I wanted to write a short post about measuring success because it’s been on my mind lately. When I was younger, I always measured success based on what my parents praised me for. Whether it be good grades, behaving well, or performing well at sporting events. I was always so focused on how they thought I did, and it kind of turned me into my worst critic.

My parents aren’t hyper critical, but they always had super high expectations for me. I was expected to get good grades. I was always expected to behave well. I was always expected to perform well in sports because that’s what I chose to do with my free time. And when I struggled, I was met with strictness and shame. They of course tried to help me, but it wasn’t really supportive. It was just what can we do to stop the bleeding?

And even now, at 25, I still feel those expectations. I am still incredibly hard on myself if I don’t do well in any area of my life. Lately, all of these feelings have been attached to rejection. I applied to grad school last fall, and when I applied for undergrad programs I was accepted into every program I applied to. That was expected. Grad school is different though. The programs are much smaller and much more competitive, so I did not get in everywhere I applied. And I felt shame about it.

What else could I have done? I wonder why I wasn’t as competitive of a candidate? I guess I could have done more. I guess I could have done x,y,z in order to be taken more seriously. I definitely would have gotten in if I did x. Maybe if I wasn’t so ambitious this wouldn’t have happened. But I got into the one program I really wanted to get into, so it shouldn’t have mattered that I didn’t get into all of them. I was still upset though. The voice in my head kept echoing failure to me.

But it wasn’t failure at all. As I stepped back and looked at this situation from a different angle I realized that I have to redefine how I measure success. I am not longer at the mercy of my parents and their expectations. They will have opinions no matter what I do, but it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It only matters what I think and how I feel. I feel successful because I got into the program I ultimately wanted to get into. The one I feel will get me where I want to be in life. There’s no shame in wanting something and getting it as a result of hard work.

Don’t get caught up in what other people think of anything you’re doing. Don’t get caught up in ideas other people plant in your brain. Just live your life. The universe had to conspire in such a specific way to bring you to where you are at this very moment. Don’t second guess it. Success is different for everyone. How you define it and measure it is your decision, don’t let anyone tell you how to feel. Listen to your heart and trust the universe and yourself.

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