Why you must not define success by social perceptions

Society should normalise the idea of people having different benchmarks for accomplishments

Success can be measured in different ways, as well as differing from person to person. Getty
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When I was in elementary school, I had a sticker book that I carried around with me.

Besides exchanging stickers my classmates and I purchased during our travels, the main reason I packed it in my schoolbag every day was to collect gold stars from my Arabic language teacher.

During the first week of the school year, my teacher told us that if we performed well in our quizzes, we would receive a gold sticker and the student who earned the most stickers before the school year ended would be recognised as top of the class.

I loved collecting stickers, so naturally, this encouraged me to come well-prepared to class and study harder.

Shortly after, I realised that I loved being recognised for my hard work.

I also enjoyed parading my sticker book at family gatherings and for my grandmother to shower me with gifts every time I shared my academic achievement with her.

That was my first brush with success and since then I have strived to gain more achievements.

I set out goals and aimed to fulfil them. I received multiple awards, earned high grades and ticked almost every item on my wish list.

Yet, I never felt that I was done with achieving. I always felt that I needed to do more, that there was more to achieve.

Success to me then was ticking goals off my list and jumping on to the next target.

My good friend, on the other hand, found contentment in her small business of selling handicrafts.

She made just enough money to keep her business afloat. She didn’t think of expanding her business or making millions.

Success to her was doing what she loved and not chasing profits or having a big business to manage.

I didn’t understand it then. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t keen on achieving the next goal or why our definitions of success seemed so different.

My lack of contentment didn’t seem healthy. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the successes I achieved.

I was on a goal-achievement spree and there seemed to be no room to slow down.

I was caught in a vicious circle and needed to alter how I viewed success.

But as unique as that feeling seemed to me, I wasn’t alone. The more I spoke with acquaintances and friends about how I felt, the more universal it felt.

Many of us are consumed with making more money, climbing the career ladder, landing more clients or getting more followers on our social media pages.

We live in a world where having a lot of money, a good job, a fancy car or house is what equates to success.

Many people don’t take the time to celebrate achievements and have only certain definitions for success
Manar Al Hinai

Many of us strive to achieve these goals and don’t feel successful until we achieve what society considers successful.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and hardworking.

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with equating money, a title and fancy things to success.

What’s problematic is the fact that many people like me don’t take the time to celebrate our achievements and have only certain definitions for success.

Soon after I realised this, I decided to see success through a different lens.

Success is as diverse as the people that strive towards it. It would be wrong to contain it in a box.

Success is whatever we define it to be. It could be ticking off items from our list of goals, or doing what we love.

But it’s important to keep in mind that just as important as success is, we also need to dedicate time to enjoy our achievements.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi

Updated: January 09, 2023, 4:00 AM