Disclaimer: What does Success Mean to You? is an opinion piece.
You scroll through your Instagram feed. An old friend just posted how they signed a contract for an internship for Apple. Your cousin received a national recognition award for her volunteering efforts. Another friend flaunts in front of the Godzilla statue in Tokyo, having the time of their life traveling. Caption? #blessed.
Then, your perspective shifts. There’s you. Glaring at their accomplishments, in your ruffled pajamas and the suffocating confines of your room. Jealousy, inadequacy, sadness — all these thoughts and emotions consume you. Like an orchestra whose strings and wind instruments play an asynchronous, blaring melody.
“Why am I so mediocre?”, “What am I doing with my life?”, “I don’t hate myself — I’m just not good enough for anything.”
These thoughts fill you up and chew you out. You shine a spotlight on others while dimming your own. You know these thoughts aren’t healthy, nor are they wanted, but they appear all the same.
The reason? Let’s get on to it.
What is NOT Success
The most common dilemma for people is rooting their success based on other people’s standards. These ideas of success were usually self-imposed by factors reinforced since childhood (parent’s expectations, anyone?).
These expectations are not your fault and they’re surprisingly common. But once you realize that comparison is the enemy that you’ll have to face, you’ll slowly start to realign yourself down a path that leads to the highest chance of fulfillment.
Comparison is really it. However, stopping it is not easy. In fact, according to psychologist Thomas Mussweiler, comparing ourselves to others is rooted in our brains to measure our own self-identity. It’s a natural human process. It’s only when you dwell on it, your confidence and mental health will be at stake.
Here are some ways to stop comparing yourself to others:
- Find Something To Be Grateful For: Like the smell of morning dew or your pet.
- Find Happiness in the Present: If you’re always chasing and chasing, it will never end.
- People’s Life Suck, Only Their Highlight Reel’s Good: Everyone has problems. Everyone
- Compete With Yourself: Are you a better person today than yesterday?
- Focus on your Strengths: If you’re a people person and hate numbers, don’t tie your life purpose as an accountant.
Once you’re brought to this epiphany, another issue might arise. Lost time. (“Gosh, I wasted so much time worrying about this”).
But remember this as a related example: you’ll still be the same age in 2025 or however long in the future if you didn’t take that college degree you would love. Or if you didn’t pursue that fun-looking industry in favor of your boring desk job.
Time waits for no one. Instead of brooding about the past, realize your agency to get up and move on from it. Sure, you’ve wasted 3 years in a job you didn’t want and you’re unhappy. But if you stay on track for 5 years, 10 years, you’ll perpetually stay in the “What-if” stage and live regretting the self-image you’ve repressed for years when you’re older.
What success is NOT boils down to three things:
- Comparison of others
- Highlighting your insecurities instead of strengths
- Failure to realize that everyone has struggles
Understanding Your Success
Success is a highly intimate concept. It’s perfectly normal not to have an idea of it now; it takes time and courage to uncover your deepest desires and root out the ones imposed on you. Whether you’re 15 and worried about school or 24 and drained by work, there’s no time limit for you to find your life’s grander purpose.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re still very, very young. Here are some people who managed to get by achieving big feats later in life:
- Oprah: She was fired from a media company when she was 23.
- “Colonel” Sanders: He worked odd jobs his entire life, making his KFC breakthrough at 65.
- Charles Darwin: He was 50 when he published “On the Origin of Species.”
To wrap up, your life journey is all but over. You don’t have to work on something grand to leave a fulfilled life. Many people who have simple jobs are much happier than people earning bank in Goldman Sachs.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Cleansing all the gunk that you’ve strung along since childhood and pushing yourself to action rather than comparing yourself to others.