I have been striving for success throughout my adult life. It comes from this human need to belong.
Belonging feels like having the wind at our back, being supported, and gently, lovingly nudged forward. However, deeply embedded in my neurons is this belief that to belong, I must be successful.
How do we define success for ourselves? If this is a parameter that dictates whether we feel worthy of belonging, then it deserves inquiry.
Is our individual definition of “success” determined by our families and culture?
Our beliefs about success have actually developed incrementally over our entire lifetime. Here are some common aspects of success:
>> Success is being recognized as “accomplished” in some way by friends, students, clients, colleagues.
>> It is a felt sense that we are helping others in some way.
>> It is when we feel good about what we are doing.
>> It is the feeling when others remark about the value we offer.
>> It is being able to offer our service from a place of love, void of fear or insecurity.
>> It is when there is an alignment between what we are doing and what we feel passionate about.
Newfound awareness bubbles up as I emerge from a career failure and the aftermath of shame and hiding. My shame felt too vulnerable to allow anyone to see me. Any part of me that isn’t successful feels unlovable.
How do you value your worthiness?
Being wanted by the world is such a privilege. More than anything, my recent failure has demonstrated this. To be known, to be wanted, to be contributing is essential for each of us. When we hold ourselves back because of self-induced shame, we are cutting off the lifeline of belonging.
As I spend time on the threshold of aloneness, the gifts of introspection combine with my yearning for belonging and togetherness. This is reminiscent of the infinite journey that continually unfolds as parts of us that are no longer needed drop away into the past. Yet, we aren’t ready to let go, so we resist the inevitability that everything is always changing.
It is clear to me that I must show up.
There is a drive in most of us to be of service. Within an instant of this realization, an awakening occurs—a recognition of something that can’t yet be articulated. It’s like a horizon calling to be seen but not yet visible. For most of us, this unknown calling triggers fear. Yet there are infinite unknown parts of us that are yet to be named.
As I grasp for a transitory name that will identify this threshold, I realize that just asking this question shapes an acceptance of this new part of me, and the process begins to link me with the destination that I seek. It’s almost as if what I want has already happened as I move toward the unknown horizon.
Life offers us invitations to separate from parts of ourselves and shift into who we are destined to become. Therefore, failures aren’t truly “failures.” They are the essential cracks in the shells of our identities. They are the vital breakings of our hearts along the passageway of life that alter the way we see ourselves and the world.
As I look back on the journey that has brought me to this place, I can see the sense of myself that has been stripped away. I can see my feelings of helplessness, now irrelevant. I can see the value of not running away from the resistance that I felt. Not resisting would have allowed me to experience the grief, the shame, and the loss in all their intensity.
To experience ourselves fully, we must allow all that is present to be experienced. To do this, we must stay physically present in our bodies. We must be true to every part of us—the part that we no longer need (which has brought us to this point), and the part of us that is shaping us toward what is to come.
There is always something dissolving in each of us: relationships, health, youth, career identities, roles as children, as parents. When we run away from, avoid, or resist our experience, including the sensation of emotion in our bodies, we force ourselves into helplessness and disorientation, shame, and terror.
What my recent failure has taught me is that I can and must feel my insides as my outside identity crumbles and disappears. I must ask for and receive help. When I do this, my sensitivity to life comes alive, and I am able to notice the geese on their northward journey as they harken the impending spring, the streaks of pink across the sunset sky, the wind at my back. And I know I belong in this amazing and beautiful world. A world that right now feels illusory, overwhelming, even ironic.
We must turn to ourselves for the answers about what is real, what is true, and what can be trusted—now, more than ever. Then, we must reach out toward that unseen horizon with faith in the parts of us that must break away and the like minds that will support our journeys forward as we contribute what we came here to give.
We are never alone. We are all here for the same reason—to bring more love, and light, and kindness to each other. How we do that is unique to our own gifts, our unique genius. Opportunities show up every day to offer ourselves whatever our job is, whatever our circumstances are right now, each moment of every day. But this does not happen in isolation or only when we are feeling successful. It happens whenever we choose to show up.
Accept another invitation. It is why we are here, after all.
Author: Tricia Acheatel
Editor: Travis May