by Christy Gualtieri
It feels like the older I get, the less chance I will have to “succeed” in life. It makes sense, I suppose, because we all have a limited amount of years on the planet, but it gets disheartening when the most successful writers seem to publish earlier and earlier; when the top artists on the radio are barely out of their teens; and when CEOs skip college to make a tremendous impact on the world we live in. “What’s the point?” I sometimes think. “Everything I have to say has already been said, and probably by someone much younger and wealthier.” Do you ever feel this way too?
Then I hear stories about famous people who didn’t find success until later in life. Julia Child didn’t write her first cookbook until she was 50 years old. Author Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t write her now-famous “Little House” books until she was 65. Famous American painter Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 75. And actor Samuel L. Jackson didn’t become widely recognized on the silver screen until he was 43.
I feel better after I hear stories like those, because I think that there’s still hope for me to become a success. But the real question I have to ask myself is, “What does it really mean to become successful?” If it means being recognized by millions of others, by becoming a household name, or by the amount of money I accumulate throughout my life, then I’m probably setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment. But if being successful means that I’ve contributed something positive to the world, even if it’s never seen by more than a handful of people, then the temptation to feel like a failure goes away, and I’m left with a boost to my self-confidence. I no longer hold myself up to impossible standards; and life feels just that little bit easier.
And it makes it a bit easier to continue following my dreams. If feelings of failure have been holding you back from doing that thing with your life that’s been burning in your heart to do, whether it’s something creative, adventurous, or philanthropic, a reason for those feelings could be what you’re measuring yourself against.
But if you remember that just you being yourself is already a great contribution to the world (and it is), then maybe you’ll feel a bit more free to keep going with what lights your life on fire!
All the best!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at openthoseojos.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117.
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