Mention the word success and certain images come to mind. Images of good-looking people with high paying jobs in powerful positions with big houses, big bank accounts and big lives.
We are taught by our Western culture that one’s whole self-worth is dependent on what we have, not on what we are. You are special and you are better than most others. One can tell this by the stuff you own, the things that you do and the places you go.
We are constantly bombarded with messages, especially by the media such as this from day one and it isn’t surprising when we develop impossibly high expectations that most of us cannot live up to. When this happens people lose confidence. They feel that they don’t measure up. Even people whom society deems as successful surprisingly also have this problem; this fear of not measuring up; of not being all that you can be.
This can cause depression. It can cause people to try to escape reality via denial and self-destructive behavior. Sometimes this dissatisfaction turns outward in anger toward the very society that sets the bar so very high.
The American dream is yours for the taking and all that. What happens if this dream doesn’t pan out or even becomes a nightmare; not all of us can win this rat race we have set up. This sort of set up requires losers and an awful lot of losers to support the winners. No one wants to be on the bottom and will avoid even the appearance of THAT at all costs. We are taught that it means we are defective. We are worthless. Worth less than someone else. We seek approval from each other and from ourselves on a constant basis. It’s human nature. Our society views those on the bottom of the economic ladder in a bad light.
Poverty is seen as some sort of disease that one catches by the act of laziness. It is such an anathema that people have this urge to keep assuring themselves, their peers and society that they themselves are not infected by this awful disease. Many will go into debt to prove this point. It takes a wad of cash to keep up with the Joneses. Little do we realise that in our quest to keep up with the Joneses, the Joneses are struggling to keep up with us.
We are a shopping culture and in all honesty if we all decided to stop buying if only for a day it would send our global economy into a tailspin. It’s quite a sticky situation we have gotten ourselves into. All this wanton greed and fervid consumerism. It’s taking its toll on the environment. It has a mind of its own…it’s a monster of our own creation and it could spell our undoing.
We in the West are starting to see the errors of the past creep back up and bite us. We still continue on with our ways like there is no tomorrow and we criticise other countries, especially third world countries who are just trying to catch up to us…who doesn’t want a big middle class, who doesn’t want prosperity for all? In the past other countries have looked to The United States as an example of what to strive for. It is we who have set the bar so damn high and it is we who complain when somebody can play our game better than us…and they are….and as time goes by more and more of us will be on the bottom.
There is only so much land, water, natural resources and there are more and more people everyday. This strikes me as dangerously unsustainable. Something’s got to give and it is starting to.
I think many of us may need to rethink some of these notions that have been sold to us…maybe reconsider just what being successful really means. Does a measure of a man or woman depend on the content of one’s pocketbook or the content of one’s character?
I also believe we should reconsider our idea of happiness…Is happiness mean having stuff? Or is happiness a certain satisfaction with life and oneself. Knowing that life has its ups and downs and riding those with grace, compassion and hopefully a bit of humor. Happiness does not have to be exclusive. True happiness is inclusive. It is something to be shared. Happiness is an attitude. We decide to be happy and having more stuff than everyone else around you doesn’t do it in the end.
In the end it is those intangibles as love, friendship and respect that really matter. It is fulfilling a dream. It is striving to be better, not better than anyone else but better than your previous self. It is the satisfaction of doing the right thing and the giving of yourself to others. That is success.
I am reminded of a quote:
“Having given all he has to others, he is richer still.”
- Lao Tzu
Wishing you all the success in the world,