Overachievers and Underachievers

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 14, 2009 6:02 PM GMT
    There seems to be a higher percentage of both overachievers and underachievers in the gay community than in the general population. You can see it all over the profiles on this site. You have people who start companies, travel the world, write novels, compete in world class athletics... and you have people who spend their whole lives waiting tables or working in retail stores (good honest work, but probably not living up to their potential).

    I can spend all day thinking up reasons why this is true, but I'm wonderring what you guys think. Is there something about the psychology of being gay that makes people more (or less) ambitious than "normal"? Or is it because our culture limits our opportunities to have regular, middle-of-the-road lives?
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    Mar 14, 2009 6:08 PM GMT
    Riptjockpeople who spend their whole lives waiting tables or working in retail stores


    ^ I don't think that type of work is 'underachieving'.

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    Mar 14, 2009 6:14 PM GMT
    Just my own personal, subjective viewpoint, but: I think gays are the most talented and able people in the world. And any failure to achieve that potential is due to our buying into societal prejudices that limit us.

    Forget the lies, live the highs! Gays rule! And if we learn that truth, our minority numbers will mean nothing, and we will take our rightful place in society.
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    Mar 14, 2009 6:55 PM GMT
    Lost_And_Found said^ I don't think that type of work is 'underachieving'.


    It isn't if you love it. It is if you don't, and are capable of doing something that would give you greater satisfaction.
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    Mar 14, 2009 7:05 PM GMT
    vespa, you are amazing... that philosophy might need some discussion on my blog... care to write a short essay on it for me to post???
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    Mar 14, 2009 7:48 PM GMT
    dancerquack saidvespa, you are amazing... that philosophy might need some discussion on my blog... care to write a short essay on it for me to post???

    What philosophy is that? My poorly trained mind doesn't entitle me to have philosophies, and I'm far too inarticulate to write essays. Essays are for those with proven academic credentials, and with the skills to clearly express their thoughts, neither of which I possess.

    I'm sure you mean well, but you are seriously mistaken. I must therefore decline your offer.
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    Mar 14, 2009 8:03 PM GMT
    riptjock saidThere seems to be a higher percentage of both overachievers and underachievers in the gay community than in the general population. You can see it all over the profiles on this site. You have people who start companies, travel the world, write novels, compete in world class athletics... and you have people who spend their whole lives waiting tables or working in retail stores (good honest work, but probably not living up to their potential).

    I can spend all day thinking up reasons why this is true, but I'm wonderring what you guys think. Is there something about the psychology of being gay that makes people more (or less) ambitious than "normal"? Or is it because our culture limits our opportunities to have regular, middle-of-the-road lives?

    The world is full of overachievers and underachievers. I don't think this is something that is exclusive to gays.

    Generally speaking, there are people out there that just aren't satisfied with what they have and always strive for more. And then there a people that are just fine with the status quo.

    It's really about priorities in life and what's important to each individual.
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Mar 14, 2009 8:04 PM GMT
    I don't think it's a gay thing as there are just as many straight people who fall into the same category. I would also be loathe to judge someone from their profile. Also, the idea of waiting tables as inferior is subjective. I have plenty of friends who love their job and the people they work with. As a result, their lives are very fulfilling. You can't judge the qualities of one's life by their job or clothes. You might think being a lawyer means you used your intelligence and drive to achieve something great, but many lawyers I know hate their jobs and life. So I don't think you're underachieving unless you are unhappy with your life and you're failing to do anything about it.
  • jgymnast733

    Posts: 1783

    Mar 14, 2009 9:44 PM GMT
    I cant speak for anyone else , but Underachieving is not an option in my family......
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    Mar 14, 2009 10:01 PM GMT
    And even if you HATE your underpaid job.

    You should still hold your head up high.

    There's nothing wrong with working hard.

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    Mar 14, 2009 10:47 PM GMT
    Hmmm but who gets to define what over and underachieving really is? Guy A veiws Guy B as an underacheiver. But who is Guy A to judge?

    Everyone has their own issues, gifts, limitations, and problems. if someone like Guy A fails to see the whole picture, someone like Guy B maybe veiwed as an underachiever.... despite the fact that Guy B is truely an overacheiever (based on his own circumstances) but is limited as a result of certain circumstances.

    My point is... it is hard to group everyone together... tossing out many variable which seperate us...and judge everyone based on a "one-size fits all" test.

    Finally... I do not believe gay people are "more-girfted" than str8 people. I guess I fail to see the evidence....though I'm not sure what exactly I would look for.

    My opnion.... gays are exactly the same as str8 people... we just like the same sex. Isn't that the base of our equal rights movement: "We're no different than you!"?
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    Mar 15, 2009 12:17 AM GMT
    Unscientific but my opinion is that it is more difficult being gay than being straight when you are growing up so there is probably a better chance of lower self esteem in adolescence and young adulthood, so as a result in order to build better self esteen some gay people work harder and overachieve more than a typical straight person to prove themselves superior and and the rest of the gay people for whatever reason are not able to overcome the lower self esteem and pretty much settle for what they have and maybe dont achieve as much as a similiar straight person. This of course is a very subjective idea and of course lots of variations, but kind of the way I see things.
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    Mar 15, 2009 12:38 AM GMT
    There is some evidence that in males the bell curve of intelligence has longer "tails" than it does in females, i.e., more males are found at the high and low extremes of the curve, while females cluster more at the center. Of course this is highly controversial -- just ask Larry Summers who after obliquely mentioning this was hounded out of the presidency of Harvard by the feminist thought police.
    Fortunately on this site we're beyond the reach of dogmatic feminism, so we can safely speculate that this theory would account for the OP's observation.
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    Mar 15, 2009 1:51 AM GMT
    I used to think that gays were somehow radically different then their straight peers. More highly sexed, more artistic, greater number of overachievers, greater number of underachievers, etc..

    After nearly 23 years I have come to the conclusion that we are not special. The only thing that separates us from our hetero peers is where we want to stick our thingy when it is hard.
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    Mar 15, 2009 2:19 AM GMT
    SurrealLife saidI used to think that gays were somehow radically different then their straight peers. More highly sexed, more artistic, greater number of overachievers, greater number of underachievers, etc..

    After nearly 23 years I have come to the conclusion that we are not special. The only thing that separates us from our hetero peers is where we want to stick our thingy when it is hard.


    I used to think that too several years ago
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    Mar 15, 2009 2:22 AM GMT
    I think it has to do with the area you grow up in. Being told your crap all of your life and generally being treated poorly doesn't an overachiever make. Yes, you can say that someone can overcome that aspect of their life but some didn't get the good break when they needed it.
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    Mar 15, 2009 2:27 AM GMT
    TexDef07 saidThere is some evidence that in males the bell curve of intelligence has longer "tails" than it does in females, i.e., more males are found at the high and low extremes of the curve, while females cluster more at the center. Of course this is highly controversial -- just ask Larry Summers who after obliquely mentioning this was hounded out of the presidency of Harvard by the feminist thought police.
    Fortunately on this site we're beyond the reach of dogmatic feminism, so we can safely speculate that this theory would account for the OP's observation.


    Poor summers.... I couldn't believe that. I'm all for women's rights but the uber feminist movement is rediculous. He had a question to answer and came up with a perfectly harmless hypothesis in the name or science and reseach.

    I know someone who used to sit on the admissions board for a graduate school at the University of Maryland back in the 1970's. Each year they could only admit 8 students in their psychology graduate program. After a few year of lower female acceptance numbers, a feminist group decided to protest.

    They hassled the department admissions board... calling them sexist (which this person is not!), and forced them to adopt a policy: 4 women and 4 men.

    Funny thing is... the next year, the top 8 canidates were all female... but they had to turn 4 down to stick with their policy of 4males as well.

    kinda ironic... the feminist's work back-fired.

    Sorry I had to tell that story... back to the over/underachievers
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Mar 15, 2009 3:08 AM GMT
    Well, I have absolutely no data to bear on whether or not gay guys tend to be more extreme in under/overachievement than our straight brethren are. So it's entirely possible there's no phenomenon to explain in the first place.

    BUT, for the sake of argument, let's say there is a greater disparity. Some possible causes of this:

    On the overachievement side:

    1) As has already been mentioned, some gay men may build more of their self esteem off their schooling or jobs than is true of the average population. Consequently, those men are more likely to be considered overachievers.

    2) Some of us gay guys were aware we were gay in high school, and not comfortable coming out yet and/or not in a location where there would be enough known gay guys for dating to be a major high school activity. Removing dating from the high school social calendar leaves a lot more time for school work and pursuing interests that employers and/or colleges would care about. It's also much less likely that we'll get a girl pregnant and have to come up with child support as teenagers. Being really busy is also a plausible reason for why we're not dating. The circle feeds on itself.

    3) Outside of the rare school like BYU, academia is in general a very gay-friendly place. Domestic partnership benefits abound, sexual orientation and often even gender identity are included in the non-discrimination policies, etc. It is entirely possible that this leads gay men to, on average, stay in school for longer and earn more and higher-level degrees than straight men.

    4) More gay men choose not to have children than straight men do. For those scoring overachievement primarily on the job scale, those guys will be more available to work longer hours, take extended business trips...and get promoted.

    On the underachievement side:

    1) There are still many families who withdraw essentially all support from their gay sons. A higher percentage of homeless teen boys are gay than is true of the general population, for example. Without family support, and with the military route closed off, these young men are in a much harder position when it comes to getting an education. However you choose to define underachievement, if a guy wants to be an architect, and would be good at being an architect, but never becomes one because he can't afford the degree and training, that's going to be a case of underachievement. Substitute any education-dependent profession you like.

    2) Relatedly, some gay men are going to be in environments where they feel less than their straight counterparts merely because of their homosexuality. I admit that I'm thinking primarily of religious communities/families were homosexuality is viewed as a sin, but there are other possibilities as well. This can easily lead to depression, and with depression comes the serious possibility of alcohol and/or other drug problems.

    3) Common perception of a gay lifestyle is fairly materialistic. The latest fashions, expensive food and wines, etc. all add up. Tickets to the symphony are probably more expensive than tickets to the monster truck rally. The chic gym with the juice bar is more expensive than playing basketball at the Y. A fine restaurant is more expensive than KFC, and Whole Foods is more expensive than Walmart. It is also generally seen to be rather youth-focused, with some seeing 30 as over the hill and 40 as in the grave (though there are plenty of men on this site who are clear counterexamples to those ways of thinking). It is entirely possible that a higher proportion of gay guys live well beyond their means trying to hold the lifestyle they think is expected of them, and this debt holds them back dearly later in life. This also ties in if you believe that working retail is a sign of underachievement. Anecdotally, I know a number of gay men who work in retail even though they have the education to have careers which both pay better and don't involve customers yelling at them all day specifically because of the employee discount on the clothes.

    4) The arts are a realm that is incredibly welcoming to gay people. And some artists do earn huge amounts of money. Most, however, either barely scrape by or can't really live on the income as an artist, be it visual, performing, whatever. If you want to be an actor or a singer or a model, you probably need a day job with pretty flexible hours, and that's one of the main reasons artists often turn to food service. Food service is a hard profession to hold for an extended period--your income is subject to forces completely beyond your control, you get blamed for things which aren't your fault, and many people treat you as less than human during your job. If you wake up one day and decide that you're never going to make it as an actor/singer/whatever, and now you're 35 or 40 and all you've ever done is food service while trying really hard to get into another field...you'll probably be rather unfulfilled, and possibly end up with that depression issue already discussed.

    As I said, I'm not even sure there's a real phenomenon to explain. But if there is, these all seem like plausible contributing factors.
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    Mar 15, 2009 4:46 AM GMT
    when one thinks he will be childless, waiting tables is just fine for many with no aspirations to succeed professionally. many of these "underachievers" are the happiest people i know. they make just enough to make ends meet and have some left over... besides many bartenders and hairdressers make tons of money. many of these "underachievers" are also involved in the arts, which don't usually pay a hell of a lot, but provide them with intangibles you can't buy. etc
  • torontoguy222...

    Posts: 410

    Mar 15, 2009 6:49 PM GMT
    I do see your point. I feel like gays are either low-life/trashy or brilliant/hard working. I'd like to think I fall into the latter category, haha.
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    Mar 15, 2009 9:45 PM GMT
    It's interesting to me that this thread has taken turns I didn't expect. I'm used to being constantly baffled by what other people think, but somehow I'm always surprised when folks don't understand what's in my head. Maybe I should clarify.

    A lot of people have stated I began with a false premise - that there are a higher percentage of overachievers and underachievers in the gay community than in the general population. I was simply going on personal observation. About 99% of the straight guys I meet have some cookie-cutter careers, like sales rep for a widget factory, and spend their leisure time drinking beer and watching football. About 99% of the gay guys I meet either have a prestigious career and/or lifestyle (business owner, doctor/triathlete, architect/world traveler, etc) or they work at "traditionally gay" jobs that pay little and consist of putting up with people's bitching all day long (waiting tables, retail sales, flight attendant, etc) and spend their off time clubbing, shopping, shmoozing, and little else.

    I lived in Houston during the oil boom of the early 80s. In those days, anyone with half a head on their shoulders could walk into town with no experience whatsoever and score a good, high-paying job. Every single male in town who waited tables or worked in a clothing store was gay. What I could never understand was - if better jobs were so plentiful, why didn't they all just go out and get one? But I will admit, I did spend more time in restaurants and clothing stores in those days.

    A lot of people also seemed to take offense at the designations "overachiever" and "underachiever". I'm just being realistic here. These are relative terms. If you have a degree in business but the sum total of your existence is selling mens' clothing, most people would say you're underachieving. This is something you can't deny, no matter how happy and fulfilled you are in your life.

    I'll also point out that my definition of overachievement had nothing to do with monetary gain (I said "people who start companies, travel the world, write novels, compete in world class athletics" - none of which are necessarily lucrative or expensive). It has more to do with ambition than success.

    Which brings me back to the whole point of my thread, which most people seem to have missed. The question is not whether starting a business or waiting tables or selling clothes is good or bad. The question is WHY so many gays seem to choose the lives that they do, instead of taking the middle of the road like most straight people do.