I’ve been asked countless times how I “do it all.”
Many people have been asked the same thing; it’s become a whole culture to praise people for accomplishing, for winning, for just being busy. We see TED talks about how to best manage your life, how to become successful and how to maintain your mental health, and there are far too many inspirational quotes, painfully cliche, that tell us the best ways to keep on living.
Truthfully, there is no secret formula to living a good life. Accomplishments come in all shapes and sizes, wins can come from luck, and some people just have to be busy. But there is one thing that is important in enjoying a good life.
Consider a very monetarily successful person, who’s ashamed of how they make the money but they get it anyways. They have a lovely house, a sweet family, maybe even a large social media following, but they don’t feel like they’ve achieved anything. To them, there’s so much rainbow left until they reach the pot of gold, and no matter how many times they break the bank, it’s never enough (cue the Greatest Showman soundtrack).
The fundamental flaw in this person’s life is their shame. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, whether or not it can be justified by societal norms or family values; this shame plays a critical role in their happiness.
In this case, shame was the manifestation of a deep-rooted lack of self-love. Shame isn’t the only way it shows, though; and your job isn’t the only place it shows. If you feel like you’ve been lucky with your accomplishments, or maybe you feel guilty when someone compliments you, it’s time to consider - was it really someone or something else that put you where you are today? Or was it your choices and actions that led you here?
A lot of us get lost in the small, generic factors that contribute to our success: Sure, I drove for the first time, but my instructor taught me how. I finished my paper (a little late), but I downed four Monsters to do it. I wrote a gorgeous poem, but I was high.
Who cares if you do better under certain circumstances? The teacher doesn’t care if you studied for three weeks or if you skimmed and memorized the night before; the boss doesn’t care if your sibling helped you finish a project. If you can honestly say you did your best given your technincal/practical/creative abilities, the time allowed and your personal circumstances (emotional state, mental state, location, other responsibilities), then there is absolutely no way someone or something else can take credit for your achievement.
Even if you don’t think you did your best - take the time to consider what your circumstances were. Did you get three other assignments that week? Then of course one is going to suffer. There are limits to our personal abilities, and self-love requires that we recognize these limits in ourselves and learn that no grade, remark, or poorly completed achievement could ever accurately portray the effort we put into the work we do.
Now, it’s difficult to gauge our own success when there are billions of people achieving things that we never will. As soon as you open your phone, you’re confronted by someone flying a plane, backpacking through South America, or winning an Olympic gold medal. But its crucial that we see how those people got to where they are. Everyone’s circumstances will lead to different successes, so we can’t value anyone else’s success over our own.
I urge you to ignore the inspirational quotes; don’t follow the advice of someone who has no idea what your circumstances are. Don’t learn how to find monetary success through youtube videos - if you put your heart into something, the money will come later. And don’t recognize other people’s achievements as anything more valuable than your own. Even if they are making billions of dollars a day, are having lunch with the Queen or are the Queen of an entire commonwealth; that is not comparable to handing in an essay, passing a course, or finishing school (especially considering we weren’t born into royalty). There’s only one person who can truly appreciate your successes, and that’s you. And that is uniquely the best route to success.
So yes, I have been asked how I do it all. But the truth is, every time someone asks it gets harder to answer, as I grow older and encounter new opportunities and find successes based on my circumstances.
Regardless, I will always enjoy my life, no matter what my achievements are; because I know that I’m the only person who got me to where I am today. That’s what self-love is, and I highly recommend it.