What even IS success?
Lots of big changes have happened over the last two years for me. I talked recently about how I’ve been feeling like a I need a new goal, a new project- and I still think that. However, I feel like only now is the dust from all those big changes starting to really settle, allowing me the space and time to analyse my feelings properly. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about most recently, is the concept of success.
Guys, what even IS success?
There is such a pressure to succeed in life- to get the job, the house, the relationship, body, the family – the dream life. And on paper, it works. You try, you work hard and then you succeed right?
But what if you don’t? What if you don’t get the job you wanted, you don’t fall in love, you don’t end up living the the life you envisaged for yourself you were younger? Does that mean you’ve failed? And if you don’t achieve that success you prescribed for yourself, does that inherently make you a failure? And did you even WANT to prescribe that for yourself, or has your idea of success been shaped and moulded by what’s around you?
We are living in an online world that is saturated with the language of so-called success. We applaud people for ‘Getting Shit Done’, for being a ‘Girl Boss’, for ‘Smashing It’! We read statuses of people’s new jobs, their latest running time, their pre-work yoga class and after work rooftop bar drinks. People post memes reminding us that ‘we only have as many hours in the day as Beyonce’.
But what if I don’t want to get shit done right now? What if I don’t want to run my own business, or work super long hours in order to get a promotion? What if I don’t want to be responsible for a team of employees and become a super high flyer in my profession? If the thought of trying to change the world just makes me feel tired? Does that mean I’m not successful if I don’t do or want those things? Or does it mean I’m in the wrong place?
This month has been really weird, seeing lots of people I know and got to know at Edfringe last year taking their work back there and still working hard at their shows, and knowing that I opted not to do that. I successfully took my show there last year, sure, but is that undermined by the fact that I then decided to not take it any further?
I do worry about that sometimes. I worry sometimes that I’m not aiming high enough, that I’ve lost my idea of ‘where I’ll be in five years’ now I’ve changed careers, and that’s really scary. I worry I’m not utilising my skills, that I’m wasting my creativity and that I’ll end up not really achieving anything and full of regret. It’s awesome to read stories of people who achieve so much, who start businesses, fight for amazing causes, harness creative ideas, inspire people- but it can be slightly overwhelming too and I get stuck in a place where I just feel shit for not being those people. Or maybe I just miss the applause that used to make me feel successful when I sang.
But does success always have to be a huge, lauded achievement? Can’t it be smaller? Can it not just be a success to get through a day and feel like I’ve enjoyed being here? The more I think about it, I more I think my true measure of success is happiness. As a performer, I finally came to the realisation that I wasn’t very happy. Always fighting to be the best, to keep going, to get the job, the audition, the life. Now I have the safety of a salary, have I lost my hustle? And if I have, is that a bad thing if it means my general sense of happiness and wellbeing is better?
Since I stopped being a professional performer, I am genuinely, on a daily basis, much more content. I still have my dark days and anxiety filled spells but generally I’m happier. I’m more settled, I feel more in control. So I think that’s my version of success at the moment.
Plus, all this beating up of oneself is hardly living my best life either. I’m going to hope that I find my way to a sense of success in a more focused way at some point. But in the meantime, I’m going to try and think of each day as a success in a broader, more internal sense. I’m going to attempt to live more in each moment, to quite literally, smell the roses. I’ll spend time outdoors, read poetry, appreciate my home, hug people tighter, dance to great songs in my living room, tell my friends I love them, sit quietly, play the piano (despite the fact I’m terrible), sleep for as long as my body wants to, be kind, eat things that make me feel good, watch classic movies, sing loud whilst I cook delicious food in my knickers, do nice things for my boyfriend, listen to interesting and thought-provoking podcasts, be more curious about things and try to laugh more. If I can try and do some of those things on a daily basis, well, it’ll be bloody difficult not to count every day as a huge success.