4 things that stress high-performers out (and what to do about it)

As a high-performer, I spent most of my life stressed the fuck out, never celebrating my wins, and constantly wondering if that tightness in my chest was an impending anxiety attack or heart attack.

It wasn't fun. Here's the thing - you didn't do this to yourself. I firmly believe that high performers aren't born, we're made. Unless you have a defined Heart (aka will centre) in your Human Design, high performance doesn't come naturally to you, and it's external conditioning that makes high performers feel like we have to constantly work our asses off, be competitive AF, and you know... never just chill the fuck out.

Knowing the intricacies of your Human Design (you can book a reading with me here if you want to really understand how you're meant to operate in the world) can help you figure out exactly why you've taken on this conditioning and what is exacerbating those feelings, but in general, there are four things that stress high performers out.

Let's go over those, shall we?

Unrealistic expectations

As high achievers, we’re kind of entitled and we think we should be farther along than we are. The truth is we're always exactly where we're supposed to be at all times.

Because your self-expectations are high, you never feel that feeling that other people describe as satisfaction, except for in the most fleeting of moments, and you also expect everybody else to perform at your level. Even though you know that’s full on impossible.

And it’s created hella trust issues, because you feel like you can’t rely on people, which reinforces the belief that you’re the only one you can count on/you have to do things yourself for them to be done right, but… get honest with yourself here.

You’re setting an expectation that isn’t realistic for yourself, so how do you expect others who might be less motivated than you to ever meet a standard that you can’t set for yourself?

You have to be gracious with yourself by giving yourself more credit... and then you can extend that to everybody else.

I know that that goes against every fibre of your being, but chances are… you weren’t supposed to be born this way anyways (remember that heart centre?) so letting go of expectation will actually be one of the most earth-shattering things you can do in the best way possible.


Lemme guess, when someone asks you if you can do something, your answer is usually always “yes” - and then one of two things inevitably happens: You look at your schedule after you’ve said yes and you realize that you had 3049583048503945 other things to do that week and this is the 3049583048503946th now OR you realize that you didn’t wanna do that thing at all.

That causes stress because now all you can think about is the things you don't want to do and have to jam into your schedule. This is usually fed by a one-two punch of fearing that people won't like you if you don't say yes to everything and being the person in your family who has to hold shit together all the time.

Learning to say NO will seriously free up so much space in your life to say yes to the things that you actually care about, whether that’s clients, friends, family, etc.

And yeah, it’s freaking hard to say no at the beginning. You’re going to piss some people off… but frankly, you’re better off without them. You don’t need to be anybody’s doormat, honey.

When you start setting boundaries for yourself and holding space for what you desire and knowing if something feels right for you (again, by being in integrity with your Human Design), you'll vibrate people right out of your life and though it might sting initially, in a few weeks, you'll realize that you're so much happier without their presence in your life.

Out of alignment

As a high performing, influential kinda bitch, you’re probably caught in a cycle of validation addiction… otherwise known as chasing your next bit of praise. Because it feels so damn good.

Who cares if it’s a project or client you really couldn’t give two fucks about? If it’s a move up or if you’re scouted or if you see dollar signs, you’re there.

And you promised yourself that you wouldn’t ever make that kind of decision again… until you got that next opportunity for that spotlight.

And look, praise and validation in and of themselves are not bad. I love being recognized for my work and I love being praised - I’m a Leo… I live for that shit 24/7 365 (and 366 in a leap year).  

Where it gets dangerous and destructive is when misaligned decisions pile up because that leads to you getting farther and farther off of your path.

A tangible example for ya:

Let’s say that you really liked someone and you had an instant connection but his job didn’t really stack up to your expectations. He was a bartender and you firmly and ONLY want to date a lawyer, doctor, or someone on Wall Street. So you guys fool around for a bit and even though he doesn’t make fun of you for your weird habits, he never gives you shit about staying late at work, and he looks at you like you are a supreme GODDESS, when you meet a lawyer who’s interested in you you ditch him. You don’t feel good about it, but this lawyer’s nice enough, and he’ll make your mom so much happier because he has a “real” job.

Well, you’re dating the lawyer now and things are good. They’re fine. For the first year. But you’re on a timetable because you want to have kids and so you want that ring, but he’s emotionally five years less mature than you. He’s nowhere near ready, and you’re not willing to wait, so you gotta start again.

After some meaningless rebounds, you start dating a doctor. He checks off 90% of the things you want… but he says he doesn’t want kids. It’s fine, you’ll change him. So you date for three more years and you even get engaged, but you call things off because even after all this time, he still isn’t budging.

After six months of eating your feelings with some Halo Top (after all, it’s a lower calorie indulgence and now you still gotta maintain your body cause you gotta get back on the dating wagon), you scroll the profile section of the New York Times as Netflix loads a new episode of The Crown… only to see bartender. In the five years you’ve been trying to find “the one” he’s now married, owns a series of micro-breweries, and his wife’s pregnant with their second kid.

Your heart breaks because you knew deep down that you loved that dorky idiot and his floppy hair and you realize that maybe if you had just waited it out six months, you could have been the wife in this scenario.

And that can happen in any part of your life. When you make a decision that you know isn’t right, you get caught in a cycle of lying to yourself until you get so far off the path that you forget where you were even going.

Knowing your authority will give you "wax-on, wax-off" Mr. Miagi levels of mastery when it comes to making decisions. You'll be able to detect a lot faster if you're making decisions because you feel like that's what you "should" do (hint: If you have to say/justify anything with SHOULD you then you shouldn't be doing it). Ultimately, you have to follow what's correct for you, even if it doesn't make sense for everyone else.

Trying to prove something

Most high performers are driven by some kind of spite or negative emotion. Whether it’s all the times you wanted to tell your mom to fuck off, shutting that bitter teacher the hell up, or showing up to your 10 or 20 year high school reunion looking hot as FUCK so the kids who bullied you can eat it, your “reason” for putting yourself through so much bullshit likely isn’t even for you.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… you’ll never be able to make those people happy. People who ask you to prove your worthiness - whether or not they’re doing it intentionally - are usually fucked up in their own ways and they don’t know how to make themselves happy.

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone - even yourself. Every time you find yourself doing something for an external reason, ask yourself "who am I really doing this for?" and then immediately course correct by asking yourself "what do I really want in this moment?"

If you want to go get ice cream, do it. If you want to cancel the wedding, do it. If you want to fire the client, do it. If you want to change your business model, do it. Your inner wisdom doesn't steer you wrong.

Remember, I'm an external source and this is not an invitation or a sign for you to take those examples at face value. What I invite you to respond to is what do you really want in this moment and make an empowered decision.

be.youErika Ashley