On success, shame and allowing support

successA friend posed a question the other day, “What does success mean to you?”
The answer that came up surprised me and led to some soul-searching. My response was, “To be earning enough money to feel independent and not have to rely on anyone.”

The question had been posted in a Facebook group for entrepreneurs and so the answer related to my business, but it revealed a whole lot more about the layers and the limits I have been creating for myself.

A conversation in the group ensued and as it unfolded, I became aware of how my answer was showing me how I have been holding back and not allowing myself to be supported in certain areas of my life, both financially and in other ways as well. Financial support has been a real block that I have been pushing against constantly, yet unconsciously. This discussion brought it to my awareness.

As a single Mum, I am entitled to certain benefits. I am employed and self-employed. I work for myself and for others, so I claim Working Tax Credit and Child Benefit from the Government. As a recently divorced mother, I am entitled to child maintenance from my ex-husband to help care for our boys. He gives it willingly. Why then, do I feel so much shame when it comes to accepting what I am entitled to?
Do I not feel worthy of financial support?

I believe the answer may be tied to my work ethic and the way I grew up. I was given an allowance from my teenage years, by my parents. A small sum of money either weekly or monthly, to cover my expenses and help me get a handle on budgeting. This meant that I had to allocate and save money for clothing, shoes and toiletries, though I did not have to worry about food and other basics. I chose to supplement this with part time work and earned money (which I saved more often than spending) in a bid to gain financial freedom. Working through my student years, in evenings, weekends and holidays, I was the only one of my friends (as far as I am aware) who made it through Uni free from debt.

For emerging debt-free, I am truly grateful. But what did this work, work, work, be independent mindset (that I created for myself) teach me? I learned always to be looking for an opportunity to make money. It taught me to keep busy and to be self-sufficient. As a 40-something mother I am not sure this belief still serves me. Big boy has been noting of late, how I seem to be working long hours. An all work and not enough sleep ethic is not something I want to pass down. Sure, we have fun, but my children also observe how my working hours often begin again after they go to bed and spill over into very late nights. So what is it about wanting to feel independent? Some misplaced guilt about wanting to do it all myself? I don’t have to. Nobody should.

A few days after the question on success, something came up that really struck a chord. It was a quote in Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver (my current Kindle crush) and it read,
“When you refuse help, you sometimes refuse people the pleasure of helping.”
– Anonymous

It reminded me that all the help and support I need is already on offer (not only financially, but otherwise as well if I can only bring myself to ask) and being given freely and willingly. I was also reminded of the joke about the man in the flood who was sent a helicopter. The help is already there, I just have to learn to accept it gracefully.

I also need to redefine my idea of success in relation to my life and my business…

Success is a day in which I can find things to be grateful for. That is every day, is it not? If I look beyond the shame to the reality of my daily life – doing work I love to my own schedule that allows me quality time with my children – I am already living my version of success. That’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement, but what I have is enough. Anything else is a bonus.

What does success mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Gratitude Daily
begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide another group of people through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into and enhances their lives.


5 thoughts on “On success, shame and allowing support

  1. Pingback: Friday gratitude list | Be Creative Daily

  2. That’s so interesting Julia. Feels like there’s a constant see-sawing inside me between success as money and success as lifestyle. Ideally I’d like both. Wouldn’t we all! Funny you mention asking for help, because today I asked an online group for help, which I hardly ever do. But you’re right, a lot of people get pleasure out of helping others.

    • It’s a tricky one isn’t it Richard? In pondering the post again after sharing, I went back to the dictionary for the definition of success and it was this: “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. So perhaps our personal definition of success should go right back to the question I blogged about right here: http://becreativedaily.com/what-is-your-why/ “What is your Why?” Perhaps it’s time to revisit that question again.
      Great to hear that you reached out and asked for help. It can be a real challenge, but so often worthwhile. x

  3. Hi Julia, Really interesting to read about your definition of success and how it is changing. I remember listening to a Youtube video by Anthony Robins where he asked people attending his courses their definition of success. Apparently a successful (in most people’s view) millionaire did not yet feel successful as he had not yet reached his target of 10 million, and so felt quite down. Another man said his definition of success was to be above ground (ie alive) and therefore he always felt positive. It’s amazing how different our perceptions can be.

    • Hey Tara, thank you for sharing what you recall from the Anthony Robbins video. Yes, I think it’s a question of perspective and what we want to achieve… Is this enough? Do I want more? I think it is possible to want to achieve more whilst also being grateful and happy with where we are and what we already have. Acknowledging the good in the moment and still aiming higher. x

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