What does being a success mean to you? Have you thought about it?
For many years I went along with the idea of success other people tried to impose on me. I went to junior college and got an associate’s degree. Then on to a university for my bachelor’s. I continued my education and got a master’s degree.
Today I can honestly say I am grateful for my formal education. On this side, I can see how pursuing knowledge has made me a well-rounded person. But a formal education alone did not ever make me feel like a success.
I had great jobs, and with some of the jobs came a big corner office. But my life was so busy with work my relationships suffered. I had no time to play or spend quality time with my partner, friends, and pets.
I got the nice house, fancy car, and stylish wardrobe. Even though I had a good well-paying job, I spent way beyond my means. What I wore, what I drove, where I lived became more important than being financially responsible.
I grew up with family, television, and advertisers telling me surrounding myself with things is what it means to be successful. So I blindly followed the crowd. I attempted to keep up with an unrealistic standard of what it means to be successful, as defined by other people.
Honestly, would you consider someone a success who is $35,000 in credit card debt? Someone who could not afford regular health check-ups, dental examinations, or visits to the vet for her pets? Would you think I was successful when I could not afford to take a vacation? Someone who lay awake at night in a panic from fear of how I was going to pay off all the debt?
I am now debt free. I paid all of the $35,000 back. It was important for me to do so, because assuming responsibility for my actions taught me what it really means to be successful.
We live in a consumerist world that deems us successful when we attain wealth, honors, notoriety, a big house, big car, excellent education, and other things. If we wear a certain size, drive a certain model luxury car, live in a certain neighborhood, etc., we are considered a success. But things, titles, and neighborhoods are not who we are.
Things do not feel. Things do not provide genuine validation of who we are. Things do not establish us as people who are truly admirable. Things are sold to us by people who are in the business of selling things. Merchants attempt to dictate what we think it means to be successful based on the items they sell.
The same is true of fashion and what size we are supposed to be. But what if we do not fit the mold or model of their standard? Are we a failure? We are led to believe so.
Defining what success means to me was one of the most important acts of self-love and respect I undertook. Why? Because it helped me understand loving and respecting myself have nothing to do with what other people think of me. It took time to realize it was a lack of self-love and self-acceptance that caused me a great amount of suffering.
There was a time I was codependent and craved the validation of other people. But never once did I feel validated by other people. They could shower me with praise, but as long as I doubted my own worthiness, all the praise and validation in the world did not make a lasting difference. Only when I began to feel worthy could I accept the praise of others. Meaning, I had earned feeling worthy.
Success is a term with no real meaning until we take time to determine what it means to us. Today I am successful, not because other people tell me I am or because I have attained wealth, honors, degrees, etc. I now know lasting feelings of satisfaction and worthiness are based on what I offer, who I am, what character values motivate my behavior, and what I leave as my legacy. It is certainly okay to have money and to purchase things, but true success cannot be purchased. True success comes from feeling worthy for simply being ourselves. Feeling successful comes from being responsible for each area of our life and working to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.
Love yourself by taking time to define success for yourself. Refuse to believe anyone who says you are a success only when you have achieved their idea of accomplishment. You will not be fulfilled working for the goals of someone else. You find inner peace and self-respect when you set your own standard of success.