What does it mean to be successful?
All of us, on some level at least, desire success. Whether in the workplace, with our partner, or as a parent (to name just three areas), we all want to be successful.
But how do we develop a healthy perspective on success?
How can we make sure our perspective on success is just that — ours — and not based on unhelpful expectations from family, friends, our employer, or society at large?
That is what we are going to explore through a series of posts this week.
Today I want to lay one simple foundation that will then enable us to build this conversation about success in a healthier way.
We live in a society where we pay for everything. Nothing comes for free. Even the things we think are free come with some non-monetary cost — even if we’re not fully aware of it. If we want something in life, we have to earn it.
This, I should quickly add, is for the most part a good thing.
However, when it comes to our sense of inner worth and identity this is dangerous.
Each and everyone of us has innate value and worth regardless of what we ever do or don’t achieve in life.
There is quite literally nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less. God decided, long, long before we were ever born, to pick us out and adopt us into his family. It’s not based on how good we are. It’s not based on whether we make a success of our lives. He simply sees intrinsic value in who we are, above and beyond what we ever do or don’t do.
This is important because many of us are part of families where the sense of pride and love we receive from them doesn’t always seem quite so unconditional. We feel immense pressure to behave a certain way or achieve certain goals. We, tragically, feel a sense of having to earn that love and pride.
Even if the love from those closest to us isn’t conditional, family can still be a huge source of pressure, and the exception to be something someone else wants us to be can be all-consuming.
But true freedom to become the best, truest version of ourselves comes from knowing that we are loved and accepted and delighted in — and loving, accepting, and delighting in ourselves — regardless of what we ever do.
That love and acceptance frees us to be ourselves. It frees us to have measures of success that are true to who we are and not based on what others tell us they should be.
As we continue to develop this conversation about success this week, let’s try and allow this truth to sink deep into our souls. Even if God isn’t someone you believe in, recognising the intrinsic value of who you are over and above what you do will bring you freedom to become the truest and fullest version of yourself.
If we are going to live successful lives, it will be because we don’t attach the pursuit of success to our fundamental, innate sense of identity and worth.
Emma Seppala has written an interesting article that, somewhat related to what I’ve written above, explores the benefits of self-compassion over and above self-esteem. It’s well worth a read.
All posts in this series:
Part One: The foundation for success
Part Two: Liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it
Part Three: Success starts on the inside
Part Four: Defining success
Originally published at www.samradford.com.