I do not need to tell you that we live in a society that values success, I would even say, in my unprofessional but educated opinion, that it is normal to value success in a society. I bet you can think of at least a few success stories of your own or future goals you plan on succeeding in-but lets talk about what success really is.
It is no surprise that while growing up we are shaped and molded by the people who we give significance in our lives: Most notably our parents but also significant caregivers, distant relatives that we idolize, and even some peers. From the perspective of a child who is discovering the social world and what is important to it, we can see then, why adults often consider their successes through the eyes of others. This is what I want to challenge today.
If society is what taught us to value certain things, and the people who shaped and molded us decided which ones were attainable for us, then where do our wishes and goals come in? Are we really just a wheel in the machine?
I do not believe that humans are naturally just wheels in the machine of society and my proof can be found in the amount of people who consider themselves emotionally unwell in America-In how many people radically call for change or adamantly and vocally give their point of views. While human interaction and community certainly do make a huge difference in how we see ourselves (whether positively or negatively), I want to say that your goals do not have to line up with what others-or even society-expects of you.
Now, maybe you have supportive people in your inner circle who do not harp on your flaws and to that I ask you to continue this social norm and extend it to others—there are plenty of people who could use some support. But if you are one of the many people in America feeling under-supported, let’s talk about success.
What does success look like, without using societal standards? For me, it looked like; overcoming abandonment issues; surviving suicidal teen years that haunted me into my early twenties; it was when I decided to tap into childhood traumas that were inflicted by society and “fix” them; it was when I started a small business at 20 and then again at 24… but it was also the small things like; getting out of bed to make it to a friends birthday despite anxiety and depression; it was when I began talking to people about my fears while still reacting physically to them; shivering, sweating, and going dizzy—being terrified of the very fears I shared at the same time as sharing them; it was in the tiny adjustments I made in my daily interactions with strangers and confiding in close friends and relatives even though I had did not know who to trust.
Success is not all about the big goals you meet and proving certain people they were wrong about you. It is also about acknowledging the crap that others don’t—the same crap that, one upon a time, you would have struggled with… a day, a month, or even years ago. So, I am writing this for you, to encourage you to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how little they may seem to you or to those around you, even if they gather little notice from others.
I see you and I just want to say: Congratulations on your success!