Confessions of an Overachiever

Written by Bethany Jarmul

I was nine years old, sitting in Mrs. Lanham’s 3rd grade classroom. The air smelled of chalk dust and anticipation – it was report card day. “How do you think you did?” Ted whispered to me. “My parents are going to kill me if I didn’t get a least a B in math.”

Then it was time. My classmates passed the yellow half-sheets of paper down the aisles. I turned mine over. Mostly A’s with a B in science and a C in penmanship. That was pretty good, I thought.

At this small private school, nothing was a secret – not even grades. And somehow Kayla caught a glimpse of mine. Her blonde hair bobbed as she chatted with the other five girls in our class. Finally, and with no effort to keep me from hearing her, she said, “Poor Bethany, all the other girls got straight A’s except for her.”

My nine-year-old brain synapses started firing at an alarming rate. If I was a cartoon character, my eyes would have turned red and steam would be coming from my head. That was it. From now on, I would get straight A’s. I would show Kayla. I would show them all that I was smart.

And so I did. Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school – I never got another B on a report card. During my valedictorian speech at graduation, my white grad cap slipped off my head and I caught it mid-sentence.

But it didn’t stop there. I got accepted to a prestigious college and pushed myself to follow my same pattern of perfection. Plus, I  joined nine extracurricular groups. Yes, nine! Most people spend college hanging out with friends or partying. My life was spent with my nose in a book or mapping out a fundraiser.

I got my “dream job” right out of college. It seemed like all my hard work had paid off and everything was great. But it wasn’t.

I recently read an article about this very thing and how it shows up in the workplace. According to the author, “Insecure overachievers are exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy.”

That was me!

I was achieving in every area of my life. Everything looked perfect, but inside I was in knots! Eventually, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. My life was going wonderfully, I had a great job, a great marriage, great friends, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a failure. I had to do more to prove myself.

BUT THE TRUTH is that God loves me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He accepts me for who I am and I should too. So, I am on the journey of a recovery and seeking wholeness (sozo) for my brokenness.

As my favorite author, Ted Dekker writes, “Life occurs in cycles of remembering and forgetting.” It’s a cycle of remembering and forgetting who we are and who we were created to be. Sometimes, we need some help to remember.

If you are like me, if you have ever believed the lie that you are not good enough, that you have to do more, to be perfect, to be accepted by God or by others, I wanted to share these truths as a starting point. These are truths that I hang on to, declare to myself again and again. I encourage you to write them down, to hang them on your wall, to pray and declare them over yourself again and again.

We have to rewire our minds from our old patterns of thinking – we have to remember who we are! And it’s all based on who GOD is!

  1. God’s grace is sufficient for me! It is more than enough. And His power works best in my weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  – 2 Corinthians 12:9

  1. I am a child of God. That is my identity.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Galatians 3: 26-27

  1. Only God can satisfy. He can fill the deepest desires, the largest whole in my soul, the anguish, the striving that I feel, all I have to do is let go and let Him.

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. – Psalm 107:9

  1. I am deeply loved by the Creator of the Universe.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5

  1. There is rest in Christ. Thank God! The burdens that we carry, we can lay down at the cross.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30

  1. I have to stop striving and start trusting.

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10 NASB

Another version puts it this way: Be still and know that I am God. –  Psalm 46:10 NIV

I have a beautiful Hobby Lobby decoration with that verse: “Be still & know” hanging on the wall in my living room. I think it’s currently my life verse. If I can master this concept – the ability to be still in His presence with no distractions – no Netflix or text messages, no emails or phone calls, just me and God – to trust Him wholeheartedly with everything – with my health, relationships, job, responsibilities, my emotions and worries. If I can learn to lay all of this down to the Creator of the universe, that is where true peace is found.


Bethany Jarmul is blessed to be a part of the staff of Allison Park Church. She loves God, her husband, her dog, and gluten-free pizza – in that order. She was raised in West Virginia, but after four years in the ‘Burgh, her family tells her she’s picking up the Yinzer accent. She’s not sure she minds too much.