Success is a fascinating designation since, just like beauty, it’s completely subjective! As mini humans on the playground we encounter this and hear that until (poof!) before we know it, we’ve created a set of qualifications to measure success. As an American girl in the eighties/nineties, “success” meant straight A’s, flawless piano recital performances, and killing it on the Four Square court and soccer field. Although I changed-up the parameters in high school and college to include stickier elements like having a boyfriend, my bar of success was clearly defined as high achievement in all aspect of life, to include earning enough dollars to amass a covetable wardrobe and Manhattan loft. With Society’s overarching perception of “success” fueling my perfectionism, I charged ahead with gusto well into my twenties. I would be successful! I would rise above and outshine the rest! I would land a hunky boyfriend and rock sky-high Jimmy Choo heels like an A-lister! I would manifest to the world that I was worthy of love and praise as a glossy, magazine cover worthy woman!
But guess what? God/the universe typically don’t humor us by giving into our desires, especially when those desires are seriously messed-up. Consequently, I constantly felt defeated and disappointed in myself and my reality. It didn’t help that an outspoken eating disorder voice (inner critic) was screaming in my ear, “You suck! You’re a failure who doesn’t deserve love!” Living in a mental prison of guilt, doubt, and fear, it wasn’t enough to shine in one aspect of life; to receive a gold star on a project or a compliment at work. In my black and white terms, I holistically judged myself as a “success” or a “failure”. Unable to accept a middle ground or my human imperfections, I emblazoned a giant F on my brain. Black and white thinking in any sphere is dangerous! In this case, it meant forgoing any satisfaction for victories along my path. More profoundly, it meant denying myself grace and compassion. Instead of striving towards goals and ambitions in a healthy way, I worked myself to the bone, physically and emotionally, to avoid feeling like a loser. My self-worth intertwined with perfectionism, I was a slave to achievement… and pretty miserable.
So, what’s your perception of success? Are you a black and white thinker? Are you fair to yourself? Must success be synonymous with achievement? Is conquering your world the only (and best!) way to feel satisfied, or is success a roadblock to your happiness? If so, it might be time to take a ride on the perspective shifting wheel. With a fresh perspective, you can poke holes into Society’s partisan view, and reframe what success means for you! Perhaps you’ll realize that the people who love you the most are indifferent about your material wins. Perhaps you’ll realize that one type of achievement is not superior to another type—racing about as a director in an office is on par with raising kids, working at a flower shop, or simply taking a mental health break without a future plan.
Today, with a far healthier perspective than ever before, I view success as mini wins along my journey towards complete recovery. Success is a call with my mom or a walk with my baby. Success is writing a blog post because it makes me feel good to type something uplifting for myself and others. Success is squeezing a run into my afternoon or sending out a few thank-you notes. Success is feeling at peace because I am taking good care of my needs. I am living my own version of success, and, although Society sometimes knocks on my door and turns my head, I am determined to be true to myself, and to put my health first. And you deserve to do the same! Wherever you’re at this festive season, know that you are good enough as you are, regardless of achievements, and let your beautifully imperfect self shine into the universe.