Have you ever really thought about what the word “success” actually means? I know I hadn’t, as it was somewhat programmed into me by our society. As an autistic person who was undiagnosed for most of my life, I tried to understand the world by watching others. So, I internalized success to mean having money, a good job, 2.5 kids, a spouse, and a nice house.
So, do you want to know what the word “success” actually means? Spoiler alert: it’s got nothing to do with any of that! The dictionary defines “success” as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Yup, that’s it. Nothing about what the aim or purpose is, just accomplishing it.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was shocked by how simple it was and how much I let myself be swayed into thinking it was more than that.
As I scrolled through social media this morning, one of my stims as the bright visuals calm me, I realized that so much of what I was seeing is how successful people are, but based on our modern, western society’s definition of the word.
I didn’t see a single post or story about simply accomplishing a basic task and sharing it with the world.
As a neurodivergent person, meaning someone whose brain is fundamentally wired differently, I’ve been struggling against these images and ideals, slowly realizing that what success means to me is different than what it means to everyone else. I’ve been nervous and fearful to share my story and my successes, fear of being made fun for celebrating these things or for not living up to what I thought I could and should do when I was just thought of as the weird, quiet kid, aka before my diagnoses. I’ve been worried about being rejected, about being treated like a child (as I often am), fear of so many of those things from years of masking and trying to fit in.
Well, you know what? I don’t fit in! I never have, despite trying so hard, and I never will! So, why should I try and make my definition of success fit in either?
As a neurodivergent person, a good day and a bad day can look wildly different, especially as it relates to my executive functioning. I have a few posts on this (click here!), but basically the best way to describe it is how well I can “adult” that day, like getting even the most basic of tasks done.
So, on a good day, my list of successes can look like this:
- Cooked all three meals
- Emptied, filled, and ran the dishwasher
- Took Monty (my service dog) on a long walk
- Got all my work tasks done for the day
- Made a to-do list
- Worked on my projects (this blog, crafting business, etc)
- Ran errands
Ok, I could keep going, but you get the picture right? If not, and I am one of these people so don’t feel bad, basically I did what most people do, checking a lot of things off my list for the day and doing them well.
So, what does success look like on a bad day? Glad you asked! Well,…
- Ate food and drank something
- Kept Monty alive (food, water, shelter, potty)
- Didn’t let the dishes overflow the sink
- Only essential work tasks done
Fortunately, these days are rare, and even more so now that I am in a better living environment, but they do happen. Most of the time, I fall somewhere in the middle. I also have time blindness as an ADHD person (post coming on that!), so even on my good days, my success list is often smaller than I’d like.
Ok, so what’s the point of this? Well, I am starting a movement. It may be just me at first and it may never catch on, but here it goes. I am celebrating my success for the world to see! Yup, that may mean I’ll lose some followers. Yup, I may finally get the haters and nasty people that I’ve so far avoided. And yup, it may even change how people see me and what they think.
But, here’s what I do know. If I only celebrate what neurotypical society views as successful, then I won’t have much to say. I’ve never fit that mold, and I probably never will. After all, I literally live in an old cabin in the woods!
So, here it goes. I am celebrating what success actually is: accomplishing a task or goal. To paraphrase one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books (and yes I know he wasn’t a good person, but this book was my childhood!), “A success is a success, no matter how small.”
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