The "Success Machine" is Jammed

People are often told success has to look a certain way, and the milestones that signify said success must be reached at approximate ages. Owning your first home happens in your 40s at the latest. Your career should be established by the time you are in your early 30s. There is some space for deviation, but the wiggle room is only permitted if you have already reached other goals (like being a parent). 

If you are someone who doesn't meet the expectations silently fastened to your back when you become an adult, you're considered a failure. Late bloomers are okay... provided they blossom seemingly all at once and in the acceptable directions. Otherwise, you're a "waste of potential" or worse.

A lot of people feel this keen nervousness and check their progress against their peers' frequently (though this tends to calm itself when people reach middle age). It can foster insecurity and jealousy. And, in a society so focused on pixel-perfect Instagram posts, it's a potential recipe for disaster.
It's difficult to pull myself away from the "hustle and achieve" mindset because it's the only model that was presented to me from little onward. I will never do most of the tasks required to be viewed as a success (no driving, no traveling, no children, no real career, etc.), and I have few other metrics as a guide. Sometimes, I feel like I'll never do/be anything worthwhile. There is no envy or comparison for me... just a list I can't finish. A list so engrained within me, that I don't even know how many of those objectives would be fulfilling.

My sense of self is directly tied to my accomplishments. I could be the funniest, kindest, and smartest person in America and it would mean nothing unless I did things with those traits. It's not enough. I must push myself relentlessly. I've worked myself sick numerous times. My amount of accomplishments is paltry.
What I often fail to see is that I have a unique opportunity:  Since I'm so far on the fringes of society, I can safely rewrite what long-term success looks like without true repercussions or judgement. I can throw out the manual. But, the possibility feels a little too impossible because I don't know where exactly to begin. 

Perhaps Albert Einstein will give me a hint:  "Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value." Seems like solid advice to me.


  1. So many women I know are too hard on themselves in this way, holding themselves to standards they would never demand of others. We should listen to Sarah Hagi: Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.