What does it mean to be successful?
In our success-obsessed culture, the world’s function for “making it” is an equation in which our self-opinion is a huge variable. Success greatly affects the way we see ourselves, and it is probably also why success is a measure by which we see others, isn’t it? Whether it is success in work, school, relationships and even beauty, our eyes have built-in metrics by which we judge a person’s value, and how we measure up.
“Oh, she’s not as smart or experienced as I am. Ergo, I’m kind of a better person…”
“He doesn’t have a great job? I guess I’m luckier and a better person than him…”
“I hate myself. I just don’t have the romance that my peers have. I guess I’m a failure…”
“Ugh, she’s got such an ugly disposition. I’m such a great person for being that much kinder than her.”
Most of us strive for something greater, something more, to get out of our lives. We pin that “something” as success. Whether it’s feeling accomplished because of our good deeds or having achieved a milestone in one’s profession, it’s always been about one thing: us. It’s always been about feeling that we are “valuable”– that sense of “Yes, I have added value to myself. I have made it and must now maintain it.”
We pursue the things that we value because we believe these things (our career, position, looks, image, fame, talent, money, character and good deeds) to be the ultimate indicators of our worth.
However, remove these things, and what do we have left?
Or did we have the wrong equation in the first place?
The problem with this way of thinking is that our value is tied to the temporary things of this world. Without these things– these “successes”– we become worthless, both in our own eyes as well as in the eyes of others. That’s why we look down on others. That’s why we become insecure. That’s why we swing between discontentment and pride.
But a baby is not born with a market value.
A beggar is not equivalent to a stray cat or dog.
Human beings are not stocks, whose ultimate worth change from season to season, depending on how well they do.
If success is where we base our value on and how we judge people, we are saying that a human being is ever only the sum of his parts.
But aren’t we so much more than that?
A newborn has done nothing to merit the attention it gets. It gives joy by simply being. When do we lose this basic characteristic, of valuing a life just because? At what point of growing up did we suddenly feel “incomplete”, enough to pursue successes at all cost in order to fill the hole of our value as a person?
Perhaps a healthy understanding of our value as human beings has nothing to do with our educational attainment, or salary, or our relationships. Perhaps it is independent of our ability to be “good” people, independent of our looks or the things that people say about us. Independent of our past, our present, or our future. Perhaps we’re more than our successes, and more than our failures.
Maybe knowing a love that establishes you as the most valuable person in the world to the only One who matters is the most precious kind of success. Perhaps, it is simply about knowing Someone who has said “I love you, no matter what. To Me, you are most valuable. And nothing will ever change that.”
And then, perhaps, the definition of success would have nothing to do with proving ourselves, but would be about knowing this love, and being transformed by this love from the inside out. “Success” then would not be something to be pursued, but something to be shared to others, something that we give to others, something akin to love.
To have that sense of worth outside of anything we do or become, I believe, is the kind of success that is most valuable of all.