We have a tendency to oversimplify things at times, pigeon holing and stereotyping with the best of them. This is how we stereotype a successful life: be popular, pass lots of exams, go to university, graduate, get a high earning career, get a house, have a big wedding, get a dog, have 2.5 children, spend retirement in a big house doing plenty of leisure activities. But none of these goals or activities guarantee happiness, contentment or fulfillment. We are all individuals and naturally so are our life patterns and goals.
As individuals we fixate on these goals, judging both ourselves and, even more unfairly, others by their attainment of them. If we don’t achieve these things are we really failures? Are we really going to be less happy, less content and less fulfilled if we don’t attain them?
I argue that it is just the opposite. These goals are the ethereal dreams, the rose tinted fairy castles, of the marketing and media worlds that bombard us with propaganda daily and from birth. These are not our personal hopes, dreams and ambitions. A wise and mature person sees beyond the illusions and sets out to do what will really bring them happiness, contentment and fulfillment.
If you are terminally ill which of those do you think you are really going to pursue? Even the status symbol wedding is not going to be the focus, you’d dream of falling in love and take it from there. One day at a time.
Certificates, material possessions and money do not bring happiness, contentment and fulfillment. If your house is burning down around you, what would you rescue? Your exam certificates or the family photo albums?
It makes you think doesn’t it?
We can easily fall into the trap of brow beating ourselves because we are measuring ourselves against the wrong goals, the wrong standards. We want to be like everyone else, the perfect everyone else who lives in the media and has perfect lives. Is there really anyone living that life out there? More importantly, are they happy, content and fulfilled?
We have to make our own way, find out what really works for us as individuals and as families, what really brings us that elusive happiness, contentment and fulfillment. Maybe academic success was never going to be our forte but we have a vast array of skills that are far more practical in everyday life, maybe we’ve opted against a career in employment but run a successful business that brings us far more fulfillment, maybe we’re struggling to make ends meet but we’re devoted to raising our children full time, maybe we don’t know what the future holds financially but we do know that we’ll be spending it with the people who we love the most and doing the things that we enjoy the most.
Which would you rather?
I am a failure.
I didn’t do well at college and although I tried university level courses, it wasn’t for me. I’m not academic, I learn in unique ways that teachers or lecturers don’t always understand or appreciate. However I do have a dozen GCSEs, a few AS and A levels and some vocational qualifications. I have learnt or dabbled in over half a dozen different languages. I have a dyslexia type perception syndrome which makes this success all the more remarkable. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?
My employment history is rather chequered but with a world recession and long term chronic ill health, who’s surprised? I have temped my way around a huge spectrum of local businesses and acquired a fascinating insight into all sorts of business types. When my health next improves I’m looking forward to being nonconformist and going self employed, doing something that I enjoy at my own pace. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?
I have limited physical ability, due in part to that chronic ill health, but I do have a wealth of practical information stored inside my head, from changing car tyres to light bulbs, from running plumbing to designing fences, from filling cracks and holes to decorating, it’s all there stored safe ready to share with whoever I can persuade to take up the task. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?
My parents might have despaired of my lack of enthusiasm for participation in household chores but I can cook and sew and run a house with the best of them, even if it does occasionally go belly up. I’m an expert in saving money and making economies which in these difficult times is a skill that a lot of people would like. I’m happy with simple things and have few expensive vices (cheap vices include value range chocolate). Doesn’t sound so bad does it?
I was never popular as a teenager and still don’t have the busy social life that one is expected to have as a relatively young individual. But I’m a loyal friend who cares deeply and is highly supportive. I met and fell in love with my best friend and we’re still together after an increasing number of years of marriage. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?
It’s easy for me to write myself off as a failure. I’ve heard it openly and suggested so many times. I see the looks. But then do these people really know me? Do they know what I’ve come through to get here, what I’m fighting against each day or what I really do with my life? Not really.
So I’m going to be brave and take a huge step forward, publicly declaring: I AM NOT A FAILURE.
I am not a failure. Liberating isn’t it?
Take some time to sit yourself down and reaffirm just who you are, just how successful you really are. Throw away all these silly empty criteria and judge yourself on being you. If you are being true to yourself and what you want in life, are you really a failure? I think not.