No Amount of Success Will Calm You Down

A therapist explains how to wean yourself from needing praise

Kathleen Smith
Published in
2 min readJul 30, 2021


Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Are successful people less anxious? It all depends on how you define success.

It’s impossible to look at a person and tell how much chronic anxiety they carry. This is because humans are masters at using anything and everything to appear high-functioning. For many people, overachieving is the fastest way to manage anxiety. But it’s not the most effective.

We chase after approval, attention, and achievement because they provide a short-term boost to our mood and functioning. We convince ourselves that if we can just finish the next degree, earn the promotion, or impress our family, we’ll finally be able to relax. Only to relearn that the high of achievement has a short half-life.

Have you ever used any of these things to temporarily manage anxiety?

  • Praise from a boss or teacher
  • Attention on social media
  • Being treated as the expert in the room
  • Feeling very busy
  • Approval from your family

Overachieving may calm you down, but it doesn’t increase your ability to self-regulate your anxiety. It also leaves your well-being dependent on a variable you can’t…



Kathleen Smith
Writer for

Kathleen Smith is a therapist and author of the book Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down.