When It Comes to Wanting Success – How Much is Too Much?

I’ve spent most of my life in an almost constant state of competition. Growing up in the North Shore of Chicago and attending one of the best public schools in the state was an enormous privilege, but not one without enormous pressures as well. As a smart kid, grades were everything. It started in preschool (if you can believe it) when I became incredibly proud that I was one of the first to learn to read and continued into elementary school when I was included in the T.A.P. classes, basically advanced classes for 4th graders (disgusting), which began the competition to gain admittance to the honors middle school seminars and the most advanced math classes, which then led to a need for acceptance into all the honors and AP high school classes. All of this striving and achieving and competing of the previous run-on sentence led up to just one thing: the looming goal of getting into a top tier college. Think about that for a second. Just nine years old, and already thinking about college and “the future.” And trust me when I say, I was never alone.

Competition. Success. Winning. These qualities and desires are ingrained in our minds at an incredibly early age, and we live with them as the monkey on our backs for our entire lives. Slogans and quotes fill our peripheral vision with eye-roll-worthy sayings like “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new,” but I will argue to the death with anyone who tries to convince me that they value their mistakes and their failures as much as their successes.

No one brags about the chemistry test they bombed or the interview they missed because they wrote down the wrong time with the justification that they learned something. We erase the jobs from our resumes that had the psycho bosses that hated us, and we include enough semi-fake society memberships to make us seem like “valuable assets to the community,” because we have to in order to compete with the rest of the world who’s out there doing the same things.

But, this all begs the question – when does it stop? What’s enough? As a recent grad from Vanderbilt University, who spent countless hours writing an 80 page senior thesis for no end other than some tiny recognition in the graduation booklet, I understand this need for success extremely well. I am extremely familiar with its suffocating grip and the selfish excuses it convinces us are enough to justify anything.

“I really need to focus on me right now.”

“It’s all just a means to an end.”

“They’ll understand.”

 Enter: yoga. Enter: a 2x6 sheet of rubber on which no one’s competing with anyone. Enter: peace, sufficiency, and self-love. I am an adamant believer that yoga has the capacity to change the way we look at the world and our places within it. Yes, succeeding at something feels phenomenal. But, what about the times when we don’t succeed? We can’t think of ourselves as failures because we’re not the best at everything. That kind of thinking (that the majority of American society endures) is crippling. Yoga teaches that, no matter what, we are enough.

This is a fantastic notion – this idea of being enough, of being worthy. It’s really ridiculous that we don’t know this already. But, the defeating self-talk that pervades our day-to-day lives is so overwhelming that it makes sense that we eventually forget. So, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to you, to anyone who happens to read it. You are enough.

I see yoga as a super hero, banishing insecurities one mat at a time.

[Side Note: THIS IS ALSO WHY I FIND THE IDEA OF YOGA AS AN OLYMPIC SPORT TO BE A VILE PERVERSION OF YOGA’S ENTIRE PURPOSE. Your practice is personal – not meant for judging and a point scale. Look for more on this in a later post!]

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