What does it mean to be an Under Achiever?

This morning I find echoes from my past ringing in my brain.

I feel the vow: “No matter what, I won’t be one of those Under Achievers!”

Perhaps it was the age I was raised in. It was common, if I remember correctly, for teachers to view students who had more potential than they were demonstrating in the classroom to be labeled “under achievers.”

Of course, I was an under achiever! Always have been. Always will be!

As I tap, I realize that I decided (or it was drummed into me) that being an under achiever was something to be ashamed of – akin to letting your dog starve. Weird, isn’t it, how something culturally like that doesn’t just get under our skin but ends up a background “app” running and sucking power.

Of course, if I was more a rebel, the symptoms of that being under my skin might be a chronic commitment to never being one of those “achiever” types. I might avoid achievement like it was arsenic!

Instead, it has been, and considering how I’m feeling this morning, something I’ve had to address over and over to balance out my system.

Let me offer an example (for me as much as anyone who reads this):

I’ve started this Community Center. The desire to do so was not sourced from “achievement” – it comes from a desire to be Together, to Engage, to have a Shared Wisdom We-Space. And more. Selfishly, it offers an “easy” outlet for words and awarenesses like this post. I really LIKE having this space, and it suits my nature and nurture to share it.

Ahhh, and then comes the “don’t be an under achiever” part of me.

“How many people have to engage here for it to be a success, an achievement?”
“What’s your GOAL, what is the OUTCOME that would mark this as an achievement and not a failure?”

Eeeek! That last one hurts. Tap tap tap.

That part of my brain goes to things that can be measured: visitors, members, posts, M-O-N-E-Y. Weirdly again, there’s no real number on any of those that actually means “achievement!!” No matter what number I pick over any timeframe, there’s a sense of under-ness to it.

Ugh. We humans can be so un-satisfiable. :wink:

I’m grateful that I’m aware that there’s actually no way to satisfy myself if I view my work, my life, my day through the lens of achievement. I’m always under achieving compared to Divine Potential. There’s no measure that couldn’t be excelled beyond. And yes, such a frame of reference is stressful, depleting, and unsatisfying for me.

Instead, my frame that I am reminding myself about is the Simple Uplift. Right as I wrote the paragraph above, the sun came up over the mountain and shined on my face. Ahhh. I’ll take that as a sweet coincidence that reminds me that I stand for something other than “measurable achievement.”

The uplift of seeing a person share that she resist joy, and now really wants to make more room for it. Another who shared about her wolf energy. Another who joined and has yet to write anything but her presence really matters to me here.

You see, my sense is that we’ve strip-mined the emotional world by over-measuring based on achievement. I have thousands of examples where that feels true. Achievement feels like something that can add value and motivation… it just doesn’t to me feel like We-Space nourishing in the way that Engagement and Embodying Love and Responsiveness and Generosity do.

Has this “achievement” thing been an issue for you, too?

How do you see it playing out with those you care about, and want to engage with, in ways that block connection and co-creation?

I’m really curious.


Wow…tap, tap, tap…this “achievement” thing is/has been an issue for me for a long, long time. I’m trying to remember when/from whom I got the message that I wasn’t an “achiever” because I never finish anything (projects, ideas, relationships); I run away, hide…my throat tightened up and my eyes welled as I’m typing these words. I really dislike the word “never” … even through my tears and tight throat I know it’s just not true that I never finish anything…and I am grateful for that awareness.


Yeah, I have paintings of your that are Hanging Proof that you finish things!

Perhaps we can support each other in being Thrivers rather than “achievers”?

As I was walking today I had such a strong sense that every breath is an Achievement. To have an Idea or vision or notion is an achievement. Thing of all the millions of neurons that must do Gold Medal-level work to have any of this! To read and process what we’re sharing! To feel what we’re feeling, even the hard stuff.

Perhaps this whole paradigm of “achievement” is becoming archaic. It’s time to evolve it. Sustainable Thriving in the NOW works for me :heavy_heart_exclamation:


I so love that phrase “Thriving in the Now!” That is where I am now. I used to have so many goals. Many I achieved, a few I didn’t. I was going to write that I don’t have goals anymore but that isn’t true. Although I’m not sure I want to call them goals. I like achievements much better!!!

I achieve to dance as exercise because not only is it good for my body but it is FUN.

I stand for helping put smiles on people’s faces, hoping to brighten their day with my Fun page on Facebook.

I love to send hearts out all over Facebook and now here. :heart: :heart:

Taking pictures is a joy for me.

Am I trying to achieve something by doing these things? Are they goals? No, they are FUN and bring me JOY.

Maybe I am an under achieving blogger. I don’t blog every day or week or even month. I thought I “should” so I posted a bunch of lame stuff instead of what I wanted to write. Does that make me an under achiever? I used to think so but not now. When I feel like writing a blog it will be because it means something to me, not just to write to get followers. I don’t care about followers. I’m just writing because I like to. At first I blogged for followers hoping to get people to get readings from me. It was stressful and not fun plus it did not get me one client. Neither did my radio show but boy was that fun.

Maybe to some others I am an under achiever. I don’t see myself that way as much as I used to.


I wanted this center to be an outlet “when I wanted to write” and for when I “wanted to respond” to that which is alive with me, family, friend, clients, the world.

To me a blog or space like this allows us to engage aspects of ourselves.

Scott Adams speaks to the difference between goals and systems. It’s sort of a technical term, systems. Yet, when I translate that into Thriving in the Now, it means that I have ways in my life that allow for sustainable… curiosity, expression, generosity, togetherness, love embodied, depth, exploration, and the like.

A goal has always felt flat to me. I’m glad. Any goals I’ve set and reached haven’t been necessarily things that add regularly to my life.

So… I have a system where when I’m ready to start my day at the computer, I have Daily Reminders, one of them is the Morning Mile, another is Spanish, and another is to put something Fresh in the center.

It’s not a have-to. It’s an invitation, a part of my system to remind me what matters to my heart. I feel the SYSTEM is adding to my thriving because it makes it, hmmm, “easy” to be in the flow of engagements that matter.

Thank you SO MUCH for being here, Jean! I love that I’m feeling that this center and the systems I have around it are leading to more of the kinds of engagements and interactions I’ve wanted, and less energy where I’m less nourished. Hugs, and Happy 2021 to Be!


I like your idea of being “Thrivers” rather than achievers!


I’m a recovering over-achiever and people-pleaser. For a while, my path was to purposefully under-achieve to prove to myself that I will still be alive and have value if I wasn’t the best. Still working on these thought patterns and Catholic School traumas. Re-parenting myself according to a new set of values. I definitely struggle with the M-O-N-E-Y part - find myself checking my bank accounts and law school loan balance and beating myself up about how I will never be where I want to be, nothing is good enough, comparing myself to other people who have nothing to do with me, etc. I want to feel like I’m enough just where I am. Those apps are totally draining my battery!


Wow! I can really relate to the “Catholic School traumas” (with no previous religious training I found myself in a private, catholic, girls’ school from 5th through 9th grade) and being a people-pleaser!! Phew…and Re-parenting!! Is that what I’ve been doing all these years!! I believe you ARE enough just where you are ~ I am too :blush:


I like the feeling when I accomplish something…but is that the same as ‘achievement’? I’m not sure…each word sort of resonates a bit differently from the other for me.

I’ve never been goal oriented and I’ve often thought that this has been a real failure for me. When I use the word goal I envision it as a path, chosen consciously, set in a certain direction…there’s going to be twists and turns and misadventures but in general you’re travelling in the ‘right’ direction…it still feels ‘right’. I’ve very seldom had that experience. It appears to me that most of my life experience has been the result of not setting a path or of avoiding a path or not even knowing that there could be a path just for me. Undoubtedly these are trauma behaviours and beliefs.

In fact, goals/achievements/accomplishments seem to be the lens that I use to look back over my life quite frequently in the last few years and I always come up short. I often can feel like my life has been a waste for the most part and I probably don’t have to tell you that is NOT a nice feeling to try and wrestle with. But there it is…it’s presence is undeniable. It’s part of a “background app” that keeps me very unsettled and often lacking in sleep and I’m kinda clueless about how to begin to alter that narrative I tell myself because the ‘evidence’ of it’s truth is undeniable to my present way of considering all of this.


This reminds me of a frame of reference that was helpful to me on my journey…

If it hurts, maybe there’s intelligence in that… but not necessarily what you assumed it was.

I used to assume that when I looked back in regret or harsh self-judgment, and it HURT, that it was because, well, those judgments and regrets were truth! Wasn’t I supposed to feel bad for my past?

But when I put my hand on a hot pan handle and it HURTS, it’s a reminder… “Don’t do that. Use an insulated glove. Put it on before you touch.”

I find myself wondering whether putting on Kind Compassion for who were were first is a key. And if we don’t, OUCH. HURT.

@Glenn I don’t know all your past or what you might at this point want to have accomplished. For me what I notice is that whatever your journey, you’ve become a man who can reflect here, in a group, about vulnerable real feelings. I certainly know “accomplished people” who cannot do that!

Depends on what really matters… eh? And if it really matters, there’s still Possibilities for us to engage our heartistry there.


Thank you Rick…I appreciate the kind and thoughtful comment. :slight_smile:


I struggle with black and white thinking so achieving enough is the equivalent of being perfect which isn’t possible or even describable. What would have to happen for me to be “perfect”? What do I need to accomplish to get there? In school I only felt accomplished if I got 100%, A+. If I got 98 on a test instead of 100 boom instant failure. I’ve done a lot of work on this. One of my new mottos is “It’s ok to be gray” not perfect but not a failure, somewhere between.

I also want to mention achievements in a good way. I imagine in my head like video game trophies/awards to give to myself for things I feel proud of for me. These are trophies I earned and worked for and feel good about, achievements/accomplishments that matter to me. I get a small uplift from reminding myself of the things I have accomplished instead of berating myself for what I haven’t done. Even if I “fail” at all the other things I “should” be accomplishing, at least I have a few to feel good about. Which is a lot more than I had in the past.

My 2 greatest self given awards are quitting smoking cigarettes and finally listening to my body and cutting contact with my abusive dad. I can remind myself of these things and feel like yeah, I did it.

So I think it depends on the context of how you view achievements/accomplishments and what does that say about you. If you don’t meet your goal, does that make you stupid, bad, lazy, underacheiver? If you do succeed do you allow yourself to enjoy it? I’m working towards celebrating the things I have done instead of lamenting the things I haven’t. There will always be ways that I don’t measure up, that I didn’t accomplish enough (to whose standard?), things I started and didn’t finish, things I want to do but don’t start, things others do that I wish I could do for myself and on and on. I’m really good at focusing on the bad and looking for any way I might be inferior. I’m tired of that and want to start allowing myself to feel a small bit of joy for the small accomplishments I do make.