We all get to a point in our lives where we realize “Wow this is not where I expected to be at this point in my life!”
If I look back ten years, I had very different expectations about where I would be by my 29th birthday. I expected that by this stage in my life I would….
- be living as far away from my home state of RI as possible…Not in the same town I grew up in.
- be living in my own house…. NOT in an RV parked at the in-laws.
- have children and a cat…. NOT that I would realize that I wasn’t ready for kids yet.
- be in a career where I make a decent living wage… NOT that I would be leaving my less than $20,000 a year career for an uncertain future.
(The cool thing is…)
I think that my life is WAY better than I expected it to be ten years ago.
This is when somebody whispers “But how can she think that she is better off when most of her expectations have not been fulfilled, like not even close?”
To that I would say that “We choose how we view our reality!” I choose to focus on all the things that I do have now that I didn’t expect I would ever have.
I didn’t expect that by 29 I would be…
- happy the majority of the day every day (since I had been depressed for most of my life)!
- in an amazing relationship with my husband that is not based on co-dependence and self-doubt!
- in a constant state of gratitude for everything that I have, instead of disappointed that I don’t have more.
- surrounded by my family and friends who love and care about me, instead of being introverted and alone in a distant state or country.
- in a state of love with myself instead of being in a constant negative self talk cycle.
(Let me repeat that last one.... )
I am now in a State of Love with Myself
That in and of itself is a miracle that I never would have believed possible ten years ago.
The difference is that ten years ago I was hoping to be living the standard cultural definition of success and now I have re-written my definition of success to truly reflect my actual beliefs and values.
While we were growing up, we were trained to believe in the old traditional American idea of success. This version of success tends to value money, power, fame and physical beauty over almost everything else.
There is this terrible weight on us from a young age to prove we are worthwhile humans.
Our self worth and value is not viewed as inherent to us as human beings, but rather something we have to earn by conforming to society and by becoming financially successful, influential, and perfect on the outside in every way.
(*Hold up… I have to have a short emotional moment here*)
I can’t even express how HARD I tried to prove to everyone else that I was VALUABLE. I wasn’t even trying to prove it to myself, because that was so far beyond what I thought I was capable of. My goal was to just convince everyone else I was worthy, even if I didn’t feel worthy on the inside. I have so much love and compassion for that past self that it makes me want to go back and hug her and have a nice long cry together. If you are in that place right now, just know that I have so much compassion for you and I KNOW you can break free of all that weight!
This pressure to conform to the old societal concept of success is an unbearably heavy weight holds us down and keeps us small! Today that concept is starting to slowly change and it is slowly becoming cool to “follow your dreams” and the more unique you can be the better (which is its own kind of pressure, but we can talk about that later), but most of our parents still hold to the old American values and therefore hold us to the same standards OR we believe that they hold us to these standards (which is just as bad).
Shedding this weight can be a little …involved and complicated! This is because we can’t just put down the expectation backpack, dust off our hands (easy as pie) and be done. We have to unpack ALL the guilt and shame and fear and uncertainty and then change all our beliefs about them before we can move on.
I tell you this because I am in the middle of it myself. I have spent a lot of time, A LOT of time, sitting and crying and journaling and meditation and talking it out and then crying and meditating and journaling some more. Facing your guilt, shame fear and uncertainty is hard, but it feels soooo good at the same time. After every journaling session I would feel physically lighter and then I would laugh and I would glow all day and excitedly tell my husband all about it and then dive into the muddy self development work again the next day.
Today, my working definition of success is as follows (and I say working definition because I am open to constant change)
Notice that the antonym of Success isn’t Failure (that is a whole other blog post). Success is a path and a lifestyle during which failure is an important learning tool. The antonym of success is stagnancy; lack of change; the unwillingness to change or grow.
You may look at that and think, “That is just settling for an easy way out” or “That’s the lazy way to think of it”. I would strongly disagree. I work harder now and with more drive and more passion than I ever did when I was trying to conform to the old definition. Now that I let down the weight, I feel like I can actually go out in the world and make money and build that house and eventually have those kids and do it in a way that is truly authentically ME.
You do NOT have to give up your happiness and freedom to be successful. You also do NOT have to give up your desires for material possessions, wealth, financial stability or comfort to be successful. You just have to approach life in a way that is full of love and gratitude and happiness instead of resenting and hating your life. It is just fine to want to make plenty of money and have a house with kids and a cat. It is just fine to want to be the most beautiful version of yourself that you can be or to drive the car you always wanted. Just ask yourself why you want those things and see if the answer resonates in a positive way with you. Which answer FEELS better?
1. I want to make $50,000 more a year than I do now because then my family and friends will finally respect me and I will finally be happy!
2. I want to make $50,000 more a year than I do now because it will give me the financial freedom to be able to pursue goals that I really care about. I will be free to do what I love to do and I will be able to share my gifts and abundance with others.
The first answer is based on the fact that you don’t love and respect yourself and therefore you believe that your friends and family don’t respect you. That leads to searching for your value outside of yourself and waiting to be happy.
The second answer acknowledges that money is tool that can be used to accomplish great things. The desire for more money is based on the underlying concept that you have something amazing that you want to do and share because you are already valuable and having more money will give you the freedom to do that.
I am living in an RV, about to quit my job and have almost no money in my bank account but I KNOW that I am successful. I have been staying small and keeping quiet my whole life. I was afraid to go after what I desired because I was afraid of failing and not being viewed as successful. Today I know that failure is a part of success and I am finally going after that dream job and my dream house and I am cultivating my dream relationship because I am FREE to do those things.
Sending love to all of you! I know that you too can be FREE! Let me know what you think about this.
What is your current definition of success? How do you want to define success in the future?