What Does Success Look Like?

I think about my goals and career quite often, and as such, am constantly planning for and adjusting my trajectory. I'm excited as I continue to progress, trudging closer to my own personal finish line. Most days, I feel right on track, but sometimes I struggle to lend worth to what I've already accomplished and worry how that translates to my overall success. At times, I even worry if I signed up for the wrong race altogether. 

We all know there are certain societal expectations for what "successful" looks like. Hustle, hustle, hustle. Six figures or bust! Popping bottles of rosé poolside while working remotely (obviously Instagramming all of the above). You get the idea.

Social media constantly shows us what to strive for, and though I am not one to follow the crowd, I have wondered exactly what does it all mean if I don't do or achieve said certain things? If I don't have a side hustle, do I really even care about my career (and can I even call myself a millennial)? The questions are involuntary, but persistent nonetheless.

I was perusing LinkedIn recently and came across a post by social media maven Michaela Alexis, perched in front of her self-described "rusty Ford Fiesta," which is parked outside of her office (she points out a narrow window perched above an old bingo hall). If you haven't heard of her yet, her story is a worthwhile read - in summary, she went from laid off and unemployed to president of a successful social media agency within a year (and a published author on multiple outlets, to boot). 

Her point in highlighting her used car and not-so-sexy office building? It's all no frills, and definitely not the Instagram-worthy pic of a so-called "successful" person posing in front of luxury cars or private jets. Yet, she's killing it; she's successful in her career, but she's not pretending to be anything she's not. Her career success is something she's worked hard for, and she isn't defined by material possessions - or her lack thereof. 

It was so refreshing to see Michaela's honesty, which is in part why she's gained the following she has - there is something absolutely magical about transparency and authenticity. Michaela is rare, as social media feeds us pictures and stories about people that are supposedly better, richer, and happier than us. 

Ahh, the power of social media. It can be both a blessing and a curse. 

I'm far from materialistic, pretty logical, and don't feel threatened by people that take themselves too seriously. Catch me on any normal day, and not only do I know my worth, I think I'm pretty kick-ass, too. But the truth is, I am not immune - I totally fall prey to self-doubt, and the green-eyed monster has visited a time or two. 

Impostor Syndrome should be labeled a disease (and boy, is it becoming an epidemic). 

Before I knew better about ignoring the rules of comparison I began unconsciously chasing the success I had seen someone else achieve, thinking that must be my key to happiness. One day, I took a step back and asked myself what I was hoping to find. I was chasing a dream that wasn't even mine, and sadly, I didn't even realize it for quite some time. 

My advice? 

Don't get so caught up in the idea of "succeeding" that you lose the idea of what success really means to you. This definition is personal, and only you can decide what it is. Make sure what you're chasing after is your dream and not someone else's ideal. 

I've realized that your title, salary, or career achievements do not speak to how successful you are or will be (and, social media does not always paint a truthful reality). Real, lasting success originates from identifying what fulfills you most, and then allowing those things to influence your work and other life choices. 

Remember, your career is important, but should be one of many other aspects that equal a happy and fulfilling life; after all, your happiness is non-negotiable. 

Karen Schneider