Claiming Personal Success


Exciting news, folks — I’m done with my freshman year of college! And I’ve been indulging in the successes that’s brought, including awards and good grades and just time to rest up. That being said, I wanted to talk about something I’ve felt really odd about in the past few weeks.

Society raised me (and probably you, too) to be extremely productive. Why? To contribute to the world in a powerful way, or to leave a mark, or to be successful and live in an expensive house and wear expensive clothes. It wasn’t something I ever decided I wanted. I was just told to do more and be more. I never questioned it.

Today, productivity makes me feel good about myself. I knock out a few hefty assignments or freelance articles and feel a rush of pride for the work I did. I’m not saying that’s entirely unhealthy, and that’s not the focus of the blog post today.

I’ve been feeling weird because when I share my triumphs with other people, I usually get one of the following responses…

  • “I’m so proud of you!”
  • “That’s my [insert relation to me here]!”
  • “We did it!”
  • “I knew you could do it!”

These aren’t necessarily bad responses. Yes, I appreciate pride and celebration of my successes! But notice that in each of these statements, the person congratulating me is including themselves in the sentence. “I,” “my,” “we.” There is something wrong with this, and I’ll tell you why.

I was raised to be high-achieving. While I’m grateful that I’ve grown up to be a hard worker, I have always been the kid or friend or cousin or student who accomplished great things for the image of someone else. I am the good daughter who makes the parent look good. I am the smart friend who makes the friend group look smart. I am the well-rounded student who makes the class look well-rounded.

The people who pushed me to do well, although with good intentions, asked me to go above and beyond in a way that boosted their own image. “You’re such a good parent/friend/teacher, you have such a great child/friend/student.” This is unhealthy. I had a lot of weight on my shoulders to carry someone else’s image and very little time to examine what success meant for me. This is largely from a few sources, one of which was being placed in the “gifted” program as an elementary student.

I never felt that my achievements were satisfactory enough because I was surrounded by other “high-achievers.” I was sold the idea of high performance and being a childhood prodigy and competing for good grades. While there is definitely something to surrounding yourself with people above your skill level, there is something horribly wrong with telling a child they are better than other children and expecting them to excel at everything.

Being a “gifted kid” was something for my parents and friends and teachers to boast about. Everything I did, it wasn’t just for me to be proud of, but for society to applaud. This is why writing (although something I love) can feel less like my art and more like a chore of being. I constantly found ways to be “different” as a kid because I was tired of being placed in the “gifted” box.

People comment all the time about how humble I am. I think I come across as humble because I grew tired of expectations set on me as a child, not because I didn’t appreciate my own achievements.

Today, I have a problem with naming and claiming my own value and success because of this conditioning. People in my life have always wanted to claim my success first. I’m working on doing what I love for me, not for others, and choosing to own my success for myself and myself alone. A mantra I’ve chosen is, “Others do not own my accomplishments and never will. I choose my actions, and I claim the results.”

While it is a journey, it feels good to be empowered by my choices rather than to shy away from any praise. My skills and abilities are my own. I am proud of myself. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I’m awesome.

Much love,

-el ❤

focus.


Finding your focus in a busy world like this one can be difficult. How do we manage it? The stress, the activities, the relationships, the daily tasks. It looks easy on the outside, but that’s only if you’re watching someone else do it seamlessly. When you’re the one trying to concentrate, it’s easy to lose attention. So let’s talk strategy.

I’d say sleep is one of the most important things for me if I need to focus on something. If I don’t get enough sleep, my mind is foggy, I’m distracted, and I would rather be doing anything than what I’m actually doing. That’s a problem! Now, this is just my experience, again, but there are so many studies that would point to the same solution. Get a decent amount of rest so you can do your best.

Change the level of noise! For some people, this may be silence. That’s awesome! I would suggest you find yourself a sturdy pair of earplugs and get cracking on those goals. For others, it might be white noise or nature sounds. Perhaps get a white noise machine, or for a more affordable option, find an alternative online. When I sleep, I use rainymood.com. Of course, I wouldn’t use that to focus because it helps me sleep… that’s a blog post for another time.

And the final few probably need music to focus. I’m in this group! I tend to turn on lo-fi hip-hop beats to keep me in the zone. Others like k-pop, classical, EDM… I would recommend, unless you find that it helps, to stay away from music in your language. It simply turns the brain on to listen in to what’s playing, and that’s not what we need.

Adjust your environment! Personally, I have a dedicated desk to anything focus-oriented. I’m there if I’m writing, studying, editing, making art… and so on. It’s well-lit, comfy, and I’m surrounded by positive reinforcement (decorations and things that make me happy). I also make sure I’m surrounded by everything I need so I’m not tempted to get up and get distracted more.

Sometimes, the reason we can’t focus is that the designated environment we have is just cramping our style. If I have writer’s block, I’ll move my writing to a café or library. And when I’m feeling brave, I’ll switch from a computer to a pen. It could even be changing from your couch to the chair next to it. The body likes routine, but our minds like new experiences. It’s up to you to decide what you need, but a shift (even going outside) can help you focus.

Do something else. Seriously. If you can’t concentrate on a task, and you’ve tried everything, and it just won’t work, do another activity. Even if that essay is due tomorrow or the meeting is in three hours or you promised your audience it would be out by a certain time. Stop. Put everything down and do something else. When you come back to it, I can almost guarantee it’ll be easier.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I want to remind you that my book, the garden boy, will be released for pre-order on valentine’s day (February 14th). Follow this page to keep updated and be the first to order it!

-ellynn