Understanding Your Own Definition of Success


Social Media & Success

I have a confession to make - I have a very love/hate relationship with Social Media. Whenever I go on to it, in whatever shape or form, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll come away from my encounter feeling really shitty about myself.

I can’t help but negatively compare myself to all the wonderful achievements and vast amounts of success everyone seems to be enjoying on Social Media. First, there’s the number of followers to berate yourself about, then there’s the number of likes, then there’s the endless videos I watch, which make me think I should be recording those too...nightmare. I come away feeling like a complete failure who should be doing so much more...in every part of my life, it would seem.

Comparison: A Recipe for Disaster

I was reading an article in Cosmopolitan the other day, which referenced economic researcher Emerson Csorba’s study on the motivations and career aspirations of Millennials. He explained that modern 24/7 communication has created a climate of “ruthless comparison” among peers. Instead of cultivating our own personal definitions of success, we look at what others are doing to define it. He points out that doing this - defining success by looking outwards - is a recipe for disaster because “it creates anxiety and uncertainty in one’s self.” I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Emerson. The anxiety and self-doubt it creates is unreal. I find myself doubting myself and wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life.

I can appreciate it’s not rational to feel like this. On paper, I’m a successful Career Coach. I’ve achieved everything in life that I set out to achieve. Yet, measuring myself against whatever everyone else is up to/achieving, I end up feeling like it’s not enough. I should be even more successful, and achieving way more than I am. Perhaps it’s a fear of missing out too - like there’s some sort of bandwagon I haven’t quite made the jump on to yet - everyone else is doing these things on Social Media, so maybe I should be doing them too?!

Whose Definition Are You Using?

Either way, when I find myself in a panic, frantically writing down all the things I should be doing in order to be successful, I find it helpful to stop and ask myself: Is this what I really want? Do I want more followers? If so, why? Is it just so I can look more popular, or is it actually an important and meaningful goal of mine? Do I want more money in my bank account? If so, why? So I can feel richer and therefore more successful somehow? Is that how I measure success, or is that a definition of success I’ve picked up from somewhere else? There’s no way you could say the richest people in the world aren’t successful though - so maybe money is the true definition of success? Then why does defining success by what you earn sometimes feel so....empty?

I often find it baffling when clients say they’ve not achieved anything in their careers so far. On paper, you’d definitely say they had. But to them, it doesn’t feel like they’ve been successful. This is usually because they’ve followed a path that means very little to them, falling into a career with little consideration because the opportunity arose soon after leaving education perhaps. Anything they’ve achieved so far feels of little value to them.

Success is Internal

The dictionary defines success simply as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Surely then, being successful is only ever about setting your own goals, and achieving these. Simple as that. It’s an internal measurement, not an external one.

It’s not currently my aim to be a Social Media ‘influencer’ with millions of followers. It’s never been my aim to be so busy that I feel stressed by the amount of work (and family responsibilities) I have. It feels more important to me to know that I’ve had a deep impact on a few people’s lives; to know that I’ve helped them in some profound way. I’d love to know that I was part of their decision to change career and do something they really enjoy. I’m also a Mother to a 2 year old. If he grows up to be a confident, secure young man, full of self-assurance and optimism, that will feel like the mother of all achievements.

Define Your Own Definition of Success

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that success comes in all shapes and forms. It’s about taking the time to work out what feels most important to YOU to achieve in life. Imagine you’re 95 years old, looking back over your life. What do you hope your memories are filled with? What will you be most proud of achieving? Whatever your answer is will help you define your own definition of success. What it means to you is all that matters at the end of the day, not how many likes or followers you have on some Social Media platform that, no doubt, will no longer exist when you turn 95.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.