The best boss I ever had was a woman who had a great knack for empowering people to discover and cultivate their unique gifts and talents. Humble and approachable, a large part of what made this leader well-regarded in the workplace and community was the way she invested herself in those around her. She spotted hidden talent in college students when her peers overlooked them. She took intentional time from her busy schedule to mentor her employees, giving us the language to frame our vocational aspirations and dreams. As she guided us in our quest to hone our own versions of success, she seemed to achieve more of it herself.
This leader was a refreshing voice in a “me-first” world.
There’s another leader who stands out in stark contrast to the one above. She led a highly successful career by most standards and manages hundreds of employees, yet did not connect on a personal level with any of them. Company meetings were a far cry from the lunch meetings my former boss would facilitate: instead of team building activities and roundtable discussions, the latter would often lavish us with stories about herself and her accomplishments. We listened, awe-struck (and not in a good way), as she recounted all the times she’d test her priority airline status by sauntering around airports while her plane sat at the gate, waiting for her to board. It wasn’t uncommon for her to belittle and criticize us in front of one another, nor to end meetings with the brash reminder that our job was to make the company more money.
The “me versus you” belief system permeates our individualistic, competitive culture where success regularly equates to financial wealth, platform followers, or square footage. None of us is immune to being swept into the undercurrent of a zero-sum, winner-loser mentality—it is present across boardrooms, dating scenes, schools, churches, and even in our own homes. It relays the message that success is achieved primarily through self-focused effort often at the expense of others.
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with status, money, or power, measuring success solely by these terms can leave us feeling empty.
A few years back, I started assessing and questioning my core values and interior motivations after reaching a point of disillusionment about the state of my life. This journey has led me to become a more self-aware person and more attune to my (many!) blind spots and shortcomings, and chief among them is a me-first mentality that at times pervades my thoughts, motives, and actions.
An integral part of my journey is the awareness that my life carries more significance when I help others in their personal journeys. In a way, coming to understand this about myself liberated me and freed me to start making changes in my life. I started to question previously held assumptions, dismantle me-first mindsets, and make alterations—some of which were drastic. I’m still discovering what living generously looks like for me and my family (because it looks different for everyone) and working on de-emphasizing benchmarks the world defines as hallmarks of success. In short, I’ve started to view success in a whole new light.
A beautiful aspect of our humanity is the fact that we’re all connected through shared experiences. Each of us has endless opportunities to leverage our talents, knowledge, resources, and time to promote social connection and shared understanding. It’s easy to lose sight of our humanity when our striving rests solely in a me-first mindset. Small acts of kindness and seemingly minor interactions like smiling at a stranger, lending a hand to an elderly person, or assisting a child with homework shouldn’t be discounted as ingredients to a successful life.
In this season of my life, I’m a SAHM and an aspiring freelance writer; my days look very different than they once did. Success is pouring into my girls and loving my family to the best of my ability. It means writing words online that will hopefully bring hope to the woman who wants to find relief from anxiety and self-debasing thoughts. It means being a friend in the trenches with others who are going through rough times. It ebbs, flows, and changes.
The more we are on the lookout for ways to extend our resources, time, love, and energy toward others, the more our success journey widens and deepens. We may tread against the status quo when our lives incorporate the well-being and promotion of others, but we’ll find greater meaning, connection, and happiness the more we consider others. I encourage you to define what that success journey looks like for you!
You’ll love these articles:
Anatomy of a Strong Woman
Why You Need to Support Other Women and 5 Ways to Start
The Bachelorette: A Romantic Culture in a Feminist World
Dear SAHM: I See You and Want You to Know These 8 Things
5 Inspiring Women You Need to Follow on Instagram Right Now
Can You See Past Your Brokenness?
Don’t miss this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: 5 Things a Woman Must Do for Success in Life – 040!