Rule #39: Accept Your Success (and Lack Thereof) as Your Own Fault

by Rachel on January 13, 2012

Something occurred to me a few months ago when I was thinking about success.

I was thinking about career success and — I’ll be honest — comparing myself to other women my age. And I was thinking about the fact that while my career is going well, there are other people whose careers are most definitely going better. I started to think about all the things I hadn’t done, the success I hadn’t had, and was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

And then it occurred to me that a a lot of the successful people I was thinking about were really nice people. And not like “genuinely kind” nice people, but “played it safe, kissed a lot of ass, pretended to be nice” nice people. People I’d never want to be. And I considered for a minute that if I had done that, I’d probably have achieved their level of success too. It also dawned on me that I got exactly what I had worked for; to me, kissing ass feels like work, so it’s fair to say I wasn’t willing to work hard enough. But at that point, I realized that I had consciously chosen to do things my way, a decision I still stood buy, so I needed to get over the comparison thing. And when I thought of it that way, everything I had achieved — even if it wasn’t the pinnacle of achievement — seemed so much better.

Of course, when it comes to success, some things are out of our control, and you have to stop and think about that so you know when to accept that, yeah, life just said no. But now I know that more often than I probably realize, I need to accept my success and — more important — any lack thereof as a direct result of the choices I’ve made. I mean, I’m proud of myself when I’ve done something well; shouldn’t I have take credit (OK — blame) when I’ve done something that produced less-than-desirable results? In both cases, it’s essentially my own fault.

This came up again when I was talking to one of my good friends a few weeks ago about dating. Now, my friend lives an awesome life, one that many girls would envy. She’s amazing at her job — she got promoted way ahead of schedule and everyone loves her at work — she is smart, funny, healthy, cute, lives in an awesome apartment in a cool city, and has tons of great girl friends. The only thing she doesn’t have is a boyfriend. And that gets to her.

So we were discussing how exhausted she is by dating, and I pointed out  that her dating situation is also a result of the choices she’s made. She chose to have an awesome job and awesome friends even if it meant living in a city where dating is harder; she chose to not settle for guys she’s just “eh” about and chose to not do online dating. These were her choices, choices that she can still look back on and feel good about and feel like she’d make again if she had to. So why be mad at the world for not sending her what she ‘s asking for? It’s basically sent her everything she’s been asking for. But because she chose to do things her way, it might take a little longer for her to get all of them. I have no doubt she will. And I have no doubt that I will or that you will, if you’ve made similar choices.

So this rule is just how I remind myself, when I’m thinking about the things I don’t have or haven’t achieved yet, that I may have played a role in what I’d been thinking of as unfair un-successes. But how my life looks right now probably has a lot more to do with my choices than I think it does, and if those choices mean it takes me a couple more years to get where I want to be…well, keeping in mind that at least I won’t hate myself when I get there helps me stay patient.

And seriously, even the tiniest bit of success earned your way, because of your choices, feels awesome. So so so awesome. I don’t know if it feels better than “success” earned by compromising a huge part of yourself but I’d really rather not find out.