When we examine our lives, what do we count as achievements to be proud of? Many of us likely point to material things, like a home, a car, a family. Perhaps less material things, like graduating from high school or college, or an award that we earned through our efforts. Maybe it’s sticking to a diet long enough to see positive results, or kicking a bad habit. It could be learning to ask for help when we encounter something we’re unable to handle on our own. Achievements, through our own perspective, can be major or minor. Yet they’re achievements all the same. We cannot hold our personal achievements up to someone else’s in comparison, but no one can make the same achievements we have in our lives.
There have been times in my own life when I doubted my efforts, thought my skills fell far short of the expectations of others, and of myself. I began to realize, somewhere in my late thirties, that constantly trying to live up to unrealistic expectations — when not thoroughly knowing myself or what I’m truly capable of — is a fool’s game. So I set out to change that.
I was raised by parents who were never satisfied. Nothing we did was good enough, and that high bar was not set out of some psychological demand to make us better, but because our parents themselves had similar unrealistic expectations placed on them as children. It’s what they knew. I nearly killed myself through the Herculean efforts I made in trying to please them. I achieved so many amazing things, things no one in my family had ever accomplished before…yet continued to fall short in my parents’ eyes. I carried that set of unrealistic expectations inside me for decades, and held myself to them as best as I could. And in my thirties, I began to see how foolish it was to constantly berate and belittle myself when there are so many people out there in the world who are happy to do that for you. It would take years and years for me to outgrow that need within, to see it for what it really was: self destruction. I set out to learn what my true abilities were, and how to recognize for myself when I’d done my absolute best, and reward myself for a job well done. Not wait for others to give me an award, or a pat on the back. I had to look inside for the pride of achievement.
The greatest achievement you can make in your lifetime is to be what you already are.
When we learn to be what we already are, to recognize our perceived strengths and our perceived weaknesses — not so we can become depressed that we’re weak, but so we can recognize where we need to apply ourselves a little bit more persistently — we become self-sufficient. We no longer require outside approval for our lives. We realize that we’re exactly as we should be, right now, right here in the moment. And we understand that we always want to be growing, evolving, but know that it takes time and effort and focus to achieve this mindset.
“I’m 59 years old now and finally coming to the conclusion that my greatest achievement is to be what I already am. Sure, as an artist I always want to get better and I always aim for that creatively but I’m never going to surpass myself unless I first accept myself…” Richard Wagamese – Ojibway Author
Only through mindful growth and performing that heavy inner lifting can we understand ourselves so deeply, gain that self-confidence and repair our damaged self-esteem. It’s not easy, and it’s not quick. But the more we work on recognizing our good work, or redefine what success means to us individually, can we continue to grow, to become. Media teaches us to always overreach to obtain things that are purported to have value. Material things only have value in the material world. Not within. A new car may get us from here to there, but it’s only a machine, not a status symbol. When we stop placing unrealistic value on meaningless things, we begin to recognize our TRUE SELF WORTH. We stop comparing ourselves to what others possess or claim to have done with their lives. Because we know there is no comparison for self. We are unique, as different as snowflakes, each of us. We may have similarities physically or biologically, but our inner being — our spirit, our soul — is one of a kind.
Learn to be what you already are. Own it. Be proud of it. Stop letting others tell you whether you’re good enough or bad enough. Only you can determine your self-worth. It’s time to start using realistic means of doing so.