I’ve moved around a lot in the past few years. In fact, I’ve packed up my worldly belongings into battered cardboard boxes and relocated my entire life...
While growing up I wasn’t ever sure what I really wanted to do. I had ideas of the journey – I was the seven-year-old playing on the beach who told the home-movie camera she was ‘going to college’. I was the adamant 17-year-old who had decided she was going to University. I was the 21-year-old graduate convinced she would walk into a dream job just by turning up. In my head these were the steps you took to ‘success’. What that success was, well I didn’t know.
I had a vague idea that success was a combination of three things; money, power, status. The fancy job title, the nice cars, the big house.
That there would be a point where you had ‘made it’ and from then onwards, life would be a series of holidays and days offs and wandering from luxury gym to cutesy cafe, chatting with girlfriends. When I look back now I could die laughing at myself and all my naivety! That success was something that came packaged, like the latest perfume bottle.
In reality, success is a changing, constantly-evolving mass . It’s a cross-between a boggart and a dementor, something that changes shape but never really solidifies in front of you, who’ll suck the life and soul out of you if you don’t keep a careful eye on it. At times it nearly has. As an A-type, over-achiever not being able to achieve ‘success’ like an A-grade on an English paper has left me adrift at times.
If I can’t have a medal, or certificate, or grade to tell me I’ve made it, how will I know if I have? If I don’t have a big car, big mortgage or big job title, how will I know if I’m successful or not? The truth is, success is all in the eye of the beholder. It looks different at different stages of your life and different to different people.
There is no, world recognised definition of success. Of course people will tell you that there is. The media will parade the has-it-all, beautiful, wealthy, humanitarian accomplished actress with handsome husband and four kids. It will hound down the scatty, shaved-headed, loud, crass teenager as its antithesis. It will tell you that you should be assertive but not ‘bossy’, attractive but not too sexually bold, slim but not anorexic or obsessed with food and a million other contradictions enough to send anyone mad.
People you grow up with and know will have their own perceptions of success. They will wonder why you haven’t had children yet and tell you how your life doesn’t begin until you do. These are the ones who define success by parenthood. Others will start conversions with ‘so what do you do?’, spending half of the evening trying to decipher what your exact job title means and its likely salary, defining your success by how you spend your 9 to 5 (guilty). There can be a huge number of measures of success – travel, the amount of friends you have, how long your hair is, how skinny your body. How much you’re admired, how dust-free your blinds are.
The only ones you have to worry about are the measures of success that matter to you. Because they may change daily and they may look different at different stages in your life but they are yours. And for that reason alone, you must embrace them.
Whatever shape they shift into.
Beth is a Writer and Digital Marketer who founded The Full Agenda as a place to talk about the things that kept her and her friends up at night. Currently working as a Marketing consultant to various SMEs she is a big fan of the startup market and loves technology, apps and anything social media related. When not obsessively checking Google Analytics, she can be found reading, writing or relaxing with a glass of Prosecco.
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