What is success? What defines it? A ‘good’ job, having money in the bank, being in a relationship, a big group of friends, a crazy social life, abs, a wardrobe full of designer clothes, 20,000 Instagram followers? Success and feeling inadequate has always been something that I’ve struggled with throughout my life, forever moving the bench mark for what I deem as success and never giving myself the credit for all that I have done in my 21 years. If asked I would call myself a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl, I think to the outside world I’m very much that way but internally I’m not even ‘glass half empty’ I’m more ‘the glass is broken, it’s all going wrong and I’m going to just cry about it’. My broken glass is full of anxiety, a feeling that I should be doing more or doing better and in one of my moments of anxiety I started to wonder, would I ever even consider myself successful and is it just me that feels a constant pressure to be doing more?
Before I go any further, I know I live a privileged life. Instead I just want to share my experiences of success and social pressures that make us all feel like maybe we should be doing a million and one things with our life.
Skirt // Topshop (Similar- Affiliate Link)
Jumper // Bershka (Affiliate Link)
Boots // Office (Affiliate Link)
Jacket // Boohoo (No longer available)
Bag // Gucci (No longer available)
Photography // Liv Rook
I think everyone sets themselves benchmarks throughout their life, ones they need to achieve to move on and hoping that achieving them will provide some fulfilment and happiness. When I was 16, all I wanted was boys to like me and to pass my GCSEs. Which I did (not that sure about the boys part though…).When I was 17, I wanted for someone to give me a Saturday job. I got one, and then another that paid even better. When I was 18, I longed for my A-Levels to be over, to get into my dream fashion school and grasp every opportunity I could. I got good A-Levels, enough to get me into the school I wanted. When I was 19 I couldn’t wait to get a job in fashion and although it was a long slog, I got my first paid internship straight after graduation. At 20 I longed for a new job, one where I didn’t cry in the park from stress, which I got. At the time I thought achieving those few things would make me feel content, in my eyes a message from a boy or getting my first fashion job would mean I was successful and I’d be happy, yet today I sit here feeling discontent, viewing myself as not yet ‘successful’ and looking for ways to do more.
You spend your childhood and teenage years talking about the future and ‘when I grow up…’; you educate yourself, sit exams, take part in extra curricular activities in preparation for being ‘grown up’. Then suddenly you realise ‘shit, I’m now a grown up’, leaving you wondering if the ‘grown up’ you is what you spoke about at school, the person you thought you were going to become. If this life is it? Did that young sports leaders qualification, where you ended up having to stop a group of year fours doing head spins and ‘break dancing’ in a street dance class because ‘it’ll look good on your CV’, really shape the adult you are now and make you successful?! (The answer to that is no, not really. It’s not even on my CV, but does make a great anecdote.) Instead of gently being eased into adult-ing after eduction, you are thrown right into the deep end of adulthood, your feet barely touching the bottom, drowning in taxes, entry level jobs, full time work, help to buy schemes, savings accounts, debt and the impending doom that is Brexit and global warming, and then trying to build a life for yourself. There’s been many a moment, where work isn’t going that well, or I’m trying to work out what a help to buy scheme even is, where I’ve felt inadequate and thought to myself there must be more than this? Should I be doing more than this?
Looking back there’s one very clear moment where I felt like a failure for the first time in my life. I’d spent my life before that feeling pretty content, accepting every little victory and living day by day. So let me set the scene: History has always been one of my favourite subjects in school, I was so passionate about it and longed for an A* at GCSE, so much so that when I opened my results and saw an A I was crushed. What then made it worse was hearing my teacher say that he was disappointed in my grade, and I felt like my whole world had crumbled and my heart break. I felt an overwhelming feeling of letting everybody down. I had dreamt of getting an A* in the subject I loved and now I was the ‘disappointment’. I cried and cried that day, despite an A being a bloody brilliant grade and I had a whole sheet full of other really good results. Yet all I could see was my underachievement and I had what my teacher had said on repeat in my head for days. I let it affect my history A-Level, already writing myself off as a failure from day one, accepting that I’m not very good and to not try. I guess looking back I do feel annoyed at myself for that because I’m sure my teacher, if he knew how it affected me would never have said it, yet I held it with me for the rest of my time at that school. I’m sure he never meant to crush my hopes and dreams… (I’m only joking, I’ve forgiven him a little bit now.) Sometimes, 21 year old me, still dwells on that day and what was said, often still feeling like a failure. Yet, it’s been 4 years, I’m now an adult and letting a throw away comment still effect me is absolutely ridiculous. And no grade nor teacher is going to take away from all that I have achieved.
Normally my blog posts are very much a brain dump of my own thoughts, and sometimes my thoughts can feel quite lonely, hoping that people read them and feel I am relatable rather than just a girl who likes to complain a lot. Therefore, for this blog post I decided to discuss it with my audience on Instagram and ask them their thoughts on success and failure.
Would you consider yourself successful?
44% Yes // 56% No
I was actually pleasantly surprised with how many people considered themselves successful, because my answer would have definitely have been no. Although there wasn’t really much in it.
If not, do you think you’ll ever feel successful?
82% Yes // 18% No
Although many of us wouldn’t class ourself as successful now, it’s nice to see that all confidence in ourself isn’t lost and I would have also answered yes, because one day I hope, whatever happens, I’ll feel like I’ve made it.
Do you feel the need to always be doing more/ achieving more with your life?
94% Yes // 6% No
Even those who would have considered themselves successful now, still felt that they should be doing more, I mean pretty much everyone felt they should be doing more. It seems like we could be doing all we possibly can, yet still feel what we are doing isn’t enough. My answer would also have been a very big YES.
Do you feel inadequate?
57% Yes // 43% No
This made me feel sad. I guess that feeling of not doing/ achieving enough can make us feel inadequate, but if we always feel that way how can we possibly feel good enough?
Do you think social media contributes to the feeling of not being successful enough?
82% Yes // 18% No
Since I started working on Catfish Confessions I’m always finding other ways social media manages to make us feel crappy, and once again it rears it’s ugly head by making us feel unsuccessful. But it’s obvious that it would really. Social media only shows the best bits and success, so if we are spending hours a day only exposed to achievement, after achievement, it’s bound to make us feel like we should be more successful ourselves.
Is it possible to have it ‘all’?
19% Yes // 81% No
This one is a bit of a subjective one because what is ‘all’? Whatever ‘all’ is, my audience said no and I probably would have answered no too.
I then gave my audience two examples of people’s ‘lives’ and asked them to pick which one they would consider more successful. Now I wasn’t saying life is either one or the other, but I was asking people to pick between life one of fame, Instagram followers, money, popularity and a more ‘normal’ life two, one that I feel most of us probably lead.
23% Life 1 // 77% Life 2
From the response to the social media question I assumed most people would go for life one, as it was the ‘Instagram-able’ lifestyle which I think all of us kind of envy, but it seems that the life we all really want is the ‘normal’ one. Arguably the much more attainable one. It seemed that my younger followers that were still at school viewed success as fame and money, whilst adults who had entered the ‘real’ world viewed success as stability. Although part of me would see fame, money and Instagram followers as maybe the more successful life, I would also lean to life two as the more successful.
In summary, I think all of us have a habit of taking life and all that we have for granted. No, I may not be a millionaire, own my own business, have a thousands of Instagram followers or be winning awards, but I did finish writing this blog post today. And you know what? For now, I think I’m doing okay and I think you should feel the same way too.
Until next time,