I always defined success in terms of money and career. The more money I made, the better I felt about myself. Career was always my main focus, even after my kids were born. I worked from home on both of my maternity leaves. I took courses and went back to work early with both of my kids.
The title of the position really did enhance my confidence in an egocentric sort of way. I landed great jobs with successful companies and worked my way up as fast as I could. The money and title made me feel important. It made me feel like I was contributing at home. It allowed me to hire someone to clean my house, to put my kids in sports, to buy expensive clothes and drive nice cars.
I started burning out. I felt exhausted all the time. I felt this rage inside me. There seemed to be never enough time for anything. I’d wake up at 5 am, get ready, throw a load of laundry in, get the kids ready and off to daycare. I’d drive to work, give it my all, pick up the kids, come home and make dinner. Then it was time for homework, bath and bedtime routines. I often fell asleep with one of the kids. My husband and I never spent any time together and I would pick fights with him, trying to get him to help out more at home.
And he did, when he could. Unfortunately that wasn’t often because he works long hours. Something had to give. So I left the corporate world. I chose to focus on my health and taking better care of the kids. I thought I’d start up a part-time business to make some income. I thought it would be better for my sanity and for my family.
Fast forward 2 years and that entire time I felt like a failure. I wasn’t bringing in any income so I didn’t feel like I was contributing. I stopped buying fancy clothes and treating myself to nice things because I felt guilty. I wasn’t leaving the house to talk to work associates or manage projects so I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. I cleaned the house 2 or 3 times a week so it would look perfect just in case someone came over. After all, I didn’t want anyone thinking I did nothing while I stayed at home. When my girlfriends and I got together, they talked about work while I stared at them blank faced. I had nothing meaningful to say. After all, what can you say about cleaning a toilet bowl or folding clothes that seems interesting? Every night my husband would get home and talk about what happened during his day at work, and as a good wife I would listen, but I also felt bitter and resentful a lot.
The business I started up didn’t feel authentic and wasn’t making money. Another failure. I became depressed. My relationship with everyone became strained. I noticed my friends weren’t calling as often. My poor husband went through hell every time I cried and told him how depressed I was and my kids often got the angry mom version of me. It was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. And, at night after having wine to cope, I’d go to bed beating myself up for the weight I gained, for the way I acted out around someone, for not going to the gym, for getting nothing accomplished and for feeling like a loser because I had no purpose. No career meant no purpose in my books.
I knew I couldn’t go back to work full time. But something, anything, had to change. So I worked on my thoughts before anything else. I started a vision board of everything I could think of that meant success that wasn’t defined by money. Pictures of my family smiling, spending quality time with my kids, taking care of myself, eating clean, doing yoga, feeling inspired and empowered, feeling happy, having fun, laughter….. those were the things that really should matter. My health should matter more than money. My family should matter more than money. My soul should matter more than money.
I stopped comparing myself to other people and their success because success is different for each one of us.
I started focusing more on being my own authentic self, regardless if that meant someone would judge me.
I started realizing that having the freedom to pursue my passions and even just knowing what they were meant success.
Taking care of myself – physically, mentally and emotionally meant success.
Not drinking meant success to me.
Being kind to my husband and kids meant success. Being kind to myself meant success.
“Success is liking who you are, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”
– Maya Angelou
How do you define success and what makes you feel successful?