On a recent interstate trip I was browsing through the bookstore outside the Qantas lounge when I was struck by something. The bestseller list was littered with an array of 'inspirational' books by various well known business and lifestyle celebrities. One in particular stood out to me, a 'how I made my first million' title.
Looking at the cover and the first few pages, and then contemplating the obsession that the media has with 'successful' people, I had to ask myself why we need to be rich or famous to be seen to be a 'success'. Why does that have to be what we 'should' aspire to?
And what on earth is success anyway?
Success can provide some strong emotions, from feeling that tingle of excitement in your being, resilience for sticking with what matters through hard times, to pride in living a life that is well-spent, memorable and worthy.
So I asked myself aren't we ALL able to be a success by being the best we can be? Don't we ALL have a story to tell?
Since I established Mind Shift - The National Self Esteem Initiative, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of healthy self-esteem, I have continually found it ironic that I meet so many people who measure their success by the money they possess, the cars they drive and the overseas holidays they take. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it seems that so many people focus on these 'things' as their measure of success.
The more I talk to people about self-esteem, the more I see a big divide in people who measure their self-worth by their adherence to a consumer-driven value of success, versus those who focus on being a good citizen, active in their community and being the best person they can be.
Consumer Psychologist and Mind Shift Patron Adam Ferrier is well aware of the impact of consumer oriented societal values. As chief strategy officer of Cummins & Partners, Adam believes that, "The pressure to be 'successful' is everywhere we look. In the media, there are lots of talent contests saying you can make it - aspire to be this, aspire to be that - and then in business, you've got to design the next app that's going to take over the world, and how much money have you made by the age of 23? There are a lot of messages in society to say 'achieve' and 'aspire' and 'be better than what you are' but there are very few messages that say 'hey, actually, bugger it, you're ok just for who you are'."
For me, the most successful people I have met are some of the people I have connected with since establishing Mind Shift; from the students of our annual Glass Half Full Campaign who designed their own self-esteem campaign to support the self-esteem of their fellow students, to the business leaders who have implemented programs to support the mental health of their employees. They have all inspired me more than any book about some 'success' story detailing monetary gain.
It's amazing how small acts of kindness, generosity, or just a few caring words can totally change a person's life. We underestimate the power of positive words and the sometimes massive changes that a random act of kindness can cause. There are so many people who have positively impacted and inspired my life, just by being themselves and living with kindness. These are the people who I see as having a successful life.
Sometimes when we don't feel good enough about ourselves, we can let our internal negative self-talk determine how we act and treat others. Having a successful life depends on our self-worth being powerful enough to treat ourselves as well as we hope to treat other people. Our self-esteem has an immeasurable impact on our lives. If we don't feel good about ourselves it's hard to succeed at anything.
I encourage you to see your own life as a success by being the best you that you can be. You have something special to offer, a way to stand out, you just have to believe in yourself. Consider defining success by the satisfaction you feel in yourself - not your possessions.
Elizabeth Venzin is the Founder and CEO of the Australian Not-for-Profit Organisation Mind Shift - The National Self Esteem Initiative. Her book about her own journey of breaking away from the shadows of low self-esteem will be published in 2016.