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April 18, 2023

The Little Successes are Still Successes.

Let’s talk about the “s-word,” shall we?


Anyone uncomfortable and uneasy?

A lot of us out there don’t have a healthy estimation of the concept of this “s-word.”

Many of us have endured abuse, perfectionism, disordered body issues, and poor self-image.

This sweet cat image, declaring, “Me celebrating the little successes,” can be a reminder to employ a realistic approach whenever we navigate some difficult, painful, and treacherous circumstances.

Kitty has its paws in the air, surrounded by little hearts.

What keeps us from sharing this feline perspective?

The definition of success…

First, it can come down to our skewed definition of the word itself…

“the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Accomplishment. Aim. Purpose. These can all be large-ticket concepts, all-but-impossible to undertake, let alone, to fulfill.

A large part of that struggle, perhaps, has to do with the emotionally-charged expectations attached to those words. At first look, this dictionary definition, can look bland and objective.

But we are subjective beings, infusing the success concept with our personal fears, hurts, and, of course, egos.

We then move into another strata of why we have difficulty with “the little successes…”

We think success looks a certain way.

Focus can be a good thing in life.

But when it becomes a set of myopic horse blinders, limited to some very specific, narrow examples, now, there can be increased pressure.

And there can be the increased possibility for failure. These specific success examples are too unrealistic. Things like…

“I will be a millionaire by the time I’m twenty-five years old.”

“I will lose weight (list a certain weight) by this time, and for the rest of my life.”
“I will show them and prove them all wrong.”

“I will be married and have exactly four children, two boys, two girls.”

These are some precise and detailed examples of “success.”

But what happens if we never become a millionaire, at twenty-five, or at any other age?

What happens if our weight loss goals, and our very specific body aesthetic never materialize?

What happens if our childhood bullies and abusers never get how wrong they were when they mistreated us?

What if we never get married and/or never have those four children? What if we are a single parent to one or two? What if those kids are only boys or are only girls?

Then what?

If other outcomes, besides our rigid examples happen in our lives, do we consider these results to be successes or failures?

Why do we demand that success MUST be in only a specific way? Why is this so important?

Why can’t we allow for other plans?

It can often stem from our belief in the faulty promise that “this” will make us happy.

And “this” is designed to disappoint.

We think success MUST be BIG!

Why is success only considered success if it’s big and dramatic?

It must be a certain over-the-top kind of relationship. It must be a certain epic kind of career. It must be a certain glorious child. It must be a certain beautiful image. It must be a certain impressive financial figure. It must be a certain body aesthetic.

We think success must be perfect.

This “Must” quality taps into perfectionism. What we focus on MUST be flawless. No room for mistakes, blemishes, and inconveniences.

We set up unrealistic expectations for a goal. What- and whomever- that may be, desiring and waiting for perfect wish fulfillment.

“Perfect” implies/requires completeness, a specific result that shows up in a particular way.

So, if that is the requirement, unrealistic as it may be, we can decide for ourselves that anything short of that is failure.

It will not do. It’s not good enough.

Small successes are only viewed, then, as large failures. Severe, black-and-white thinking, but firmly held in our belief systems, nonetheless.

This can also arrive from yet another unrealistic expectation of success: it’s a “one and done” thing.

Nothing gradual, step by step, missteps, included.

Nothing that is nuanced.

Nothing that unfolds over time.

Just right here, right now, complete. Success is a one-time thing only.

We think we are incapable of success.

Low self-esteem. Poor self-image. Feeling only invalidated by our efforts and expressions.

Most of us have had very few markers of success. And often, we have existed within a toxic, unsupported environment.

Therefore, it’s usually not too long before we decide, for ourselves, that we are only failures, never successes.

How, then, could we ever see any victory, small or otherwise?

Go big or go home only? That’s not exactly encouraging, is it?

Little IS Big!

I once saw a picture of a tortoise with the caption attached to it: “Never discourage anyone who is making progress, no matter how slow it’s happening.”

Slow. Little. It’s basically communicating the same thing: incremental progress.

Tiny baby steps, happening at a slow pace.

But it is still progress being made. That’s what often gets lost as we live, make choices, make mistakes, and try.

A victory is a victory. Success is a success, at any size. It’s personal, meaningful, and real.

It’s always worth celebrating.

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse


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