Tarot for Overachievers

This week I had my first ever reiki treatment, with an amazing woman friend of mine who is a truly gifted and soulful healer. In our follow-up conversations about some things that she intuited during our session, I was brought to tears by some powerful revelations that came out from her insightful and compassionate questioning.

Folks, I have a confession to make: I’m not perfect.

I know. This may come as quite a surprise (inserts tongue in cheek). But those of you out there who are what I like to refer to as “recovering Type As,” otherwise known as those of you who self-identify as perfectionists, overachievers and the like, you know what I’m talking about. We give lip service to the reality that no one is perfect, and yet, there’s a difficult inner struggle to try to live that reality as we constantly push ourselves to do, do, do; go, go, go; give, give, give. And not only that! We have to do, go, and give more than the average, and give ourselves impossibly high standards and models to emulate. Oh, yeah, and one other thing: we have to do it all or mainly on our own because anything less would be a burden on others or a sign of weakness, both of which clearly aren’t a part of perfection.

I don’t think this scenario is that uncommon in today’s society, especially in the U.S. culture that I come from, where productivity, efficiency, and wealth are high cultural values to strive for, and where anything and everything that represents “not doing” and “not achieving” are often viewed as lazy, apathetic, ignorant, or undeserving. In other words, many of us have been socialized to view high achievement as a purposeful reason for finding meaning in our existence, and at the same time, we’ve unwittingly been taught and conditioned to believe that reaching out to ask for help from others is a sign of inherent weakness and therefore lack of intrinsic value.

Yes, it’s a totally unrealistic scenario, and also ridiculously complicated.

So this is a struggle I currently face. How does one achieve and gain a sense of satisfaction from giving to others, helping others, and constantly striving to do more and be better, while at the same time not neglecting the opposite polarity, that of learning to go slower, knowing when to let go and stop pushing, and—God forbid—actually sit back and do nothing? It practically hurts me to even type that.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to Zen Buddhism, where a key objective in the practice itself is to simply observe non-judgmentally. It feels like such a guilty pleasure to have permission to actually “do nothing” as the objective. In fact in life I find that we’re often drawn towards things that we need more of in our lives. You see it all the time in partnerships, how “opposites attract.” We instinctively seek balance in our lives.

So my challenge is not only knowing when to slow down and back off, it’s also knowing how and when to both ask for help from others, and accept offers of help from others. Paradoxically, those of us who tend to be high achievers are often the last people that anyone thinks to offer to help, since we look like we’ve “got it all under control” and yet, we just may be the ones who need the most help of all, because we don’t always know how or when to ask for it and tend to take on way too much than one person should be expected to take on.

How does this all lead back to tarot? Well, as with most struggles for inner clarity and objective perspective on a situation, we can ask the cards to show us things that we ourselves are unable to see. Our own perceptions of our situations and behaviors are often radically different than how others see us, and tarot can help us to become aware of these divergences in order to bridge the gap. In this way, we receive information about areas in which we can modify our behaviors or decisions in order to bring more balance and harmony into our lives.

I’ll use myself as the guinea pig for this tarot experiment, and then you can try it out yourself if you feel it would bring you insight as well.

In my particular case, the imbalance is in trying to do too much, give too much, and setting impossibly high standards for myself. But in any imbalance, there’s the need for expression of the opposite polarity. Therefore these spreads can be applied in any case where there’s an overuse and excessive reliance on one side versus another in a situation of polar opposites (ie, action vs. non-action, extrovert vs. introvert, rational/logical vs. feeling/emotional, give vs. receive, etc.)

Do Do Do, Go Go Go, Give Give Give VS. Don’t Do, Don’t Go, Don’t Give

Here are some possible groups of 3-card readings to shed light on these ideas, or, they can be combined into one overall reading. In my case I chose to do them as three separate readings because I wanted to have all 78 cards as possibilities in each group of three, but I wanted to perform each reading in this specific order as a source of information for interpreting the subsequent readings.

Reading 1: The Crown of the Tree
1 – The “me” that I hold as personal truth, the “me” that I am conscious of
2 – The inner “me” that is crying out for expression
3 – The “me” that others see in the world

Reading 2: The Tree Trunk
1 – What motivates my behaviors [ie, over-achieving and perfectionist]
2 – What I fear most if I don’t behave in that way [ie, if I stop doing, going, and giving]
3 – What I need to know regarding that fear

Reading 3: The Roots of the Tree
1 – The side of myself, the “shadow” of me, that I don’t want to face
2 – How my current behavior relates to my shadow side and its lack of expression
3 – How I can constructively give expression to my shadow side

As this is already quite long, I’ll leave the actual cards and their interpretation for my next post. Also, you know, suspense—they say it’s a good thing, keeps ’em coming back for more…

Click here for Part 2



  1. I am a reiki practitioner. I am curious , which card would you think would describe this field?
    Shelley, I find the mantra ” Let Go and Let God” comes in really handy when I try to balance my type A life.

    • What an interesting question! That’s a good one and frankly my only experience with reiki was this one treatment, however I will tell you that I was floored by the truly electric feeling of energy I experienced. It reminded me of similar experiences I had with kundalini yoga. That being said, I’d have to have more than one card. The Empress for the completely grounded and nurturing feeling I got from the practitioner. Although she is my friend, I imagine that this is the objective of reiki practitioners in general, to support and nurture their clients in the treatment and give them grounding while channeling energy. I’d also add Temperance, for the balancing “alchemy” that takes place when assessing where imbalances exist in the body’s chakra system and then applying the energy accordingly to address the imbalances and bring them back into order. Oooh, I’m sure I could find more! But those are the first two that strike me. I eventually want to become attuned myself but goodness knows when I can carve out the time for that… I always bite off more than I can chew! Do you have a website for your practice?

      • Hi Shelley,
        I wish I had a website. Still in the Reiki closet. Only work on friends and family right now.
        I would like to add another card to your choices, The High Preistess, she is all about intuition, higher powers and meditation, as well as balance.

      • Yes, absolutely. The High Priestess occurred to me to, regarding intuition, as that’s always a go-to key word for her. Also now that I think about it, this reiki practitioner, in addition to intuiting things about me, also served as a channel for me to go deeper into my own inner self, as The High Priestess invites us to do. Brava! Good luck with your business. Let us know when you do get a website up and are “out of the closet!”

  2. The ultimate truth is that life is a journey between birth and death.And there is no alternative except to enjoy the interval.If you become soul conscious rather than body conscious living life becomes less complicated.You view everything in a detached way.

    • Yes, soul consciousness certainly helps to alleviate the day-to-day mundane trivia we can get bogged down with. It’s a good ideal to set, being able to see things in a detached way. Of course putting it into practice is where soul evolution ultimately occurs, and is the challenge of this Earth school and, as you so nicely put it, “the journey between birth and death.” Thanks for sharing!

Come on, let's discuss! Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s