Redefining success

3 July 2018

Success. A noun. A subjective noun.

The Oxford English dictionary defines success as ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose'.

My all-time fave podcaster, Sophia Amoroso starts off the girl boss podcast by expressing that for a long-time success has been measured on the criteria of your career, wealth and whether you make it into Forbes Magazine. This narrative was created a long time ago by old, white men and fails to incorporate certain individuals into the story.

It’s all about individuals writing their own definitions of what it means to be successful – by us and for us. For a large duration of my life, I was always under the impression that success was achieving the milestones those around me set. All A*s and As at GCSE and A-Level. Check. Get a part time job whilst studying at the age of 16. Check. Graduate from a Russell group university at the age of 21. Check. Go into a full time professional job after graduation. Check. Be fully moved out of my parents’ house. Check. Have a healthy relationship, friendships and social life. Check. Learn how to drive by the age of 17. Half check. Great, I’ve ticked off all of the above (apart from the classic ‘pass your driving test at 17’ one – I’ll get round to that at some point). But why do we listen to what society tells us is success? Where is this time/success god hiding that is deciding these times?? If anyone knows him/her/it - I’d like to have a chat.

I find that when I don’t conform to what everything else thinks is classed as being successful, I achieve more things that I am proud of. I am redefining my own success. Let’s be honest – It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be on the front page of Vogue magazine or on the Forbes 30 under 30 list (we can hope – 8 more years). I’ve started to question why I let other people’s definition of success define if I think I am a failure or not. Let’s take my blog for example, getting lovely feedback from the people that read my blog is my biggest motivation and makes me happiest when I think about all the opportunities and experiences my blog has given me. To most, the numerical worth of your blog defines success. What’s you Domain Authority number, what’s the dollar value of income you bring in through collaborations, how many products are you gifted by brands, what’s your number of Instagram followers? Of course both sides of this are important but whilst success defined by numbers may work for some, it doesn’t work for all.

I’ve just turned 22. I’m in no rush to meet all these criteria and goals that would allow me to be classed as ‘successful' by society. Those days at work where I don’t mess up, I’ve been successful. Aspiring to buy a house by my late 20s is a massive goal of mine but it can wait. Why should I let society tell me I must save circa £80,000 to put as a deposit for my first house on my 27th birthday. But let's be honest, I'm spending too much money on avocado toast for that to happen.      

All these time thresholds dictating what we should achieve by when have a negative effect on our mental health. Why are we all striving to be perfect against milestones and criteria that were set for us by someone else, without questioning why we’re doing so or if it’s actually good for us? Given the stigma around mental health and wider implications of mental health , we got to start speaking about this more openly and pinpointing the reasons/pressures that are causing it. So, what happens if you graduate with your first/undergraduate degree at the age of 26 instead of 21? What you buy your first house at 48 years old? Society tells you this is bad, that you should’ve achieved it earlier – starts to question why you didn’t achieve it earlier, mocks any valid explanations you may have and uses what is traditionally classed as achieving success as a means to put you down and make you feel worthless. Whether, its university or something else we’ve all been there and thought ‘how has it taken me so long to achieve this?’ or ‘damn, he/she are younger than me and have achieved so much more’ But it’s important not to compare our lives to others. There are no comparisons made between the sun and the moon, but they both shine when it’s their time. As much as I just died of ultimate cringe typing the latter sentence, it’s completely true

And then if we do happen to achieve all of them, we work robotically towards gaining the next thing, without taking the time to pause and enjoy life (deep, I know). And if I speak for myself, I know when I achieve one thing, I’ll get motivated to achieve the rest perhaps acquiring the wrong intentions and motivations whilst doing so. It's quite easy to end up achieving something solely for the purpose of ticking it off the list and moving onto the next big accomplishment. But then, you don’t really do it for yourself? You do it to be accepted and not judged by society (…or you do it for the gram)

As cliche/ sad/ corny as it sounds, for me success means happiness for myself and those around me. I’d rather be successful doing something that makes me happy and has a positive impact on the world, rather than successful in the eyes of someone else because I’ve got a promotion within record speed or been able to buy my first house at age 24. Whilst these are obviously milestones that should be celebrated, success is relative. It is based on the expectations you hold of yourself. And you only.

What does success mean to you?

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