06.12.12 Career & Finances
What is success? How do you define success for yourself? If you live in the Western world, success is often defined by what’s missing in your life. You see, in the current climate of our culture, we are conditioned to strive for what we don’t have in order to compensate for the emotional voids we carry deep down inside. The ones who manage to achieve the most are deemed successful. Many of us are subconsciously pressured into wanting a certain type of “success” and thus we’re constantly on the move reaching for the next best thing, trying to prove to the world and to ourselves that we are whole and worthy of being called “somebody”.
So, if you’re broke and miserable, your success will be measured by the amount of money you make and the amount of happiness you can cram up in your lifetime. If you’re insecure, you’ll strive for the highest position within your company and covet the most expensive designer labels. Success for many of us is the dream that will skillfully elude us all our lives because we’ll never achieve the proverbial goals that could have gotten us into this exclusive club.
But what happens to the lucky few who somehow manage to achieve their goals but yet fail to feel better about themselves? If like me you fall into this category, you suddenly realize the lie you bought into and your level of despair reaches new heights. You now have to secretly live with the knowledge that nothing can take away the pain you thought would disappear once you followed the right steps. You know… having the right job, wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, dating the right guy etc. Not only do you still feel like “shit”, but now no one is going to feel sorry for you. You don’t get any sympathy for feeling empty while rolling in apparent “success”. Just look at the general sentiment towards celebrities who voice any type of discomfort. You certainly don’t want to sound ungrateful or inconsiderate, but nonetheless, you can’t help the way you feel. The emotional pain that first drove you to conquer the world is now causing you to feel even worse.
Personally, I had never questioned why I wanted to be successful. No one had ever suggested that I could define my own parameters of success. No one ever told me that I could be successful on my own terms. Therefore, for the first part of my life I strived to achieve my parent’s dream of getting a good education and getting a decent job. Once I reached this milestone, I silently wondered why I felt like I was locked inside a cage instead of the elation I had expected. If you can relate to what I’m describing here, did you ever stop to question the motivation behind your need to succeed? Whose idea of success did you really buy into anyway? Chances are, you got caught up in what I now call egoic success. This type of success is either driven by someone else’s vision or by a need to compensate for an emotional wound. Your need to live up to expectations can guilt you into doing things that look right, but feel completely wrong. Or your need to feel better and rid yourself of a certain pain will motivate you to surpass yourself in incredible ways, but yet you’ll keep feeling inadequate. The problem with this paradigm is you will always need more of this or more of that in order to be okay. Achieving success in itself will never be enough. So what can you do instead?
Eventually, I had to turn to introspection to get the answers I needed. Therefore, I suggest looking into the reasons you want what you want. Be honest with yourself about your real intentions for wanting to achieve a particular type of success. For instance, if you feel it’s really important for you to have a certain amount of money, make a list of all the reasons behind this desire. What will usually happen when you dig deep enough is you will realize that you hold the belief that the money will make up for something you think you’re lacking. This could be self-worth, self-respect, attention etc. Once you know your hidden intentions, make a list of all the reasons you believe you aren’t worthy, have self-respect or aren’t getting the attention you want in the first place. List everything that’s coming to your mind, it could be caused by things your parents said to you or can be rooted in past experiences. Either way, don’t hold back and put it all down on paper. Once you’re done, read over your list and allow yourself to feel the pain you’ve been trying so hard to cover up. As you like it or not, your list will include a lot of painful things that you would prefer to ignore. Don’t run from your pain, let it take over and just sit with all the emotions coming up.
In my case, I felt really bad for not wanting the life my parents had worked so hard to provide for me. I felt guilty for letting them down and not wanting the lifestyle that made them proud. Contrary to what most people believe, you won’t die from feeling your pain. But you certainly can die from trying to avoid it. Again, we often see this in the case of drug overdoses.
Emotion is energy in motion, when we allow it to be expressed it moves right through us. On the other hand, when we try to stuff it down or we judge it because we think we shouldn’t be feeling it, an emotion will stick around forever. The easiest way to get rid of any emotion is to allow it to do what it’s meant to do…move. Emotions that are holding you back will only leave you when you’ve allowed them to be expressed. Go ahead, have a good cry if you need to, get angry, do whatever needs to be done and when you’ve emptied your cup, burn your list. That’s right, once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the pain, you can now let it go. Emotions are released layers by layers, so you’ll probably have to do this a few times to release all the negative charges. This exercise is the equivalent of a good house cleaning and once you’ve done that, you are ready to start receiving what you really want.
Stay tuned for the second part of this article where I’ll show you how to lock in on achieving success that really fulfils you.
Featured image via Kevin Thoule on Flickr