Why is it we perceive people as being accomplished, fulfilled? What is the yardstick by which we measure? Money, fame, accolade?
Yet so many whom we can measure as “successful” by these scales suffer internally. Robin Williams, Michael Jackson. The list of troubled stars goes on and on.
There is a dichotomy (a split) of the external and the internal. How we are perceived by others versus how we perceive ourselves.
How many times have you heard news of some celebrity’s untimely death and said to yourself, wow, I had no idea they were struggling with depression or drugs?
What we perceive from others on the outside can be entirely different to what’s going on ‘behind closed doors’.
To the outside world, these people seem so accomplished. They have reached heights most of us would consider beyond our reach. And yet their internal reality is entirely different to the external perception.
Putting a brave face on things is very English of me I know, ‘stiff upper lip’ and all that, but how many times do we feel like crap inside and when asked: “how’s it going?” We reply: “fine thanks, how are you?”
Is it just me or have you done the same thing? It calls into question the validity of how we perceive others around us. Is what we see the truth?
Perhaps it should also cause us to reassess how we measure success. How we measure accomplishment for ourselves.
Our lives should focus more on the things that really matter. The things that keep us in balance and harmony on the inside.
Relationships. Mental and emotional wellbeing. Belonging. Unity.
It is undeniable that although we are all unique individuals, there is a unity that permeates everything in the universe.
We catch glimpses of this in the aftermath of a crisis. We call it the resilience of the human spirit.
Internally, we remain in turmoil no matter how much wealth or perceived success we achieve. As emotional beings we constantly battle with inner conflict and emotions that threaten to destroy us from within.
That feeling as your stomach turns over with anxiety. Fear of stepping outside of your comfort zone. It never goes away, no matter how much money you have in your bank account.
Partly to blame is the hard-wiring in our brains. The chemical and biological need to survive. Our brains trigger chemical reactions to situations that dictate our actions.
If something threatens us, we run or we fight. You may have heard it called the fight, flight, or freeze reaction.
While there are no sabre-tooth tigers about to eat us and our families, these chemicals are still present and active in each one of us.
The complexity comes when we attach beliefs to raw emotion. Fear is a great example.
I feel fear at the thought of going live on Facebook. My brain, detached from the emotion makes judgements and jumps to conclusions. If I do this, I will fail. They will see me as a failure. People won’t like or approve of me or of what I say.
Suddenly, the innocuous emotion of fear has become something much bigger. It has taken on a life of its own. I now attach it to a belief that the action of going live on Facebook will bring negativity.
Our natural inclination, from the sabre-tooth tiger days, is to avoid danger. To avoid negativity.
Therefore, we remain trapped inside our internal perception of the world.
Others see none of this. It is all internal. They only see external things. A smile. A bank account balance. Nice clothes. Whatever makes up our external situation.
It is imperative, therefore, that we pay ourselves the care and attention we deserve. No one else can see us from the inside out quite as we can.
We must seek to understand the limitations of our thinking, our emotions. And strive to stretch ourselves and grow. Seek first the internal things that bring us to balance, harmony and satisfaction.
Usually, this can be found in relationships with others. In love. In service. In trying to make a positive difference in people’s lives. In personal and professional development. In working on things that improve our feeling of self-worth.
We can trick ourselves, I’ve just done this (insert achievement), 'see mind, I am good'. It quiets the internal critic, for a while anyway.
Seriously, though, it is inside ourselves that we find true fulfilment. This is where true success lies. The external measures of success flow from internal strength and power.
Since the mere material gain is a base-level need. Once we have enough to sustain ourselves, we should use the rest for the sustenance and raising up those around us.
So the lesson here? Stop looking to others to tell you how good you are. Own that for yourself. Work on yourself daily, your habits, your behaviours, and challenge your beliefs.
The success you seek lies in your ability to grow and adapt as a human being.
And here’s the kicker, when you grow and adapt you realise that success is merely an illusion.
You are successful right here, right now. You just need to realise and know that for yourself.