So many things in this world are of limited supply. We are pinned against each other in circumstances of scarcity. We have to fight for our space, for our voice to be heard in a loud room, and, if we are privileged, a job promotion, or a spot in our preferred university program. In this continuous competition, prioritizing things available in quantities that are so small there is not enough to go around, we are searching for the next opportunity to take. This is the path to success. Isn’t it?
We rely on judgement in comparison to our peers as better or more worthy in some regard. It sounds a little cut-throat, but in many ways it must be true. It seems to be so simple that every goal just ‘takes hard work and dedication’ – but how can that be accurate if no matter how dedicated and hard we all work, there will still not be space for us all? A narrative that engrains the concept that value, dedication, purpose, and worthiness of oneself are linked to the ability to get the most of these scarce things perpetuates the myth that these sought-after benchmarks are more than just material. It divides us into the haves and have nots. People are branded by their productivity. This concept limits us to the ability to make or spend money, be visually appealing, or some other outwardly-perceived benefit by a third party. You have become a crop that is useless after the harvest. You are the water drained from the pool after summer. The more you have, the more you make, or the more you are wanted, the more you are. This falsehood keeps us painfully chasing money, prestige, and fictitious lives for self-worth. I am not what I have, or what I look like, or what you perceive my worth to be. Being consumed by outward judgement, when do I get to be happy?
Breaking down the mainstream visions of material success routinely brings with it the assumption of happiness. At the core, we might find ways of believing that if we had all of these things, we would be happy, and since we don’t, we aren’t. The good news is that happiness doesn’t come in a limited supply. In instances where there seems to be an apparent shortage, the irrational connections seem to link us to our current lives' perceived inadequacies. Happiness is something we can’t purchase at the mall, find in our wallet, or in our driveway. Sometimes we may look high and low, not finding it at all. It may be unexpected, or it may be rigorously worked for. In many ways, it might be less daunting to buy into the message popularized by media, that if you have this or that product, this or that job, it will be guaranteed. Although you won’t always be happy, there is so much more you can do to make it more likely. In so many ways, we can take the meanings we have associated with frivolous things and redefine our ideas of success to have wellbeing as the end goal. By doing this, we open up so many pathways to the ways we want to feel. Why say we want ‘weight loss’ when we really want confidence, or a promotion when we really want purpose?
It may take some courage to accurately assess what you really want. It may take creativity to find your way. It make take bravery to try new things. It is so much easier to pin these big-picture, intangible, emotional, meaningful goals to something so simple. By asserting what brings the most into our emotional life, we can actively work towards the life we want. We might have to admit some truths to ourselves in the process. Coming to terms with what we are and what we are not may difficult. It’s okay not to feel completely content, happy, confident, successful, purposeful, or dedicated all of the time. No matter how great our lives are going, our emotional experience will vary throughout our time on this earth. Focusing our intentions on our wellbeing is one way we can prioritize taking what we do have control over into our own hands. We can empower ourselves to be accountable for the way the lives we create make us feel. In this bold emotional vision, we may have to get to know ourselves a little better, look for help, and find the building materials for the pathway to our redefined success. The commitment to striving for wellbeing is the first step, but the next ones come through innate self reflection. Our inner resources may be so abundant, but the rest of our community has beneficial aspects to offer as well. This may mean taking steps in your relationships and talking about your emotional goals or barriers, or making a doctors appointment, or finally signing up for that art class you have always wanted to take. Steps towards wellness should be more than a theorized plan and taken in a practical sense. Make use of what you have, and truly find ways to take care. Written by: Eva Pomedli