Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-08-2019, 05:43 PM
Dinsdale is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 19,101

Is calling someone an "overachiever" insulting or complimentary?


I'm thinking at least somewhat insulting. If you wanted to compliment someone, you could simply call them "accomplished," or "quite an achiever."

And while we're at it, what would be a good example of an overachiever? Not someone with ability who has accomplished much, I'd think. Instead, I imagine it is someone who achieved more than you would expect given their natural gifts.
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #2  
Old 12-08-2019, 06:04 PM
nightshadea is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: a condo in hell 10th lvl
Posts: 6,093
Actually I've never heard the term used outside of educational/work .....

The only positive way I've heard it used is when someone is proud of the fact that someone else is like parents or relatives pround of their kids ....

But the negative connotations tends to either be "he's an overachiever (in whatever pursuit )that has no life other than that interest

Or "someone who goes overboard on something and is a smug asshole about it " so it gets used sarcastically

Last edited by nightshadea; 12-08-2019 at 06:06 PM.
  #3  
Old 12-08-2019, 06:11 PM
Manda JO is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,694
Every spring this happens, and every year it makes me sad: some kid doesn't get into the college they hoped for. Instead, they end up at a good state school. And they say something like "It's a good school, but I am so bummed. I could have not played tennis and not been on the Robotics team and still gone where I am going. It's like all that work was for nothing". Most don't feel that way--most do what they do because they like it or believe in it, though the desire to improve their college opportunities may be part of their motivation. And some realize they are more accomplished and talented person because they worked hard and developed their skills-- and that will help them be more successful at their safety school. But some seem to really feel like they wasted all that time because it was all to get into Princeton or whatever, and since they didn't, they've been played for suckers. And it burns them. These are the "overachievers" I don't like. But I also think the term can be applied to people who just always exceed expectations on everything.
  #4  
Old 12-08-2019, 06:27 PM
Dinsdale is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 19,101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
...But I also think the term can be applied to people who just always exceed expectations on everything.
As always, I welcome your perspective. But isn't what I quoted above a little insulting, as it implies expectations weren't all that high?

I've encountered it a couple of times lately directed at people who ARE NOT the frantically busy students you describe. To the contrary, if you asked them, they would say they are not anywhere near maximizing their potential.
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #5  
Old 12-08-2019, 07:15 PM
Manda JO is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,694
Well, no. I mean, it can be used in lots of cases. If someone goes above and beyond on the office Secret Santa, making cute little decorated gifts when the expectation was just a couple trinkets, I can see them describing themselves as an "overachiever ", somewhat self-depricatingly. It's a way of saying "I did more than I had to because I enjoy it". Someone using it to describe the Crafty Cathy might be insulting, implying she was being competitive or precious or trying to show off.

Context really matters here.
  #6  
Old 12-08-2019, 07:37 PM
monstro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 21,133
To me, an overachiever connotes someone who achieves well above the expectations and norms established for members of their group. I can see how it could connote someone who works just for the sake of working, without any added benefit to themselves or others. So I agree with you that "high achiever" works better as a compliment. But I don't think I would be insulted if someone called me an "overachiever" unless they said some other things to make me think they were being insulting.

An example of an overachiever (in a negative sense) would be someone who works in a warehouse. Let's say all warehouse workers are expected to load 30 pallets by the end of their shift, since this is the daily average loading rate per worker. But there's one guy who has a goal of hitting 45 every day. Occasionally he'll get up to 50, whereas all the other workers are maxed out at 40. Sure, he's producing a lot for his employer and stroking his own ego, but he's screwing his coworkers in the process. And he's also (unbeknowst to him) killing his back. Maybe if he paced himself better, his back might last him 30 years instead of punking out after ten. I think if this guy winds up getting a promotion because of all his hard work, "high achiever" would be an apt way of describing him. But if he has no chance in hell of ever getting into management or being rewarded monetarily for all his achievements, then "overachiever" is a better descriptor.
  #7  
Old 12-08-2019, 10:32 PM
GMANCANADA is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Toronto
Posts: 375
Like anything it can obviously be positive or negative depending one who's using it & the context. In general to me it's very positive.

As a past senior executive, overachiever was always a very complimentary term. Someone described as an "overachiever" meant that they are highly internally-motived to strive hard to achieve goals. That was exactly the people you wanted on your team. As managers we'd fight for those people and pay them more to keep them.

The only time I heard it negatively was when people were be "too much" of an overachiever causing them to have very unrealistic ambitions. We had a uni grad in entry level marketing (<3 months) who applied (and expected us to seriously consider him) for our head of Eastern European operations. WTF? I had to have a chat with him.

Where I've typically heard it used negatively is by an underachiever (aka "slacker") who doesn't have the internal motivation to succeed. They do exactly enough to get by and dislike overachievers making them look bad in comparison.

In Monstro's example: the person that's doing 15 pallets who says sarcastically, "Look at the overachiever, doesn't he know he'll wreck his back working that hard?" Followed by a predictably exaggerated eye roll and slow head shake.

If someone tells me my kids are overachievers, I'm very proud. I've done my job as a parent and they've got a critical element for life success.
  #8  
Old 12-09-2019, 01:07 AM
DSeid's Avatar
DSeid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 23,126
In general complimentary.

But to me achieving something by hard work and tenacity means more and is more ... admirable ... than achieving something because of some innate talent. To have achieved more, accomplished more, than your innate talent alone would have allowed you to do easily, whatever level that is, by virtue of your effort and tenacity, by dedication to making it happen, to do the very best that you could with whatever the gifts you've been granted, to overachieve, that is the goal.


And yes that applies to us all, be they Einsteins or loading pallets. It is the pride of doing your own best.
  #9  
Old 12-09-2019, 01:21 AM
Nava is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 43,176
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
As always, I welcome your perspective. But isn't what I quoted above a little insulting, as it implies expectations weren't all that high?
Expectations from good bosses when encountering a new subordinate are that the subordinate will be within a couple standard deviations of average, i.e., normal. I apply the same principle when I'm coming up with a project calendar and do not know the people involved yet. Those expectations aren't low: most teams end up having a lot of people in that range, someone who is faster and someone who drags the averages down.

My Stats teacher was surprised that I had only obtained an 85% (no curving) in my final exam because he knew me; both of us knew that I was a likely candidate for a 100%. He didn't have that expectation on the first day of class, and having it would have been extremely wrong. (Reason for the "low" grade: I took the exam with pen, paper, calculator and a really high fever)
__________________
Some people knew how to kill a conversation. Cura, on the other hand, could make it wish it had never been born.

Last edited by Nava; 12-09-2019 at 01:24 AM.
  #10  
Old 12-09-2019, 01:37 AM
Beckdawrek's Avatar
Beckdawrek is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Boonies??
Posts: 20,602
The lil'wrekker was a wannabe overachiever. She was just doing too much in highschool. She stressed over every test or tryout. Always in the AP classes. I used overachiever as an admonishment to try to keep her trying out for another club or play. It was just too much. Her stomach hurt for 5 years. 8th grade to graduation. She sees now. She is a double major at her University. Has a job at the library 3 evenings a week. I'm happy she didn't do the cheerleader thing or the sorority route. She's much happier concentrating on her studies.
  #11  
Old 12-09-2019, 01:57 AM
BigT's Avatar
BigT is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: "Hicksville", Ark.
Posts: 37,013
I definitely hear a negative connotation in most usages. It's just the prefix "over-." It implies "too much" rather than "above expectations." Overfitting means that you shoved something in when it didn't really fit. Being overworked means your worked too much, and would ideally work less. Being overweight means you weigh too much, and would ideally weigh less. Overeating means you eat too much, and would ideally eat less. To overanalyze means you analyzed too much, and that you would ideally not do so much analyzing. To overdo something is to do it too much, and ideally you would do less.

Sure, if you really value whatever it is you overdid, then it can seem like a compliment to you. But I don't think you can shake the negative tinge of that prefix entirely.
  #12  
Old 12-09-2019, 02:48 AM
BrickBat is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: US
Posts: 585
Now? Yeah, I'd say it's more insulting than complimentary. I would imagine that saying this from mid-late 1980s through the 1990s would be considered blasphemy, but since then ( and among astute minds even then it's become all too obvious that most of the RPMs of the hamster wheel being spun by said overachiever benefits "the man".

Full disclosure though: If someone described me as "competitive", I'd consider it a slur.
  #13  
Old 12-09-2019, 03:50 AM
nelliebly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Washington
Posts: 2,357
I've only heard it used as a term for someone who feels compelled to work much, much harder than is necessary because it's important to him or her to go above and beyond what's required: the kid who does twice the work necessary to get an A on a project, for instance, just to be SURE it's as good as it can possibly be, an anxiety-ridden Type A personality on steroids, so to speak.

I never hear it used as an insult, though I've heard people good-naturedly tease each other with the phrase. It's kind of a compliment, actually. YMMV, of course.
  #14  
Old 12-09-2019, 06:29 AM
doreen is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Woodhaven,Queens, NY
Posts: 6,755
I usually see it as a weird sort of half-insult, half compliment. It's not just the kid who gets the A, it's the kid who nobody thinks is smart enough to get an A but gets one anyway due to extraordinary hard work.

Last edited by doreen; 12-09-2019 at 06:29 AM.
  #15  
Old 12-09-2019, 06:40 AM
Mallard is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Western Canada
Posts: 383
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstro View Post
To me, an overachiever connotes someone who achieves well above the expectations and norms established for members of their group. I can see how it could connote someone who works just for the sake of working, without any added benefit to themselves or others. So I agree with you that "high achiever" works better as a compliment. But I don't think I would be insulted if someone called me an "overachiever" unless they said some other things to make me think they were being insulting.

An example of an overachiever (in a negative sense) would be someone who works in a warehouse. Let's say all warehouse workers are expected to load 30 pallets by the end of their shift, since this is the daily average loading rate per worker. But there's one guy who has a goal of hitting 45 every day. Occasionally he'll get up to 50, whereas all the other workers are maxed out at 40. Sure, he's producing a lot for his employer and stroking his own ego, but he's screwing his coworkers in the process. And he's also (unbeknowst to him) killing his back. Maybe if he paced himself better, his back might last him 30 years instead of punking out after ten. I think if this guy winds up getting a promotion because of all his hard work, "high achiever" would be an apt way of describing him. But if he has no chance in hell of ever getting into management or being rewarded monetarily for all his achievements, then "overachiever" is a better descriptor.
Or "keener".
  #16  
Old 12-09-2019, 06:45 AM
Isamu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Osaka
Posts: 6,752
It can be insulting but not always. Like if I think my whole group of friends are about the same level of intelligence but one of them just does more with it and has loftier goals, I could call them an over-achiever without being insulting.
  #17  
Old 12-09-2019, 07:25 AM
Ambivalid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 14,280
Well, in general terms, which would be more desired or seen as a complimentary term when stripped of all context, being an overachiever or being an underachiever? I think generally speaking, the "over" is more positive than the "under".
  #18  
Old 12-09-2019, 07:43 AM
pulykamell is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 48,600
Quote:
Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
I've only heard it used as a term for someone who feels compelled to work much, much harder than is necessary because it's important to him or her to go above and beyond what's required: the kid who does twice the work necessary to get an A on a project, for instance, just to be SURE it's as good as it can possibly be, an anxiety-ridden Type A personality on steroids, so to speak.

I never hear it used as an insult, though I've heard people good-naturedly tease each other with the phrase. It's kind of a compliment, actually. YMMV, of course.
Exactly as I know it.
  #19  
Old 12-09-2019, 08:15 AM
Dinsdale is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 19,101
Thanks all. The 2 instances I heard it lately were in social situations, where people were just chatting about what they and their families had been up to. When one person or another would comment on something they had done, another person said, "You (or your family) are such an overachiever." Maybe I'm too cynical, but it initially sounds like a compliment, but it also sorta suggests that the target had been bragging or something. Or a desire to make someone feel guilty/bad about their good fortune/hard work/success.

I guess I have experienced similar things in SOME (not all) social circles. People seem to almost want to make me feel guilty if I and my family are successful or happy. Does that make sense? It can be awkward when people are talking about their kids fucking up, or their jobs sucking, to say when asked, "Everything's going great w/ us."
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #20  
Old 12-09-2019, 08:37 AM
Ambivalid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 14,280
An overachiever is someone with the short stick of talent and the long stick of work ethic. The "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons Championship teams of '89 and '90 personified the overachiever. Especially players like Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Nobody would mistake them for the next Jordan, no matter how drunk but what they lacked in talent hey made up for it with grit.

Last edited by Ambivalid; 12-09-2019 at 08:38 AM.
  #21  
Old 12-09-2019, 08:40 AM
Busy Scissors is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: The Euston Tavern
Posts: 2,903
It's used insultingly in the contexts I'm familiar with - eg. it really is remarkable what you have achieved given your obvious limitations - such overachievement. I wouldn't ever say it to anyone directly as it is very patronising and belittling, and on the rare occasions I have to insult someone I prefer the direct route.

I'm not above using it amongst colleagues talking about another person's work - like most fields it's very possible to succeed in mine through perspiration over inspiration. Plenty of folk doing very well though hard graft and assembling a good team under them, but lacking the creativity and insight that is the mark of a genuinely talented scientist - overachievers. It's not an out and out insult in this context, as it would be stupid not to value hard work above almost anything else, so there's respect there but also a recognition of the type of game they're playing.
  #22  
Old 12-09-2019, 08:58 AM
monstro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 21,133
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post

I guess I have experienced similar things in SOME (not all) social circles. People seem to almost want to make me feel guilty if I and my family are successful or happy. Does that make sense? It can be awkward when people are talking about their kids fucking up, or their jobs sucking, to say when asked, "Everything's going great w/ us."
If I were invited to join a friend for Thanksgiving dinner and that friend told me that their family is full of "overachievers", I wouldn't necessarily brace myself for a bunch of bragging. Instead, I would expect a lot of questioning about my career and life goals and a lot of boring conversation about the accomplishments/disappointments of folks not seated at the table. "Did you hear Marvin is now chairman of the board? Isn't that great? But poor Anne found out she didn't get accepted to Brown. You know that has been her lifelong dream. She will just have to make do at Duke, I suppose!"

I would not expect a family of overachievers to entertain themselves by comparing and contrasting the characters on Floribama Shore.

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk
__________________
What the hell is a signature?
  #23  
Old 12-09-2019, 12:52 PM
Mallard is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Western Canada
Posts: 383
Overachiever is kind of a "belittling" term like you were marked in life for much less. My grade 12 physics teacher referred to me as the “consummate underachiever” like I was deliberate and calculating in my “underachieving”. I think he just wanted to make sure it was an “insult of insults”. You had to know this guy, he was the “consummate a**hole”.
  #24  
Old 12-10-2019, 12:50 AM
RioRico is offline
Suspended
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: beyond cell service
Posts: 1,377
I've not heard the term "overachiever" in corporate settings. The paradigm there was, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person."

The opposite does not hold. My ex called me a "failure-oriented underachiever" and she was mostly right.

Last edited by RioRico; 12-10-2019 at 12:51 AM.
  #25  
Old 12-10-2019, 08:36 AM
robardin is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Flushing, NY
Posts: 4,803
It's one of those terms that began as a compliment that began to be used sarcastically so much (like in the context of examples above where someone who broke the price curve in a Secret Santa, or someone working in or rattling off accomplishments or shiny milestones at a social gathering) that it's now taking on overtones of being a negative; in another 2 generations or so (or sooner) the transition will be complete. Similar to how "terrific" originally mean "that which inspired terror", then "terrifically good" was a popular and sarcastic way of saying "it was so good it scared me!", then just "terrific" meaning "really good".

And how for people under 30, according to the NY Times, "OK" or even "K" feels sarcastic or passive-aggressive, the common replacement being "kk" for "[o]k, kewl" to mean a casual "I'm good with that". While "OK" is read as "Yeah, OK, whatever. *walks away*"
  #26  
Old 12-10-2019, 09:02 AM
you with the face is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Laurel, MD
Posts: 12,659
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
Thanks all. The 2 instances I heard it lately were in social situations, where people were just chatting about what they and their families had been up to. When one person or another would comment on something they had done, another person said, "You (or your family) are such an overachiever." Maybe I'm too cynical, but it initially sounds like a compliment, but it also sorta suggests that the target had been bragging or something. Or a desire to make someone feel guilty/bad about their good fortune/hard work/success.
Tone goes a long way, so you'd know better than us whether there was a subtle slam behind this comment. But on it's face, it reads like a perfectly normal compliment to me.

If I'm gabbing with Jane Doe and she tells me that her daughter just graduated from West Point with honors, Jane's husband just got a book deal on his second novel, and Jane's new business just landed a big contract, I could totally see myself calling her and her family overachievers. Simply because they are achieving more than the average person in their socioeconomic situation has achieved, and there's clearly hard work and hustle behind it.
  #27  
Old 12-10-2019, 09:25 AM
Dinsdale is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 19,101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambivalid View Post
An overachiever is someone with the short stick of talent and the long stick of work ethic. The "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons Championship teams of '89 and '90 personified the overachiever. Especially players like Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. ...
Yeah, those are good examples of what I would consider a complimentary use of the term. Rodman too. Damn, it was nice when the Bulls finally beat them!

Quote:
If I'm gabbing with Jane Doe and she tells me that her daughter just graduated from West Point with honors, Jane's husband just got a book deal on his second novel, and Jane's new business just landed a big contract, I could totally see myself calling her and her family overachievers. Simply because they are achieving more than the average person in their socioeconomic situation has achieved, and there's clearly hard work and hustle behind it.
I can understand this, but I think it would be better to say something like, "Those are impressive accomplishments." To me, "overachiever" connotes trying "too hard", or doing "too much", possibly with the result of making others who are not as capable or hardworking look bad by comparison.
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #28  
Old 12-10-2019, 10:24 AM
bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 18,972
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
Well, no. I mean, it can be used in lots of cases. If someone goes above and beyond on the office Secret Santa, making cute little decorated gifts when the expectation was just a couple trinkets, I can see them describing themselves as an "overachiever ", somewhat self-depricatingly. It's a way of saying "I did more than I had to because I enjoy it". Someone using it to describe the Crafty Cathy might be insulting, implying she was being competitive or precious or trying to show off.

Context really matters here.
I think that's a good distinction- there are overachievers who are... just that way, and then then there are the overachievers who have a conscious, explicit reason for it- they're aiming for a goal, or they feel like they can't let someone else win, or they are attention hogs, etc... and are basically making a point of overachieving. They're generally the ones who people are referring to when they use the term "overachiever" as an insult I think, because that sort of overachievement is often obnoxious and toxic, and it's not genuine either.
  #29  
Old 12-10-2019, 10:29 AM
you with the face is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Laurel, MD
Posts: 12,659
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I can understand this, but I think it would be better to say something like, "Those are impressive accomplishments." To me, "overachiever" connotes trying "too hard", or doing "too much", possibly with the result of making others who are not as capable or hardworking look bad by comparison.
But that connotation doesn't work in the particular context I gave, because landing a book deal and scoring a big contract are tied to tangible benefits no one with good sense would roll their eyes at. You only look like a "try hard" when you mistake spinning your wheels with actually going somewhere in life.

I would only perceive insult in the way you're referring to if someone was talking about stuff that isn't actually impressive but gives the appearance of impressiveness to superficial or immature people who conflate activity with accomplishment. Think of a boy scout who is trying to max out the number of badges he has, not for the joy of mastering new skills but because he just wants to have the badges to show off. This is an "overachiever" in the sense you are talking about.

But I rarely hear the term used in that way in my parts.

Last edited by you with the face; 12-10-2019 at 10:31 AM.
  #30  
Old 12-10-2019, 10:44 AM
Manda JO is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,694
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I guess I have experienced similar things in SOME (not all) social circles. People seem to almost want to make me feel guilty if I and my family are successful or happy. Does that make sense? It can be awkward when people are talking about their kids fucking up, or their jobs sucking, to say when asked, "Everything's going great w/ us."
Is it possible that part of this is just that you are uncomfortable sharing on the same level, and people respond poorly? You have had some struggles in your family--you've posted about them here. There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep that private and put your best foot forward with people you know, but it can also be somewhat frustrating when it feels like someone is presenting their life as a Norman Rockwall painting. It can feel like they are trying to "one-up" you, not by being successful but by refusing to admit times when things haven't gone the way they want, when you yourself have been open about your struggles. In a case like that, people lash out a little.

Last edited by Manda JO; 12-10-2019 at 10:44 AM.
  #31  
Old 12-10-2019, 10:46 AM
Manda JO is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,694
Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
I think that's a good distinction- there are overachievers who are... just that way, and then then there are the overachievers who have a conscious, explicit reason for it- they're aiming for a goal, or they feel like they can't let someone else win, or they are attention hogs, etc... and are basically making a point of overachieving. They're generally the ones who people are referring to when they use the term "overachiever" as an insult I think, because that sort of overachievement is often obnoxious and toxic, and it's not genuine either.
Are you thinking about your wife? I am thinking about your wife--to me, she seems like an example of the first kind, the sort of person who just always wants to excel in what she does and doesn't at all care what other people think about it. That's a really good kind of overachiever.
  #32  
Old 12-10-2019, 12:09 PM
Dinsdale is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 19,101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
... You have had some struggles in your family--you've posted about them here. There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep that private and put your best foot forward with people you know, but it can also be somewhat frustrating when it feels like someone is presenting their life as a Norman Rockwall painting. It can feel like they are trying to "one-up" you, not by being successful but by refusing to admit times when things haven't gone the way they want, when you yourself have been open about your struggles. ...
No, it really hasn't been like that. I think the "struggles" I've posted about have been pretty minimal compared to what I hear/see of much of our social circle. And I likely magnify those struggles because my personal standards are so high. But my high standards are based upon an awareness of my and my family's abilities. Even doing a half-assed job, we have enough advantages that we should be able to lead decent lives so long as we don't fuck up.

All of our kids graduated college and are employed, independent, and in longterm relationships. We are both pretty healthy, and pretty financially secure. My wife has always done a very good job of having our home appear more "gracious" than my income might suggest. We've had our difficulties, but have been married 33 years.

So the kinda situation is people will be talking about which spouse lost their job, who had health problems, which kid dropped out of school or was arrested, who got divorced..., and we almost feel guilty about saying things are going pretty well with us. And if we just mention what we have done or what we expect, we are called "overachievers." I dunno, I merely consider us competent.
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #33  
Old 12-10-2019, 12:14 PM
bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 18,972
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
Are you thinking about your wife? I am thinking about your wife--to me, she seems like an example of the first kind, the sort of person who just always wants to excel in what she does and doesn't at all care what other people think about it. That's a really good kind of overachiever.
She's a good example of the first kind for sure!

I was actually thinking of some college acquaintances more than anyone else though. In college, I was in the dorm whose admissions were regulated by the university honors department- first as a resident, and later as a RA. To get admitted into that dorm as a freshman, you had to have won one of a few large university-granted scholarships, all of which were very competitive and required not only academic but extracurricular excellence. So nobody there was just an average achiever- we were all overachievers of some sort.

I noticed that people broke out into two basic categories. Most were just normal people who happened to be good and motivated at academics, and did the extracurriculars that they wanted to do because they enjoyed it in some way. Of course, with that population a lot of them ended up leaders in the various student organizations.

But the second category were the people who, for lack of a better term, had an agenda. They always had very defined and specific goals for the medium-long term, and were actively massaging their lives, grades and extracurriculars to get there. They weren't doing what they were doing because they were just good at it, or because they enjoyed it, but rather because it looked good on a resume, or to an admissions board, or something like that. Or worse, because what they wanted to do did NOT look as good as what they were doing. They were the people who were looking to get in to medical school, so they were engineering their resume to look attractive to the med school admissions people. They were the people who were planning to run for office in the future/be politically active, so they were engineering their lives to set themselves up for that. And since they had a goal, they were typically extremely competitive- they always had to win, or else they weren't going to achieve their goal.

They always came across as very insincere and fake- nothing that they were doing was for its own sake, but was always aimed at some other goal. They felt untrustworthy or suspicious for some reason- it wasn't a case of them actually being that way, but that was always my reaction to that particular sort of person.

The tl;dr version would be to compare the kid who earns his Eagle Scout badge because he liked being a Boy Scout, and doing that sort of stuff, versus the kid who joined Boy Scouts and got Eagle strictly because it looks good for college admissions, not because he likes camping or community service or anything. The second one is the toxic sort of overachiever I'm talking about.
  #34  
Old 12-10-2019, 01:18 PM
2Bits is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 490
A "back-handed compliment" at best!
  #35  
Old 12-10-2019, 02:55 PM
Surreal is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 2,237
I've never heard anyone use the term "overachiever" to describe someone they disliked. At worst it's a neutral descriptor.
  #36  
Old 12-10-2019, 03:48 PM
Velocity is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 16,193
Sounds like backhanded compliment to me. Like, "wow, how did someone like YOU get into Yale?"
  #37  
Old 12-10-2019, 06:08 PM
pulykamell is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 48,600
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal View Post
I've never heard anyone use the term "overachiever" to describe someone they disliked. At worst it's a neutral descriptor.
It can sometimes be used with an air of jealousy to it, but yes, that is my experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity
Sounds like backhanded compliment to me. Like, "wow, how did someone like YOU get into Yale?"
I can see how you can read it like that, but when I've heard the term in use, I've never really gotten that sense. Ambivalid's definition is about right: "An overachiever is someone with the short stick of talent and the long stick of work ethic," though I don't necessarily think you need to have a short stick of talent. You can be reasonably talented and still be an overachiever. To me, it is someone who works hard and strives towards achievement, someone who is very goal-oriented and successful vis-a-vis their peers. An overachiever does not necessarily need to be compared to his/herself, like in the interpretation that an overachiever achieves more than one would expect them to, but rather to their general peer group.

I honestly can't think of a time I've heard the term used pejoratively or as a backhanded compliment. With the right context and tone, I'm sure it can, of course -- that's just not the way I encounter it IRL.
  #38  
Old 12-10-2019, 07:22 PM
Personal is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: The Beach
Posts: 2,697
I had never considered it negative before, but some good points have been raised. I can see how some people would.

Last edited by Personal; 12-10-2019 at 07:23 PM.
  #39  
Old 12-11-2019, 09:27 AM
bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 18,972
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I honestly can't think of a time I've heard the term used pejoratively or as a backhanded compliment. With the right context and tone, I'm sure it can, of course -- that's just not the way I encounter it IRL.
When I've heard it in a negative context, it's always been about one of those second category people, and usually when they've overachieved in a way that draws undue attention or leaves others behind.

It hasn't been used as an insult or a direct pejorative term, but as part of snarky-ish commentary about the overachiever's behavior. Sort of like saying "Oh, did you hear about so-and-so's son in the newspaper?" and then the reply would be "Yeah, he's a bit of an overachiever, isn't he?", with the implication that he's getting a bit big for his britches. It's not quite a crabs-in-the-pot situation- nobody's claiming he doesn't deserve it, but they're critical of how he got there.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:42 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017