““Success is a state of mind.
If you want success, start thinking
of yourself as a success.”
― Joyce Brothers”
I’ve been thinking a lot the last few weeks about a lot of things but most recently about success and failure and what that means, not just as a photographer but in a complete way.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of an overachiever. For the last few years I’ve filled my days with as much as I could maybe as a way to avoid feeling stress or feelings of sadness or to distract myself, but maybe also because I have a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). The problem with doing so much is that we can only balance so many plates before they start to fall.
When I first began in photography I was balancing a lot of plates. I was working a full time job, studying in college online, training for a marathon and participating in a 365 photo a day project. At the time, I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with all of it. It’s almost like a video game where a tiny version of yourself running along the bottom of the screen catching falling icons of your hobbies; camera, running shoes, computers etc. But the more you try and catch them all, the faster the game gets and the successes and failures feel bigger.
What I’ve noticed now that I’m balancing less of these plates and running around trying to catch less of the falling icons is that the value or importance has changed. At first when I missed a run or didn’t post a photo for a few days I felt like like I was failing. The frustration of missing my run or photo or forgetting to email someone back would eat away at me in my mind, rendering me useless for anything else. So I’d try harder and create bigger goals to achieve a bigger success but that too, isn’t the best way to spend your time.
The reason I decided to write a blog post about it is because I felt that I was having similar conversations with others about feeling that the weight of finding success and avoiding ‘failure’ was becoming more and more difficult. Especially with social media being a platform where our best is shared freely and as often as possible and the almost obligation to share more of our victories with our social circle.s So when I started thinking about it, I realized that success, like most things in our lives, is relative. It’s relative to our own experiences and interests.
As we get more and more invested in social media and seeing the successes of our our friends, we can get down ourselves for not being able to keep up. I know that sometimes when I see so many friends traveling around, meeting amazing goals and doing incredible things I get down on myself for not doing more. But in that space, we just need to pause because we all have amazing things to celebrate, relative to our lives. Social media can give us this feeling of anxiety and that we have to share things of a certain value, that our walks must become “epic”, that our meals must be hashtagged #amazing, and that each day must be summed up under the idea that we’ve lived a magazine quality day. But it’s not realistic to keep that up. It’s special yes, to have these experiences and certainly sharing them with loved ones has become the social norm but there’s nothing wrong with having a day that doesn’t look like it’s plucked out of a trendy blog.
During the last few months while really looking at my life and what I want out of it, I began to see the importance of celebrating each success for exactly what it’s worth and not adding extra pressure. At the end of each day before going to sleep I try to think of at least three things worth celebrating, all equally. Maybe it’s a simple as getting my emails caught up, going for a walk, getting my laundry done. All of those things are a success, they help add up to a successful life. Certainly there are days when things like “visit Harry Potter studios or “get an amazing photography contract” are flashing in neon lights in my mind but I try to celebrate those little successes because those are the small steps that lead to an amazing and satisfied life.
Your life has it’s successes that deserve to be celebrated regardless of “importance” in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes just getting out of bed is enough to celebrate, sometimes it’s just finding a spare moment of alone time to relax and get back to yourself. It’s important to celebrate these successes because if we don’t, we end up increasing the imbalance and fear of “failure”. We feel that if we aren’t accomplishing something monumental, or even if we have nothing to add to the social media roulette game of success, we are failing but we aren’t. We’re all succeeding each day.
My advice for you, if you’ve ever felt how I did which is worried that successes are the rare golden apple in the tree, is to stop. Breathe. And write a list of what you think is a happy, productive life. Write them in happy colours, on a paper that you can tape to your fridge or mirror, somewhere that you’ll see it. Read it and celebrate those items when you meet them and even if you don’t, at least celebrate that you’ve taken the time to find out what you value, what’s important because that self knowledge is a success!
Don’t be afraid to celebrate those little victories and if you feel as though they are too few and far between, then make the time to reach them. Those little wins will help push you over the bumps in life and help get things moving in your mind again. Just as the quote says at the top, if you want success you have to see yourself as one 🙂