‘I see success as leaving high school with as much of yourself as when you started…’
I believe it all starts with high school. The pressure begins to set in the minute young adults are aware of how they look, what they have and what they don’t have. High school is incredibly difficult and teens will do what they have to in order to survive; even if it means compromising who they really are. Looking back, I realise just how much of my nerdy self I contained in fear of looking uncool. Now that I’m an adult and the social pressures of high school are far behind me, I really let my nerdy side flourish and I’m proud of it! Even though we all wore a uniform, there was an unspoken way of tailoring it to look stylish. I admit to purposely adjusting it so I could fit in and look just like the others. It’s amazing how much matters when you are stuck with the same group of teenagers for six years and the second you leave, the social hierarchy of popular, unpopular and the in-betweeners completely levels out. Suddenly, you’re all the same. You’re all paying bills and working full time jobs and getting married and having kids and trying to make ends meet. Who so and so is dating is now completely irrelevant. So leaving high school and becoming an adult suddenly sounds quite free and peaceful doesn’t it?
Now we are racing against the clock! We focus on who is getting married. Who is having kids before us. Who has already climbed the ladder of career ‘success’ and compare ourselves to how ‘happy’ the people we used to go to high school with look on Facebook and Instagram. The pressure has returned…it’s just a different kind of pressure. We need to look beyond social conditioning. We need to ask ourselves why do we feel this pressure? Is it because we actually feel ‘achieving’ these things are important to us personally or is it because the lurking shadow of the ‘societal shoulds’ is breathing down our neck? If it is very important to you that you have a career then by all means pursue it. If you feel you should have a career because you can see everybody else has one…maybe you need to take some time out in a quiet place and focus on what really matters to you and you alone. In this day and age, it isn’t so important whether we ever get married or even have children. As equality slowly steps forward, women are having amazing careers and men are expressing more of their vulnerable, beautiful qualities. The reality is that we don’t have to colour inside the lines and one size definitely does not fit all! We are free to do whatever we wish and be whoever we are with the time we have left on Earth.
I had lunch with a dear friend yesterday who felt a little lost. She had just been made redundant, was back to looking for full time work, noticed that a few of her friends had gotten engaged and felt that she wasn’t a proper ‘adult’ yet. My heart went out to her as I could feel the pressures of societal conditioning bearing down. When I look at my friend, I see a beautiful young woman who has gone to University and majored in something she loves. She has written a wonderful thesis. She is incredibly creative, well-read, loyal and thoughtful. She has a healthy, happy long-term relationship with a lovely man and she has a heart of gold. To me…she has already succeeded…
My sister is another inspiring example. After years of study and sacrifices, she has finally obtained a Masters in Psychology. Instead of immediately settling into full time work, she has just bought a one-way ticket overseas to travel, see the world and rediscover the beautiful woman that she is. It is people like my sister that are to be admired. She is following her heart and listening to what matters to her the most.
In my previous post, I mentioned being a Highly Sensitive Person. I too, have decided that a life of yoga and meditation is what matters to me rather than a fast-paced corporate world. I want to live a life free of as much anxiety and tension as I can and if that means I won’t earn as much money but will be more at peace…well I won’t just walk, I’ll skip down that path! Having children is also very important to me so one day I hope to be a mother that can instruct my sons or daughters to stay true to themselves and follow their own path.
We need to look beyond ego, expectation and comparison. We are all individuals and that is what makes us so wonderful and special. Every single person I went to high school with is walking down a completely different path to mine and I love that. Different things matter to different people and none of them are right or wrong.
Conditioning is hard and has a hold on so many of us. If I walk down the street hand in hand with my partner, no one will think anything…but replace my partner with a female and people will look twice. They may not judge or even be homophobic but they will look twice because of societal conditioning. The same goes for models in magazines that aren’t a size 6. I love seeing curvier women displayed on certain catalogues now but my mind has been conditioned in such a way that I honestly do look twice. I’m not used to seeing it but I am so glad it is there and I hope a day does come where nobody will look twice because homosexuality and healthier looking women are the norm.
Let’s look beyond social conditioning. Let’s embrace what hasn’t been thrown in our face all our lives. Let’s travel, love, laugh and find peace within ourselves. I understand that it is important to work or find somebody or have children or feel like you’ve made a difference in some way but if you have a good heart and continue to follow it…I would say you’ve truly lived and experienced success.
Let me rephrase the quote at the top: ‘I see success as leaving this world with as much of yourself as when you entered it…’