Defining Success - Personal Reflections
Monday, April 01, 2013
What defines your success? How do you find happiness and purpose, and feel like you’ve truly accomplished something of value?
I’m learning a challenging lesson about this in my own life lately.
I have written about my struggles with perfectionism in the past – the ever consuming “all or nothing” mentality that I coach so many of my clients through, assuring them that perfect isn’t possible, and that is okay. Slip-ups happen. That is okay. Mistakes and failures push us toward our great potential.
I say this stuff… and I know this stuff… but I honest to God have a very hard time putting into practice in my own mentality sometimes. Especially when I feel like I’m continually slipping, tripping, and falling flat on my face. Like now.
When I was a student, I got straight A’s. Surprising? Probably not. Unique? Nope. I was your typical oldest child, over-achiever and goodie-two-shoes. I learned that when I worked hard at something and gave it my all, I was rewarded. Rewarded with a good grade. A scholarship. A solo in choir. My art featured in a show. A leadership position. Student of the month. A good tip from a satisfied customer. Positive accolades and praise from my professors and teachers.
I am beginning to see now in these clunky adult years of growth [aka – my 20’s] that I must have really attached my own success and worth to all these outside credits. I have always believed I was only as good as the report card or another person told me I was. This realization is slamming me in the soul lately, as I grapple with my perceptions of failure (be they accurate or not) in my life and attempted ventures.
As an adult, I don’t get graded quarterly. I don’t have superiors praising me, or opportunities to showcase my talents or passions for all to acknowledge and celebrate like I used to. I have had a diverse past few years of work-experience, with some not so great bosses and unhealthy work environments that left me feeling broken and worthless. I am paying off my student loan debt, I pay my taxes, I’m an honest person, and I’m working hard at pursuing a life of passion where I inspire and help other people and live according to my beliefs and virtues… I feel like I’ve done everything right… but yet…
… I struggle over and over with feelings of failure.
Have you read the book The Five Love Languages? It’s a book that I often discuss with my clients when we talk about relationships and easing communications with others. The five “love languages” proposed are: Time, Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Gifts. When my husband and I read the book several years ago, I discovered (not to my surprise) that I am overwhelmingly concerned with Words of Affirmation. It is how I feel loved and valued more than anything else!
Recognizing this as a primary need of mine, I can see how I’ve always tied my self-love to the affirmation of others in my life. Whether it be in school or in the work place, I’ve always sought approval that I’m enough. That I’m good. Worthy.
It’s no wonder I’ve been battling feelings of failure and disappointment recently. I’m all too dependent on the approval and recognition by others to validate that I can do this and I am talented and capable and valued. And I haven’t been receiving it. Like, at all. [In fact, I’ve been receiving the opposite of it… criticisms and dismissals.]
I am definitely being tested. My faith is being challenged, and God keeps trying to teach me patience and help me to see that my worth is not in the words of others or the dollars on my paycheck. My worth is in the light of God within me, the love of Christ that gives me hope and strength to carry on.
All these feelings of self-doubt and old mental abuse have been screaming at me these past four days. As you may know, back in the fall I took a part-time job working at a chiropractic office to help supplement my income as I continue to work on building my health coaching practice. (I am a part-time gal, piecing together a collection of jobs to make up a somewhat pitiful and undependable income, while keeping me running all over each day.) I was hired as a Chiropractic Assistant, under the impression I would be primarily working in-office with patients, doing rehabilitation exercises and therapies, and assisting at the front-desk. The job turned into a two-part position – where the majority of my responsibilities were as a Practice Representative, and I was to do networking and sales for the business through lining up speaking engagements at local businesses. While I’m comfortable talking to new people and public speaking, the sales pressure was too much for me, and had me very stressed. I expressed this concern to my superior, and came down with an awful cold. Last week, I departed the office and the job.
This most recent “failure” feels like a validation of my own deep seeded fears of inadequacy: that no matter what I attempt, I seem to fail. I know this fear is illogical, but unfortunately emotions are not dictated by logic. The emotion is real, and the self-doubt has been consuming me.
I don’t really have any sage conclusions about all these feelings and musings, other than I know I’m growing, and growth is sometimes quite uncomfortable. (I have the stretch marks from my youth spurt to prove it.) I have a lot to work on, and many realizations about myself and how I define my worth to keep me turning inward and upward – putting my faith in the journey and my God.
Somehow, I have to believe that even if I can’t see it and no one is telling me outright, I must be doing the homework necessary to earn my “A” in this career venture soon. I am filled with such passion and desire for goodness and revolution – I want so badly to be a beacon of light and change for others, to radiate truth and compassion and health. Even though my entrepreneurial efforts are taking more time than I had hoped, I have faith that all will be well. Bumps in the road help shape the journey, and help me to redefine what success really comes down to in my life. Because it can’t be about dollar signs – or about report cards or accolades.
It has to be about the peace I feel with my place here in this world, and the joy in living, speaking, and acting upon my truth. Blessed be this beautiful life.