We live in a world today where success is directly tied to what kind of job you have or how much money you make. Success is even determined off of whether you’re married or have kids. Are you a stay at home mom or are you a working mom? Are you a single parent, if so are you the product of a failed marriage? Everyone is avoiding failure but what is failure? What is success?
I remember when I was in therapy as I was going through my divorce and I was explaining to her the struggle I felt with it all. My therapist asked what was the biggest thing I was afraid of. I said “failure” and she asked me to elaborate. I then went on to state how I felt the falling apart of my marriage was so upsetting because I felt like we had failed. I felt like I had failed. She asked me had I done all that I thought I could do to save the marriage. I said yes but we couldn’t reconcile. We were not on the same page. Too much damage had been done and he had moved on therefore it’s done. My therapist asks “Well then how is that failing? You tried and for several reasons it didn’t work.” The key word that stood out for me was tried. I didn’t quit but I had to make the choice to move forward, to put the pieces of my new life together. I had to appreciate what I had learned and experienced but also had to accept that just because things didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned them didn’t mean that I was necessarily failing or going backward in life. And sometimes trying is all you can do before having to make the rational decision to regroup. Doesn’t always mean you didn’t succeed just means the plan had to shift. Sometimes what looks or feels like failure is actually redirection. I also had to look at what I thought was successful in marriage and part of that was two happy people who had the same common goals, committed solely to each other’s growth who would be best friends forever. Sometimes to determine what you equate as a failure or success means comparing your reality to your expected results, not the results you think those around you expect. Because everyone is different with different goals and perspective success can look totally different to each person. Failure can look different as well.
While I knew what my therapist said was true, there were still the thoughts in my head of what others might say or think. We often put so much emphasis on how we feel those in our lives or even those on the outside of our lives will view us. We do this sometimes at the detriment of our well being. We will stay stuck or attached to certain things that are harming us just for the face value or the perfect picture it displays. Well no one is perfect. Every single person has some issue or struggle in their life they are attempting to overcome. What helps people get through those moments is someone’s willingness to be transparent and open to say “Been there! It was hard but I made it.” or even “I’m still struggling and I don’t have all the answers but we can figure it out together.”
But sometimes instead we try to hide and then we stress about what will happen when the truth is revealed. All because we don’t want others to see us fall. We want to be well balanced and well put together and yes, successful. But what does success mean to you? What does it look like to you? For a long time I didn’t know what it looked like. I thought If I had a family and took care of my kids and husband that was succeeding. I thought if I worked full time and was an awesome employee that was successful although, it didn’t always make me feel like I was doing well in the parenting or wife category. I also thought if I was a good friend and supported those that I loved that I was doing something right in life. I now understand that all of these things in any combination is viewed as succeeding for me. But it took me a while to reach that conclusion because I got stuck playing the comparison game for far too long.
At some point I went through a phase where what other people said determined my interpretation of success and well, I started feeling not so accomplished. For some of these people, having a good job making great money and being able to buy what they wanted when they wanted was what their goals were for life. This made me feel like the goals I had weren’t good enough. I used to have the dream of going to college and getting a degree. There were so many friends I had that had not just one degree but several degrees and so I thought well maybe I do need to go to college and get a degree. The pressure of trying to figure out what I wanted out of life and comparing my life to others pushed me into making decisions with my life that are not even a sole contributing factor to where I am currently in life. So I have student loan debt for degrees I’m not currently using because I allowed other people’s view of success persuade me into pursuing things that weren’t my passions. It’s silly really. There are people out here in the world with masters who cannot get a decent job in their career field or who are making well below what they are qualified to make. So while degrees are great and can help further you in life, they don’t necessarily always equate success.
I am grateful to now have entered into a new phase of life. A different phase where I started to really focus on how certain things made me feel. Such as having the freedom and flexibility to be around for my kids and husband versus working to no end and being too exhausted to want to do anything. I am glad that we as a society have started opening the doors to talk about things such as the importance of the working mom and the stay at home mom. Both roles are important but they are not for everyone. There’s the mom who needs to get out and feel the passion and fire of a career. Then there’s the mom who finds her joy and passion in caring for her children and home. But there’s also the person in the middle, which I’ve learned that’s more of where I fit. The person in the middle wants to be great at doing something that inspires them while also being present for their family or friends. That’s part of where the writing of this blog came from for me. I wanted to connect with others who had passions, dreams, and obstacles mixed with kids, significant others, friendships, life and the goal to balance it all. It’s also important to include the roles of those who do not want to be mothers or to be married. Too often this group is hammered with questions of when they will get married or when they will have kids as if it’s the only thing in life to live for. Being married or having kids does not immediately fall into the successful category especially with high divorce rates or parents who abandon their kids.
While I struggled for quite some time with success and what I thought that meant or looked like to me, I can finally rest concluding that not only is it different for everyone, it’s also ok. I see people running businesses that they are passionate about and raising families and that makes them happy. I know moms who stay at home during the day but at night teach yoga, or Zumba or an art class. They may seem like hobbies and sometimes they’re lucrative, sometimes they aren’t but for them it works. They feel accomplished. I know people who don’t have kids, aren’t married, work full time jobs and spend their extra time with family, friends and traveling. I see and know single mom’s who work hard to raise their kids, volunteer in their community or church and run a small business. For each of these people success is not that they have it all figured out. It’s not that they present the perfect package or picture. They aren’t consistently overly concerned about what those around them are saying. They have found what fulfills them and gives them purpose. And shouldn’t that be what we are all aiming to do? Finding our purpose and letting that drive us to a place of peace, acceptance, growth, freedom and well, our INDIVIDUAL success.
So if you’re at all feeling pressure to compare yourself to your sister who has the husband, kids, or perfect looking family or to your friend that has the amazing career and is constantly getting acknowledged or promoted…..If you find yourself wanting the life of the mom who doesn’t work and focuses all of her time on her kids or the friend that is single and does what she wants when she wants…..STOP. Your success is not determined or measured by what you think is someone else’s success. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing for the lives of others when they themselves may not even like where they are in life. Spend your time focusing on you. Focus on finding the thing or things in life that give you purpose, ignites your passion and makes you feel accomplished. Search for the thing that suites you and equals success to you and only you regardless of what those around you think or feel. It’s your life to live and no one can live it as well as you!