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What Doesn't Define My 'Success' as a Person With Chronic Illness — and What Does

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The Internet is full of articles about what successful people do, and how to become more like them. There are a million books about how to make something of yourself. I admit that I’ve read some of them fervently, hoping to make improvements.

As someone who has always struggled with anxiety, it seems I came into this world with a stringent view of what success is, and high expectations for myself to achieve it. At times in my life, this has been helpful. It’s pushed me to accomplish a great many things. But there’s a problem with having such a limited view of success, with believing that if you work really hard for a long time you can maybe make something of yourself. This view of success doesn’t account for the fact that we are all already amazing.

Let me explain. Recently, I resigned from my job as a school psychologist. I let fear stop me from doing this for a long time, even though I was clearly unhappy. I did this because at the time, it was my job that allowed me to consider myself a successful and productive person. Further, it was a big part of how I defined myself. “Hi, I’m Sara. I’m the school psychologist.”

I was proud of how hard I had worked to get that statement, and rightfully so — I don’t feel there is anything wrong with being proud of your accomplishments, only with believing that they are what makes you successful or important. Here’s the problem with that: I was rarely actually going to this job. I felt guilty every day that others were picking up my slack, and worst of all — I was just struggling to get by and not really helping kids, which was my original objective.

Eventually, I realized I was letting my ego rule me. And so, I resigned. I found a part-time job. Time will tell if I am able to meet the demands of this job, but I know either way it will be OK. I know this because I have redefined success. Real success has nothing to do with the ego. I now consider success not to be a measure of how much I have accomplished, but rather a measure of whether I am being true to myself.

Today I am successful because I resigned from a job that was adding to my suffering. I am successful because I read something that resonated with my soul and settled in my bones. I am successful because I started writing again, and because I began to share my writing and my truth along with it. I am successful because I am me, I am alive, and I awake each morning to face the day and any challenges that might come along with it. I am successful because I recognize that I am inherently worthy. I am successful because I recognize that you are, too.

That, my friend, is what I believe success is. It doesn’t matter that my job title has changed, or my illness seems to be getting worse rather than better. It doesn’t matter whether you feel you were productive today. I am me, and you are you, and we are perfect and important and amazing exactly as we are, regardless of what we do in this life. Accomplishments are lovely, but you have to know they are not what makes you important or successful. You already are.

Follow Sara’s journey on: ZebraWrites

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Originally published: May 6, 2016
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