October 19, 2017
How do you define success?
I’m not referring to the dictionary definition of success. I’m talking about your personal interpretation of what success means to you.
I am thankful that life presents new realizations and self discovery for me daily. I had a conversation with my brother-in-law, recently that completely unsettled me. The question was very simple. “What does success mean to you?” “Have you achieved it?”
So my 45 year old self looked back over the experiences of my life and I will be darned if I didn’t dig very, very, very deep. I could not think of any single experience that I considered successful.
I went back to myself as a child of about 4, when my mother and father declared me the smartest child they’d ever seen. I was reading before I went to kindergarten, so I’ve been told. As a result I have always known that I was intelligent. You might even say that I was gifted, in some areas. No matter what anybody said to me, I always knew that no matter what, my innate intelligence could never be squashed.
Next, I thought about how I’d been brought up to believe that college was too expensive. The winners in our community worked hard at a “good” company with benefits and retired there after about 35 years of service. I’d heard this all the way up to my senior year in high school, when my daddy said, “best thing for you to do is to enlist in the military…they will send you to college. We don’t have the money to send you to college, but you have to do something”. I did what I was told, but I never forgot that I didn’t pursue my dreams because I was told that it was beyond my reach. This became my focal point and also the major area of my life that I considered unsuccessful.
Lastly, I had never really considered myself a success because I compared my journey to my class mates, and to the peers in my life that my mother had sang the praises of. “You see how successful she is, she is this and she is that.” She’d always exclaim or say things like…. “She owns a condo, she drives a Mercedes Benz” etc…..
As a result of this programming, I began to reflect a mirror of myself and my own challenges and shortcomings that I felt deep down inside.
Thus, I had created a portrait of myself as being an unsuccessful single parent that didn’t finish college and in my own eyes….. didn’t measure up.
Ultimately…….and sometimes to our misfortune, our perceptions of how we define success and also how we see ourselves are often firmly implanted very early in our brains.
You see, I always knew that I was a very smart little girl. My mother and father expressed this fact to anyone within earshot all the time. I can even remember my mother telling other family members…..”she’s smart like her father’s family”. But no one ever said the most important things that I really needed to hear. I needed to hear things that would shape the little girl into a confident woman that believed in herself. It has taken years but I now know that I had to examine my past to move forward.
Here is what this 45 year old self-proclaimed, over-achiever now knows:
The Webster Definition of Success is as follows: Sucess is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
My self perception of failure was so deeply pathological that I had ignored all of my actual accomplishments. For starters, for years I’ve ignored that I’m a metaled U.S. Navy veteran. That spent 4 years in the military serving my country. I had actually graduated from College 18 years ago, but I never pursued the career because I found it boring and unfulfilling. My certificate in Computer Science lie in a dusty box in the corner as if the 2 years spent pursuing it had simply never existed.
I’ve spent more than 20 years climbing the corporate ladder for 3 very affluent companies and making the kind of salary only reserved for folks with much more college experience than I possessed….yet I’ve never taken into account that this was considered success until recently. As always within my years of climbing the corporate ladder I had managed to raise a child on my own, graduate from beauty school and obtain my license in Cosmetology and pursue a degree in liberal arts. All this within a span of 15 years.
Exhale…..I feel like I’ve been holding my breath ever since I was 17….waiting for me to step outside of myself and truly analyze the woman that I’d become.
At last, the reflection that I see makes me very proud. I guess you could say that I am extremely successful. I have successfully become Super Woman.
No degree required.