To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of my favorite thinkers, and that quote really spoke to me this morning.
I tend to be hard on myself – comparing myself to others, and the outward expressions of their success: prestigious job with matching paycheck, or even just the ability to pay the rent. I especially have to be careful about checking my envy of those who are so adept and prolific in outward expressions of creativity.
I think back on my life and want to change decisions made in the past, but I know those changes would sever my connection to those who love me for who I really am. I am so blessed to have finally found people who value integrity and not only accept, but expect, authenticity from me. It’s a new kind of challenge, after a lifetime of trying to force myself into a box I was never meant to fit.
There is another quote that is making its rounds of the internet this morning. It showed up just as I needed it:
”Developing self-esteem requires an act of revolution, or several mini-revolutions, in which we begin to separate from group thought and establish our own sense of authority.”
~ Caroline Myss
It took me a long time to learn that decisions made to impress a specific group of people, such as a bag or shoes far out of my price range, or political party membership, is not a healthy way to build a relationship. Putting myself in debt for designer duds to impress someone moves me away from independence rather than towards it. I’m not acting on my own authority when I’m beholden to the opinions of others. When my self-esteem is healthy, and my relationships are healthy, then those relationships are secure, regardless of who designed my bag, or whether I voted the same way as the rest of my family. That is a freeing realization.
When I think of the effort it took to extract myself from group-think and learn to evaluate all the information available to me, rather than only considering that which reinforced the group’s position, I consider my daughter and her development. How do I teach her that she does not have to feel guilty for thoroughly pondering information available to her, and coming to a different conclusion from me? How do I teach her that the value of a position lies not in how it compares to my own, but in the integrity with which it is contemplated, and her willingness to reconsider with new understanding when new information is made available? How do I teach her that everything must be questioned, including me? How do I help her work around/through this stumbling block that consumed such a large percentage of my life? Do I help her? Or is that one of those things we need to work through on our own?
So much to ponder…. How do you define authentic success?