help you to understand the effects upon your inner child of having had an unhappy childhood and difficult or toxic parents. There's also an inexpensive self-help online guide/course called '3 Steps To Sort Yourself Out – without therapy!'and two childhood recovery coaching programmes. – Therapeutic self-development, helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours – to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! – 10 online self-help workshops of Psycho-Emotional-Education – helping you (men and women) to help yourself to a better understanding and experience of life. Workshops are inexpensive at £27 each and cover – anxiety, depression, anger, stress, self-esteem/confidence/assertiveness, understanding yourself, understanding relationships, how to be happier, mindful living, and mind/body/weight/health balance – a new paradigm in therapy which works to change the unhelpful sub-conscious belief system or S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) - Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time

Maxine Harley