Does “overachieving” have negative connotations?

I was considering using “The Overachieving Subconscious” as a title for an essay.

I am trying to convey that ‘your subconscious is a very powerful tool’ with this title; however, reading it aloud has me second-guessing the title’s effectiveness.

  • I have never heard it used, in any way, ever, as a negative. Purely for me, the three answers below are bizarre - it's like a confusion with the word, say, "over-reaching". An "overachiver" is a straight 100% synonym for "superstar!" And the word "overachieving" is a straight 100% synonym for superb, excellent, incredible, epic, awesome, amazing. – Fattie Sep 24 '14 at 15:15
  • A book called "The overachieving subconscious" would simply be about the amazing wonders of your subconscious. Exact synonyms would be "The astounding subconscious", "The amazing subconscious", "The incredible performance of your subconscious", etc. – Fattie Sep 24 '14 at 15:19

Yes, it definitely can have negative connotations. "Overachieve[r/ing]" often carries an implication of smugness, superiority, or over-eagerness, and in some cases, possibly a sense of being overextended and trying to do to much.

While this isn't universally true - it's not hard to find positive uses - the negative connotation is sufficiently common - and more importantly, it even positively, it specifically doesn't carry the meaning you seem interested in conveying, that I'd steer clear of it here.

  • Thanks. That's what i thought... I just needed to hear it from someone else. – Cynapse Apr 12 '14 at 19:06
  • You answered I hit send. I deleted mine. Your answer is more complete. – David M Apr 12 '14 at 19:13
  • "Yes, it definitely can have negative connotations.", Less could you give one example of this? from any book, article, anything like that? I'd love to see it – Fattie Sep 24 '14 at 15:19

I'd say that the negative connotations associated with the terms 'overachiever' / 'overachieving' derive largely from the implication that the person referenced is being claimed to be less good than their results would indicate. It is being claimed that they 'flatter to deceive'. It's the insinuation that 'they're not really as good as they seem to be' that's pejorative; I disagree that there are connotations of particular character flaws. That may be what the person using the term may intend to imply, but they're misusing the term.

This article addresses the true meaning of the term:

The True Definition of an Overachiever According to Dictionary.com, the definition of “overachiever” is a simple one: to perform better than expected. At first glance it doesn’t seem negative (I won’t even broach my feelings on the word “perform”). But its implications and the manner in which is it generally used certainly does: First, the definition itself implies someone didn’t really expect much from you.

  • I have to say that quote from the article, is, perhaps the worst written thing that has ever appeared on this site! :) "I won’t even broach my feelings on the word “perform”)" Huh? – Fattie Sep 24 '14 at 15:16

Yes, 'overachieving' is sometimes interpreted as having a negative connotation but if your aim is to portray the beauty of the machine, a word I would choose would have an elegant connotation.

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