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Success-O-Meter Gone Haywire

I’ve realized lately that I really kinda get off on external validation in both my personal and professional life. That may seem like a moronic thing to say since most everyone enjoys a little Atta’ boy or girl on occasion? But, I’m wondering if I may be a little hypersensitive here, which is making me squirm as I write.

I also love challenges and situations when I’m required to reach beyond my comfort zone, which may seem like it has nothing to do with the previous statement, but I think what I like about challenges and stretching is learning how to triumph over a potential obstacle. I like to be seen as the one who makes things happen, which again leads me back to the external validation. I don’t, however, always want to stick around to toil with something day after day that I’ve already solved. I want a new puzzle to disentangle.

I think the fact that I look at most things as solvable with a little (or a lot) of hard work is a good quality to have. I don’t believe that I’m extraordinarily smart or talented, but I’m determined and persistent and level headed. I look at those skills as things anyone could possess if they had the desire. What I lack in raw talent, I make up for in gumption.

Sometimes people look at the things I accomplish and wonder aloud how I accomplished a given task or obstacle, like losing weight or grieving the loss of our twins or making jewelry or whatever else might hold my fancy at any given moment. I just do it, like the ad. Damn, why wasn’t that my slogan, doh. It doesn’t seem very complicated to me, but I do get a charge out of the kudos.

What I’m wondering about though is if that appreciation and admiration needs to come from within. That seems pretty arrogant, and I’m not sure I can totally reconcile it.

When I’m happy with myself as a human being, I’m less concerned about what other people think and external validation seems less important. I don’t even like admitting that I care what others think, but I suppose I do; I did after all let the thought slide from my finger tips just now. Ugh, that makes me squirm even more. When I’m feeling unsure or find myself in a sticky spot when I’m questioning who I am or what I want or where I want to go, I can get lost in the swirl.

I maintain moments of deep clarity and even border on self-acceptance, but I don’t stay in those spots for extended periods of time, and I think that’s where I would like to be, and I’m wondering if I find and settle in to that place if there is an inner peace that I can permanently call home.

Until I find that place, I think I’m going to practice making small steps forward. I will know I’m doing a good job based on some pretty basic criteria, like putting good food into my body, treating myself with respect and exercising. My hope is that as I practice daily, I will reacquaint myself with the habit and be able to once again let go of the illusion of perfection and get on with the business of embracing all that life has to offer.

None of this sounds very cohesive to me, but I have a feeling it is interrelated so I’ll let my thoughts rest here to see how I feel in the morning. How do you judge yourself to be successful or good enough or even on the right path?

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4 Responses

  1. My husband struggles with this all the time. We are both self-exployed in unrelated businesses and neither of us has someone to which we report or are held accountable — much less judged. While that is not an issue for me, it is apparently important to him. Lacking the kudos, or heck, even the yardstick, always results in him trying to figure out whether or not he’s successful.

    To me, earning enough money to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs is a measure of success. In that case, he is successful. But, it isn’t always a strong enough argument for him.

    He has managed to keep a one-man-band playing for 17 years though, so whatever he is doing, it’s working well enough. In his industry (web site design and database application development) companies are a dime a dozen and come and go in the wind. His endurance speaks volumes in itself.

  2. Yeah, all of those seem like realistic ways to measure. I’ve always prided myself in being independent and self-reliant so It’s come as a bit of a surprise that I REALLY seem to need the external schtuff.

    I’m glad you checked in….I still cant post comments on your blog – keep up the great work by the way. 🙂

  3. Oh, I do understand this. I try to keep my measures of success internal and action-based…but now and then, I do catch myself wondering what others think about what I’m doing and how I “measure up”. That doesn’t work so well for me. 🙂

  4. The whole idea/notion of the words “measure up” bring some really negative feelings to the surface, and I agree it doesn’t work well at all.

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