Opinion: Try-Hards Have My Heart

The extra hard work of those we call “try-hards” is often unfairly met with resentment and ridicule.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

At times, the intensive effort and care others put into their passions tend to bother us, but is our aggravation reasonable?

Michelle Hwang, Features Editor

Dear try-hards, gunners, passionate people, my dedicated Debbies,

You have my whole heart.

But at times, your tendency to go beyond the mean invites snickers and snide comments.

Whether you are the high schooler dressing to the nines for each day of class, the straight A student who stays after class to ask questions, or the party-goer who brings their own bowling ball to the bowling alley, you may have made people uncomfortable with your extensive effort. According to everyone else, you care too much, try too hard, and take things too seriously.

One study conducted by researchers Craig Parks and Asako Stone from Washington State University found that the most altruistic members of a group–those that are the most diligent, unselfish, and dedicated–are also the ones that are the most hated. So it is no secret that our society does not like the clear and visible hard workers.

However, this hatred is unfounded, and rather a reflection on the insecurities and mindset flaws of everyone else around.

Oftentimes, we see people mediocre in talent striving for excellence solely through the sweat on their brow, and it creates a thorny pit in the depth of our stomach. Watching the C-average student stay for after-school tutoring or the varsity benchwarmer run extra drills leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. I myself am guilty of criticizing with an attitude that essentially expresses, “Who do you think you are to work and care so much as if your endeavors will amount to anything special? You are just the same as me and everyone else.”

But that mentality is the sort that showcases how averse I am to putting in hard work myself. Witnessing someone similar to me strive for, and maybe reach, brilliance takes away natural born talent as a defining factor. The only thing that keeps me at a distance from excellence is my own lack of effort, and that stings.

Animosity towards hard workers may also be a manifestation of our own insecurities. In Psychology class, we learn about a process called projection, which is one of the various coping mechanisms people use to deal with their inner turmoil. People who are deeply self-conscious about a flaw tend to overly attribute that characteristic to other people. For example, a friend’s outfit might be “so extra, and for what?” if I have worries over dressing out of place. Instead of facing my own insecurities, I resort to calling other people, who shamelessly express their identities through whatever clothes they see fit, horribly unfashionable.

I see the term “try-hard” thrown around most viciously in competitive academic settings where the striving of one individual is obnoxious or even dangerous for its ability to forcefully raise the standards held for everyone else. The belief is, if that kid is covering every single reading passage with multi-color annotations and writing essay-length discussion posts, then I must do the same or I will be seen as lesser in comparison.

But are the standards for the whole measured by one over-achieving outlier? They shouldn’t be. It is fully understandable that not everyone has the time or desire to invest such effort into their studies.

The exception is, of course, when ambition reaches a toxic level. If someone lords their exertions and accomplishments over other people – in the form of comments such as “You slept for five hours last night? I only slept for three!” – or steps on other people to get ahead as their form of “hard work,” then the criticism may be deserved — not for their try-hard nature, but for their inconsiderateness for other people.

But if the effort and care is well placed and if a person’s sweat is due to their passion, then by all means, be extra and let others be extra. Wherever our own priorities may lie, it is the try-hardy nature of those dedicated to their work that brings art, science, innovation, and brilliance into our world.