Confessions of a High Performer ... Gone Rogue


I didn’t meet my goals in my accountability group for last month.
What? Why? There could be a host of reasons.
My Dad was in the hospital.
I’ve had health challenges.
My practice is too busy.
I forgot how to use Garage Band.
I just wanted to sleep.
The dog – if I had one – ate my list of goals. 

I think it’s really because I wanted to test the waters of NOT getting my work done, for a change.

When one of the members asked me what my penalty would be if I didn’t meet my goals for September, I never answered. All I could come up with was “abject self-loathing,” the feeling that usually ensues when I don’t succeed.

Gnarly thoughts.

I didn’t want the group to have a window into the self-talk that makes me perform (a remnant from my tough figure skating coach’s ways). Because, you see, that’s a part of what I help people do: transform their self-talk so they can love themselves into doing their best at whatever they do. They perform better and are happier that way.

Yes, we do teach what we need to learn, but I wasn’t walking my talk. The conflict had caught up with me.

I have valiantly met my goals each month for the last year or so. It felt good. It felt right. I knew I would hate myself if I didn’t. THAT part just felt bad.

 I’d had enough.

What if I didn’t meet my goals … on purpose … kind of…?

I was so very ready for a breakthrough of my own kind. Something had been knocking at the door of my awareness for a while, and I was just beginning to notice.

Now mind you, most of this was unconscious. Looking back, I see its patterns, but at the time, I was sailing along, setting my very achievable goals, knowing I would just get them done at all costs.

I had faith in my ability to push myself over the finish line.

Then, I began to procrastinate. I just didn’t want to push myself anymore.

The inner voice said, “It’s okay, you ALWAYS get it done.” I finished my writing goal, posted my blog, and waited for the third goal – putting music behind my voice recordings, the easiest one! I spent some time and got about half way through it, but didn’t focus on it.

Maybe this high achiever needed to rebel - finally.

I rebelled against the structure and discipline of a figure skating childhood and 25-year career on the ice as an adult. I rebelled against a constant straight-A academics mindset. I rebelled against having to do everything just so, or not at all. 

It was time to say no to the chastising voice inside, to face it and to risk failure. 

There’s a slippery slope in this story, which is that I could easily berate myself for not walking my talk, for rebelling when I should conform, or even for bringing this sordid story into the open. I am coming to believe that the dark side of high achieving – for some of us – does need to be brought into the light. 

The slope gets even more slippery when we try to blame the dark side. It rebels and pushes back. It gets clever and finds other avenues to get its way. 

Instead, I vote for understanding the dark side, the part of us that actually needs to be seen, valued, and given a chance to speak. You see, the dark side is the hurt part, afraid of not being loved if everything doesn’t go well. Give that part love and patience, and transformation has a chance. 

The sweet truth here is that this is a story of controlled failure. But, it’s a good beginning, where a chastising voice can learn to be a loving and supportive one. 

The next step for this recovering perfectionist is to risk trying something new, something that might be hard enough to not do well. It’s time to risk getting a “C” or even – God forbid – last place, because the value in learning and willingness to be seen will overshadow the quality of the performance. It’s time to let go of that need to control failure. 

Success has a lot of definitions. 

You can succeed without putting pressure on yourself. 

It’s a good theory, and I’m willing to test it. 

What I always tell my clients is that effort trumps outcome, and that their self-esteem will come from how hard they try. I still believe that, and see its truth daily in their growth. I would add that self-esteem can grow from taking the risk to do something that might be challenging and new, where you might feel silly or awkward. 

I’m all for redefining excellence as a true expression of who you are. An excellent performance can be real, raw, and messy, because of the spirit in which it’s given. 

What if excellence could also be defined as how willing you are to grow, to expand, and to know and love yourself more – unconditionally? 

It works for me. 

Bring on this new month and a new form of excellence. I don’t mind pushing myself, but I want to do it by encouraging myself to grow with a voice of loving reason. I would like to prefer a voice of fun seeking and playful risk. 

No, I won’t try tightrope walking or streaking in Central Park. I’d rather not die or get arrested proving my theory of excellence. 

Whatever I choose, I don’t want to push myself relentlessly. 

I want to sprint across the finish line, oblivious to who’s around me, on the track or in the stands, fairly flying with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. 

If I meet my goals, that’s awesome. If I don’t, it’s okay. I’ve grown through not reaching my goals, too. 

There’s a whole lot of potential yet to be met. 

It’s all good. No, it’s excellent.

Katie Peuvrelle