Overcome insecurities for sustainable success

Insecure Overachievers

Female insecure overachiever - stressed at work from overwork and perfectionism

Do you find yourself working long hours, striving for perfection and seeking external validation, despite being successful in your academic and professional career? If so, you may be an insecure overachiever, the ideal employee for consulting firms, banks, law firms and other career driven environments.

In this article, we explore the signs and consequences of the underlying insecurity and lack of self-worth. We will show how coaching can support you to overcome insecurities and perfectionism. In this way you can achieve sustainable long-term personal growth and fulfilment.

What is an Insecure Overachiever?

Personality Factors & Patterns of Behaviour

An insecure overachiever strives for and usually achieves external validiation, professional success and advancement. This is driven by an underlying sense of inadequacy and a sense of self-worth conditional on performance. Such insecurity is often rooted in unconscious beliefs of not being good enough.

Therefore, Insecure overachievers set for themselves high standards, view their own work critical and feel the need to make their work product better. Despite achieving significant success, they may still feel like they’re not good enough and seek further validation from others.

Signs of being an insecure overachiever

Insecure overachievers exhibit behavioural signs that indicate their underlying sense of self-doubt and need for external validation.

  • Perfectionism – Setting very high standards for oneself, focus on minor details. Frequently asking oneself if my work product can be improved and trying to perfect it
  • Approval seeking – seeking approval before taking actions or decisions
  • Seeking praise and recognition – seeking praise from others as well as status and “official” recognition to feel worthy and successful
  • Fear of making mistakes – checking and double checking documents in the fear of being called out for a mistake
  • Fear of failure – reluctance to take risks and a tendency to avoid challenges
  • Strong sense of self criticism – being one’s own hardest critic – If something goes wrong, focus mainly on one’s own contribution rather than blaming others
  • Difficulty saying no – feel pressure to constantly achieve and prove oneself to others, taking on too much work and tendency to overwork
  • Lack of self-care – prioritising work, achievement as well as the demands from others over one’s own well-being, leading to physical and emotional exhaustion

By recognising these signs, individuals can begin to reflect and take steps towards overcoming their insecurities, leading to greater success and fulfilment.

Effects of Career Choices and Organisational Culture

Often, insecure over-achievers are scholastic and academic high flyers – they are straight A students and perform well academically. After graduation, they chose professional environments where this strong work ethics and output quality is rewarded. At the same time, insecure overachievers make great employees, because they are constantly striving for a high quality product and nevertheless see their own output critical and try to improve it. Therefore, this type is specifically sought for entry-level positions in many industries.

As a result, work environment and culture reinforces the underlying insecurity of these employees:

  • On-the-job training: Insecure rookies entering a consulting firm or young analysts entering investment banks are supervised by more experienced employees who are similarly insecure and therefore reinforce perfectionism (“attention to detail”).
  • Organisational culture: As people in the organisation think alike the qualities of strong work ethics, perfectionism and long hours are becoming the new normal. A culture, where “Lunch is for wimps”, and where professionals pride themselves of all-nighters and excruciating travel schedules.
  • Staff appraisal and promotions: Also the organisation itself is reinforcing the insecurity by an “up or out” selection for advancement – ensuring strong competition amongst people. Competition and one’s own insecurity is further brought into consciousness by regular appraisal processes. Herbert Henzler (prior boss of McKinsey Germany) once told the author that this was intended to make sure that the insecure consultants stay in the sense of insecurity.

Why it is important to overcome insecurities

Perfectionism and strong worth-ethics works well in school and university, where standards of success are relatively clear. Stellar academic performance results in prestigious job offers after graduation. This strategy also often works well in entry level positions. However over the longer term, effects can be problematic.

Long-term effects of being an insecure overachiever

However, as the individual advances in his / her career, tasks become more complex and more difficult to evaluate. Success becomes more dependent on environmental factors, position within the company and relationships. As a consequence, the link between effort and result blurs. At the same time the height of fall increases – a middle manager has something to lose and may therefore work even harder.

Effects often include long-term patterns of overwork. While such overwork may still manageable in one’s 20s, it often becomes more difficult to manage with ageing. Long-term it can lead to neglect of personal health, reduced personal life and strained relationships.

Demands from private life may result in inner conflicts and a feeling of not being able to fulfil either set of demands from work or private life sufficiently. This may contribute to decreasing motivation. At the same time, lack of risk taking and too much concentration on day-to-day demands may result in missed career opportunities.

In combination with the underlying pattern of insecurity and self-criticism this may result in burn-out and depression. Physically this may be accompanied by health issues, such as insomnia, headaches, tinnitus, digestive problems and other psychosomatic symptoms.

The longer the individual compensates insecurities through overachievement, the more likely it is that this strategy will have detrimental side-effects.

Gaining Confidence and Changing Life Patterns

Overcoming insecurities and lack of self worth can have long-term positive effects on one’s career and private life: By learning to value your-self and trust in your’s abilities, you can achieve greater success and personal growth:

  • More efficiency at work / focusing on what is important: Letting go of perfectionism allows you to focus on what is important. This enables for faster reactions and interactions and therefore faster feedback and results. You get done more in the same time.
  • Positioning for leadership: Delegation, decision making and communicating with confidence in complex and situations are key skills for successful managers and leaders. Letting go of perfectionism as a standard for yourself and for others allows for faster interactions and faster results.
  • More authentic relationships and interactions: Going into necessary conflicts with confidence and flexibility contributes to improved relationships. You will be able to be more authentic and to form more genuine connections with others.
  • Better Problem-solving & creative skills: Stress at work is linked to the emotions of fear and anxiety. This brings dangers to the forefront – perfectionism and error-avoidance contribute to narrowing perception and missing important cross information. Lowering anxiety and insecurity allows you to gain for more creativity and better problem solving ability.
  • Better momentum for your goals: Getting rid of the inner hand-brake will free up energy and allow for better momentum towards reaching your goals.
  • Better health and mental resilience: Better work life balance, time for physical exercise, friendships and partnership have long-term health benefits. You will be able to weather professional demands easier with a healthier body and a good personal support network.

By addressing the root causes of inner insecurities, you can break free from limitations and achieve greater success, happiness, and overall well-being.

The Benefits of Coaching for Insecure Overachievers

Coaching can help you gaining a deeper insight into your strengths, weaknesses and motivations. It involves reviewing behavioural patterns and investigating how you interact with others. This will be complemented by personality tests, which provide an objective measurement of personality traits and preferences.


Gaining confidence will contribute to a winning body language and persuasive verbal expression. You can feel better in your interactions with other people.

Coaching will give you specific tools and exercises on how to use your body and mind to change your inner feeling and provide better self confidence.

Clarity of thought

Changing the content of our thoughts often proves difficult by oneself. Thoughts are often the result of emotions, which need to be addressed first. The structure of perception, processing of experiences and construction of thoughts often determines the emotional impact and direction of our thoughts.

With the help of a coach you can identify the structure and patterns of your thought. You can change the way you form thoughts. This will change the emotional impact of your thoughts and contribute to inner clarity.

Managing Emotions

Emotions have a profound impact on our thoughts and behaviours. If we can recognise and accept our emotions, we are better able to understand the underlying causes of our insecurities. We can identify how emotions are triggered and what patterns of thinking and behaviour result from them.

Anxiety is prone to a vicious cycle: Anticipating a setback or failure often leads to heightened anxiety, negatively impacting our mental capacity. Moreover, it reinforces self-critical thinking patterns, further contributing to insecurities and self-doubt.

A coach can help you manage your emotions and find a good way to deal with anxiety. In this way, you can develop a positive and supportive mindset. You can learn to regulate your reactions to external events and situations

Embracing Your Vulnerabilities

Insecure overachievers often try to hide or deny their vulnerabilities and compensate them with external success and validation. This however does not address the underlying inner feeling of insecurity / vulnerability. Ignoring this emotional reality may result in feeling isolated and disconnected from oneself, which can exacerbate our insecurities and emotional distress.

With the help of the coach you can go to the root of the issue and truly support your vulnerabilities from within. This will contribute to a greater sense of self worth and confidence.

Setting goals

Being aware of your needs and interests is crucial for achieving a fulfilling career and a healthy work-life balance. On this basis you can determine your priorities and goals and be open for chance opportunities which fit your overall direction.

  • Your needs, interests and passions: When we align our actions and choices with our genuine desires and passions, we tap into a source of inner motivation and joy.
  • Priorities and goals: When we pursue activities and goals that truly resonate with us, we are more likely to experience a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Roles, boundaries & limits

Establishing healthy boundaries and limits is critical for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and reducing stress levels. This will involve saying “no” and negotiating conflicts with other people when you need to prioritize your own needs or other projects.

  • Roles & responsibilities: Setting role boundaries includes clear expectations for professional roles – what is my responsibility and what is not. You have to decide what you are willing and able to do, and negotiate professional role boundaries with others.
  • Work vs. private life: Setting boundaries between work and private life involves limiting time at work and availability during evenings and weekends. At what point do you stop looking at your emails?
  • Limits & capacity: Setting limits includes your personal limit how much work you can take on. You decide about your capacity – how much time and energy you are willing to invest in certain tasks or projects.

Managing Conflicts

The ability to manage conflicts is key to establishing healthy boundaries at work. This involves being able to communicate effectively and assertively with colleagues, and managing differences of opinion.

Coaching can help you to

  • Stay calm and true to yourself
  • Manage your emotions in a conflict
  • Be more assertiveness and make sure your point is heard
  • Devise effective communication and negotiating strategies
  • Gaining flexibility so that you can negotiate a compromise which works for you