Living in a country like India, it is most likely that you’ve been compared to people around you all your life. You are always expected to chase success, and it’s not just your parents who expect you to do so. Relatives and teachers push you to do the same. Even those people around you who are merely acquainted with you would not hesitate to pass their judgment if they notice that you are not on the right path. But where do these expectations come from? At this point, there’s no one to question this obsession which has been blindly passed on for years. This article explores society’s constant obsession with success and its impacts at an individual level.
Read More: The Psychology Behind Success
What is Success?
Success is a broad term and can mean different things for each person. However, to reach somewhat of a definition, success is that point where you achieve a set aim or a purpose that you had imagined to fulfil. Success can be in any domain of life, whether it is work, life, or even family ties.
A person who has scored well on their test might be successful in their own eyes. An individual might see it as success when they’ve finally finished a task that they have been struggling to perform for a long time. However, as time has passed, the word ‘success’ has narrowed down in the eyes of society. Most people would describe a successful individual as having fame or money, a happy married life, and mainly, material luxuries. Even small achievements are not acknowledged as success anymore- instead, that only sets them on ‘the road to success.’
A survey conducted by ‘Discover’ on 1000 Americans asked the respondents about what ‘upgrades’ they feel are necessary for them to be considered successful. Four things came up again and again as an answer to this question. Common responses included a better home than they have at the moment and a car more luxurious than their current one. More than half of the respondents also wanted to have a housekeeper to show that they were successful. Around 90% agreed that success also means the financial freedom to take vacations.
What makes Society obsess over Success?
While the factors encouraging obsession with success continuously surround you, it has been desensitized to the extent that it is easy to look past them. These factors are ignored, they get the opportunity to sit in the background and play their influence. While many of these factors are innate, they also shape your views on the importance of success. As a result, it becomes a factor in judging an individual. The importance you attach to it makes you project on loved ones, also pushing them towards success. This creates a cycle that the society is now stuck in. Let’s look at some factors that might have a positive influence on your views on success.
- Media Portrayal (Modeling): While being exposed to entertainment such as movies, you have likely admired many on-screen characters. Whether it is the hero or someone else that you relate with more. With such exposure, it’s natural to idolize these characters. As a result, there is an innate want to be like them. So, you are more likely to strive for the ‘perfection’ you witness, pushing you to pursue success.
- Academic Pressure: The syllabus in educational institutions is designed in a way that challenges a student to learn more. As a result, students are indirectly encouraged to strive for success as they work hard to meet their academic goals.
Read More: What is Academic Validation?
- Contender Syndrome: This term refers to one’s feeling of dissatisfaction or an unpleasant feeling produced when one thinks they haven’t lived up to their full potential. This syndrome drives individuals to work harder and chase success in order to escape the feelings it causes.
- Spirit of Competition (Operant Conditioning): People around you, especially parents, demand that you excel in every field that you take part in. There is a constant comparison with your classmates, friends, neighbours, cousins, and even siblings. This comparison can be draining. However, when you perform well, you are also praised for it. This reinforcement lets you aim for success in future pursuits.
Also Read: How To Deal With The Stress of Competition
- Illusion of Perfection: Consider the content that social media exposes you to. You encounter people with happening lives. You might see glimpses of the lives of successful people. These glimpses, however, are usually just the positives. This positive exposure to their lives gives you the illusion that success solves all your problems. As a result, people strive to be successful.
Psychological Impact of Chasing Success:
Pursuing success can be traced down to motivation. This can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Either way, success is seen as the final goal- a big picture of perfection. The competition in today’s world is very high. So, trying to achieve success doesn’t always guarantee it. It is a long journey that is also extremely tiresome. This can impact an individual’s mental health.
A person who has been pursuing success for a long time, but hasn’t gone far about their goals is likely to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. They might experience feelings of worthlessness, questioning the point of all their efforts. This might also have a negative impact by reducing one’s work productivity. When they are not in the same place that they imagined themselves to be in, they are likely to experience an identity crisis. Their self-esteem is also reduced. Since they do not want to discuss the status of their goals, people also isolate themselves. There is an overall decrease in mental health in case the pursuit of success doesn’t go as planned. Thus, it is equally important for a person to have realistic expectations and to be prepared for failure as well.
It might be important in the present world. However, it is possible to go about it healthily. First and foremost, prepare yourself for failure. As the saying goes, ‘without failure, there is no success’. As you move forward, focus on the journey rather than the end product. Make sure to move at your own pace, since everyone’s journey looks a little different from each other’s. Acknowledge the fact that success does not go hand in hand with happiness.
So, don’t lose out on those opportunities that will make you happy today for the sake of your success in the future. Redefine success for yourself instead of idolizing it. It might not be worth it if it comes at the price of your mental health and the relations you share with loved ones. Find a balance and focus on healthy and positive growth, rather than aimlessly chasing the idea of success.