Success is entirely subjective, yet we often compare ourselves with the societal standards for it. A house, a car, a family, and lots and lots of money.
The stereotypical definition of success is pretty much forced upon us from a really young age, so needless to say we usually internalise it. Even if we don’t personally want those things, its still so easy to think that we should.
One of your high school friends just bought a new house, so she’s successful. A family friend got a huge promotion (aka more money), so now they’re more successful than you. We’re taught to think that money and material possessions are the be all and end all of our success. Without paying 500k for a house how will people ever know I’m successful?!
These material things allow us to easily show off our ‘success’ and gain external validation for it. But unless that’s what you want, it usually ends up feeling pretty hollow and shitty. The issue here is that we’re not taught to value what we want.
Your Own Ideas
I personally define success as perusing my long term goals, and having reached certain markers I’ve set for myself. At the moment most of my goals are centred around this blog and beginning to build a community. In addition to that I do also have monetary goals that I’m working towards. In those cases I think it’s important to be able to understand the driving force behind your goals.
Do you want to earn six figures because you think you’re ‘supposed to’, or because you actually want to? I don’t think assigning shame to wanting money or possessions is a healthy thing to do. If you want to earn a boat load of money just so you can burn it, then go ahead. You’d just probably be a lot happier doing that whilst you genuinely felt happy and fulfilled. Beginning to really consider your personal idea of success is the start of that fulfillment.
A big part in finding your own definition of success is becoming comfortable with success. Depending on how your life has been up until now you’ll have a different view on how easy or hard success is to obtain.
If you grew up around people you thought to be successful then you’ll most likely view success as obtainable. But if you grew up without knowing anyone you thought as successful, you’ll think the opposite. The way you spent your formative years sets up your outlook on success. So if you were raised by an unhappy single parent struggling to make ends meet, then being successful may seem like a fairytale. It’s not just your peers that influence your views on success, but your place in society as a whole.
If you’re a minority then being successful can often seem like a thing reserved for white people. I know I’ve definitely had that view and it fucking sucks. Although I was confident growing up I always had a nagging feeling that because I wasn’t white I just physically wouldn’t be able to succeed as much as my peers. Nothing like good ole institutionalised racism to make you feel less than!
The beliefs that society instills in us about your ability to succeed as minorities, or even as women often times aren’t beliefs alone. While you as a person are more than capable of success there can be road blocks in the way. Pay inequality, racism, homophobia, and more are all real issues that affect success.
Carry on Anyway
Okay so you’re up against societal judgement and values, racism, gender inequality, and your own limiting beliefs. If you want to reach your own definition of success you just have to carry in anyway. Despite all of the shit that gets in the way, despite the feelings of inadequacy you may have, and despite the success that everyone else appears to have- just carry on. Because if you give up and stop you’ll never reach that success you want.
If your path to success is easy, well then that’s probably because society has made it easy for you. But if it’s hard it’s because you’ve really had to fight for it. Paving your own way to reach your own goals- that’s success.
So recently I’ve started working towards my own success, and obviously it’s not easy. I’m not sure if there’s an end goal but there’s certainly lots of things to celebrate along the way. And on days where I feel like I won’t get there, I just have to remind myself that I’m not just making up problems.
There are big issues with the way society views success, and who they gatekeeper it from. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own version of it.