Looking at how to redefine expectations of who we think we should be so we may fulfill our greatest potential.
Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?
– Charles Bukowski
From a young age, there were clear expectations about who I should be to be worthy. Being successful was central to this worthiness and meant "having a good stable job so you could provide for yourself or your family". This definition implies that financial means and money are central to success. For the majority of my life, I desired this success and chased it, I graduated top 10 in high school to get into a good university to ultimately get a white collar, stable 9-5 job, to save so I could buy a house and support a family of my own. It wasn't just that I wanted to be successful and be financially secure, more so I wanted to be the person they thought I should be so I would be worthy and accepted by my parents.
Well, I fulfilled most of these expectations - I got to the point of home ownership, on the brink of marrying my partner with whom I bought the home with, when I finally paused to take a breath and ask myself what this was all for. I had certainly done a lot, accomplished things that I set out to do - all of which is admirable, but in this chase I lost myself. My self worth was tied to the acceptance I received from other people - parents or peers - which I achieved by being successful, but I wasn't paying attention to the voice that mattered; my own.
My "success" achieved on society's terms felt empty. I was working a job that I hated, to pay for a home that was becoming the reason I told myself I was staying in this soul sucking job. I spent 3+ hours a day commuting to the office, often times breaking down in tears on my car ride home and distracting myself with hobbies and relationships that were toxic. After a few years of living out this self-fulfilling prophecy I had exhausted myself and realized that this life of "success" was not serving me and I wanted something more.
It is around this time that I started to further examine my understanding of success and redefine what success meant to me. I started to pay attention to my inner voice and look for a new way to make sense of the world. My definition is always evolving, but today I believe success is measured by my ability to impact others through my unique contributions more than any amount of accumulated wealth or job title. With this, I have also come to understand that my worthiness is not tied to anything other than my existence - acceptance or not, I have inherent value.
If you felt you didn't have to prove your self-worth, who would you become? What would you do that would fulfill YOU?
You too have the power to redefine expectations, so what are you reimagining?