Subjective Success: Why Others’ Outcomes Should Not Determine Your Own

By Lauryn Vincent

As early as elementary school, I have compared my successful moments to the successes of people around me. I continue to measure my worth by how much I can achieve.

When I confirm in my head that others’ accomplishments are surely better than my own, the value of my accomplishments begins to diminish. 

In moments like this, I not only succumb to feelings of doubt, but I also struggle to break away from that limiting belief. 

Why is that? 

We are constantly allowing society to determine our metrics of success, whether it be in our careers or our personal lives.

I am in the process of learning that achievements do not determine my worth, nor do the comparisons I make of myself with others. I write here today to tell you that success is completely subjective. Your worth is not restricted to your ranking at work, your grades, the number of friends you have, or any other metric that society uses to evaluate you. That will always be up to you. 

From here on out, I choose to declare that success is measured by happiness. 

The moment you are happy with your accomplishment, you simultaneously become successful.

Although I have made this declaration, and I have every intention to live by it, I am still struggling with fully implementing it into my life. 

I try to break away from feeling like my progress is not as good as the next person, but I am stuck in this negative mindset. Maybe you will have such feelings, too, as you work towards redefining what success means for yourself.

As you take the initiative to adjust your metrics of success, think of these few questions: 

  • Which societal metrics have allowed me to create a negative outlook on my accomplishments? 
  • How can I reconstruct those negative outlooks into moments of learning and progress in my life?
  • What will I need in life to be truly successful? 

For example, the first question revealed to myself that I am stuck in the mindset that high grades are necessary for success. I spent my freshman, sophomore, and junior years of college beating myself up every time I got below an A- on a class assignment or test. However, I was tired of feeling stressed out and defeated. 

I began to reconstruct those moments of ‘failure’ by recognizing the true meaning of the situation. Maybe I received a lower grade on this exam because I was not as clear on the subject as I had thought. Potentially, my studying habits are causing more confusion and is showing through in my grades.

There is always an opportunity to turn a moment of failure into a moment of learning or worth. 

The meaning of success in the classroom began to change for me. If I learned something that day, then I was successful. If I went to my professor’s office hours and asked for clarification on a topic, then I was also successful. I began taking small actions that lead to my overall goal of getting good grades. In the end, I was happier because I was not falling into the trap of stress. 

Now, I will be implementing these techniques into my life as I enter my senior year.

I recognize that the ability to change this negative mindset came from practicing mindfulness. 

I took more breaks when I was studying for an upcoming test. I also love journaling my feelings and pouring out all of those negative and limiting thoughts into my notes app. 

I always feel much better after focusing on myself and resetting my mind and body before diving back into work.

Moments of mindfulness allowed me to acknowledge where I was going wrong in my educational journey, and it allowed me to redefine the parameters of success in my life. 

Below are some more techniques that you can use to increase mindfulness in your life.

You have what it takes to change the meaning of success into something meaningful and suitable for your life. I believe in you!