The psychology behind overachieving gays

“I thought gay people were all successful overachievers.” – Glee (Season 4)

Hi my name is Kenji, 27, and I am an overachiever. I think I have always been.

As I sit down to write this article I look back at my achievements over the years. Bought property at age 24, have a career and working towards my dream … and yet I am alone.

For me I believe it stems from something else.  Like many gay men, I seem to have an inherent need to really achieve. I’m sure that a psychiatrist would trace it to a subconscious yearning to feel a level of self-worth or something. I believed the only thing I had going for me was what I did.  I thought if I pushed myself hard enough, if I produced — and, not only if I produced, but if I produced perfection–people would notice me and my accomplishments. Thus, I believe that my self-esteem is low.

Being judged based on my sexuality made me ambitious but it’s also a positive desire not to allow such prejudice to affect me, to break through certain obstacles, to push myself to be a living impediment to homophobic prejudice.

Is there something about the psychology of being gay that makes people overachievers?

I’ve been hiding behind the career and the achievements. It finally caught up to me. Eventually, I understood what I’m doing.

At the end of the day, I saw that by pushing myself [and pushing people away from me] to achieve even more and even better — because I can’t face the truth of who I am, because the need to run away from myself is endless — won’t help me deal with the pain inside, the pain of being something I hate, the pain of being something I believe everyone else hates, too.

John Pachankis, a Professor of Psychology at Yeshiva University did a case study that found gay men were more prone to be overachievers than their straight counterparts.

“Several well executed studies show that gay men’s self-esteem actually isn’t any lower than straight men’s self esteem,” Pachankis said. “Although that was puzzling, we suspected that it may be a clue that gay men are engaging in an adaptive strategy to protect their self-worth.”

So the reason for this article is to set myself free from striving for perfection because nothing and no one is perfect.

Article published in The Pink Tongue August 2014

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