Home » Blogs » Dysfunction Interrupted » 5 Reasons You May Be Underachieving

5 Reasons You May Be Underachieving

Nothing is more depressing than feeling like you have worked hard and your efforts have gone to waste. Or that you started out in life with great hopes for success and now feel like you haven’t gotten anywhere.

Dysfunctional backgrounds often don’t lend themselves to teaching you the skills you need for success. They also often leave in place emotional baggage that interferes with your ability to perform at your best. How you feel and deal with your personal life is usually indicative of how you will perform and deal with your career.

What if you are undermining your own efforts without even knowing it?

I have found these five reasons to be the biggies interfering with success:

Fear-This is the biggest life sucker of all. Fear of success and fear of failure can be equally crippling in the work setting. Getting your head on straight about both of them can propel you forward in your career.

  • Fears about success usually surround matters such as having to move, having added responsibility and the possibility of succeeding then failing over time. All the “what ifs” come into play and scare you until you become immobilized.
  • Fear of failure is just as bad as you may see every decision as the one that brings you down. You then catastrophize or make it seem worse than what it is. You envision yourself on the street, hungry and alone, no job in sight, ridiculed by others.
  • We tend to see a decision as something permanent and therefore anxiety provoking. This needn’t be the case. You can alter most decisions by troubleshooting along the way and keeping an open mind. Don’t let your ego get in the way of saying “maybe that wasn’t a great choice, I can change it”.
  • If your decision appears to have been in error you can alter it by making another one that changes the direction of the first. Chances are this will improve the chances for your desired outcome. There are often many paths that will get you where you want to go. Don’t be afraid to try a new one.

Depression-This can lead to underachievement by blocking energy and creativity. If you are ruminating on negative matters you are not going to be productive. Ruminating also makes you feel terrible.

  • The cure for this can be to force yourself to tackle a project, the end result and gratification then acts as a building block that reduces the symptoms of depression. As hard as it might be to believe, the emotions will follow the behavior.
  • If you have been diagnosed with depression it is likely that you spend time researching and learning about depression. That is fine but it then keeps your focus on depression and not success. Spend equal amounts of time learning about the traits of success. It distracts you from feeling poorly and improves your chances of achieving more.
  • If you have been diagnosed with depression and are currently taking antidepressant medications or mood stabilizers you may find that your mind feels dull and that you lack your normal energy. You may even feel that you don’t care about anything. These are common side effects of these medications and you may benefit from discussing it with your doctor. There may be other options for you.

Attachment Problems-Not committing to anything can be a sign of an attachment disorder. This doesn’t just relate to personal relationships but can apply to the workplace or career as well.

  • You may not expect things to last or others to be around for long, therefore you don’t commit fully to most anything you do. You may not even have pictures or any personal items placed around your work area as you go through life with one foot always out the door.  Why devote yourself when whatever it isn’t going to last anyway?
  • You may never feel fully engaged, therefore not able to achieve at the level you may otherwise. Success typically involves huge engagement and devotion.

Inability to Network or Get Along-Like it or not, networking and getting along with others is a critical skill in most areas of achievement. You may create the greatest product alone, but you have to get it sold. This takes some people skills. You may be a brilliant attorney, CPA or secretary but if nobody likes you your chances at success aren’t great. I am often surprised at clients who are abrasive but have no idea that this is a problem for them. They often tell me they feel like others are out to get them or are jealous of them.

  • Complaining, being unpleasant or demanding, one upmanship and know it all behavior are quick ways to turn others away. The reality is, if you are not concerned with the feelings of others, they will not concern themselves with yours.
  • Interrupting, discussing negative things and being chronically angry are traits that are hard to be around. These folks often find themselves outcast from social groups, not high on the promotion lists and surrounded by colleagues who don’t care to help them succeed.

No Focus- If you don’t have a goal or end in place then you don’t know where you are going. If you knew you wanted food but didn’t know where you were going to get it you could just wander around in your car forever hungry. Willy nilly efforts are seldom rewarded and they use as much energy as directed effort.

  • Unfocused efforts often have negative effects and make you anxious, depressed or angry as you feel you have worked hard for nothing.  Effort needs to be channeled in order to be productive.
  • Whether your goal is to have a career or just finish a report by the end of the day, get it clear what you need to do and do it. Don’t waste time, the sooner you complete the tasks the sooner your time is your own.
  • Multitasking is history and never worked well anyway. Checking your email, Facebook and texting all the time also interferes with your ability to get things done.
  • Break your goals into mini goals, give yourself timelines, make lists of important tasks in order of priority and then knock them out!! It feels great to be moving along on your chosen path.

A great resource that I like to use with clients is Napolean Hill’s Keys to Success! The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. It does a great job of addressing many of the problems we encounter with achieving success.

Feel Good For Life!


Photo by Fchague

5 Reasons You May Be Underachieving

Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

Audrey Sherman is a psychologist, coach, speaker and author of the book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now. She is an expert in helping others to transform their lives by learning the elements of emotional success and overcoming the emotional baggage and dysfunctional patterns that keep them stuck in unhappy and unproductive lives, relationships and careers. She currently works with clients in person or via Skype or telephone. To learn more about Dr. Sherman, her coaching and workshops you can visit her website,

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Sherman, A. (2016). 5 Reasons You May Be Underachieving. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 3 Jun 2016
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.