What is Success?

One of the fundamental notions of modern life is that one’s success is dependent upon achievements that others can observe. This metric of success comes from humans’ need to be accepted by the tribe, to be viewed as someone valuable to society. It’s easy to define success by these statistics because they can be measured empirically. A good example of this is wealth.

Many of the richest people in the world will employ cutthroat, arguably immoral tactics for the express purpose of increasing their net worth. Just raising that number. Why? It’s because they have internalized that number as synonymous with their level of success. They’ve coupled their self-worth with that number. The intoxicating feeling of pride is aroused when they see that value rise, especially if they’ve moved up the rankings.

However, attaching one’s self-worth to the external world is a suboptimal way to live. It establishes dependence on others for satisfaction, crippling a strong sense of identity and self-sufficiency. The example with wealth is easy to understand, but in reality, one’s self-worth is attached to many aspects of life, in ways that can be difficult to recognize. This can cause intense emotional distress when facing social rejection, to a degree that may be surprising and seem unreasonable.

What is success

The human brain learns to establish associations of self-worth with aspects of life without the conscious brain even being aware of it. People-pleasing and attention-seeking are obvious symptoms of binding self-worth with external validation, but subtler symptoms occur in us all. The want of fame, the need for frequent socialization, the use of substances to distract the mind, result from the reliance on the outside world to legitimize one’s existence.

There’s a better way of life. An ideology that takes intense, frequent, and concerted effort to internalize. It’s the formation of self-worth based solely upon the self. The simplest way to do this is to induce pride when completing actions that are difficult for the person, such as a brutal workout or pushing past emotional pain. This way, the primary source of self-worth is through personal growth. There is no external validation required.

It is worth noting that personal growth can be facilitated by the external world. If someone has severe anxiety and has to push through intense panic when initiating conversations, then engaging in socialization is a good trigger for pride. However, a delicate balance must be struck to not rely on others to induce that pride but to use those positive interactions as fuel for internal affirmation.

Success may seem pre-defined. People often glorify the “successful entrepreneur,” and the “successful artist.” But this definition of success is one defined by human society, with the purpose of being able to measure the value of a complete stranger. It is the same deficient, blanket labeling engaged by racism, sexism, and nationalism.

To achieve self-sufficient serenity, to be able to enjoy life without being affected by others, it is necessary to divorce any sense of self-worth from the external world, to define success only by intrinsic measures. Then, happiness is able to be manifested without outside aid.

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Nathan Cole
Author: Nathan Cole

1 Comment

  1. Loved this article.. there is nothing rewarding than inner peace

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