Tips for saying F U To The Idea of Success & Perfection

Olivia Burton

For the past 10 years, I’ve been searching for something that doesn’t exist – ‘success’.

At university, I felt like I was doing it all wrong compared to other people. I’ve always felt unchallenged at work (I’ve had about 50 jobs), I’ve always felt like I should have solved some sort of world problem by now and, I feel like I never have enough friends or do enough activities.

The result? I’m hard on myself, I have extreme anxiety and most of the time, I’m exhausted. I’ve missed out on simply enjoying things in the moment, by thinking of what to do next and how ‘to be better’. Actually, when I stop I realise that I’m completely fine where I am, I’m happy.

Image: Unsplash

what is success

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with goal setting, pushing yourself or striving to work harder. What is wrong however is warped perceptions of success and perfection, ultimately changing the WHY of actions.

For example, earlier last year I thought my solution to feeling unsuccessful was to go try to be a doctor. I’m glad I tried, but fuck I’m grateful I didn’t succeed. I placed all my perceptions of success on being a doctor, thinking that if I became a doctor, I would never be bored or feel like a failure. Looking back, it would have been one of the worst things for me. I would have most likely sunk into feeling more like a failure and found something else to nitpick.

Success & perfection is more than power, looks, and money, it’s way more than having a ‘perfect’ partner or who we might know. It’s the feeling of satisfaction of achieving what we each want in life bit by bit, whether that’s a beautiful set of houseplants, helping others or simply having an adorable cat.

So here we are, I am not the most successful or perfect person around, but I’m happy. I am happy doing a course that’s challenging but not debilitating. I’m happy writing my thoughts on a platform with an engaged and passionate audience. I’m happy to turn up to a job that is flexible and not stressful. I’m happy to sleep for three hours in the middle of a Tuesday because I’m tired (literally just happened).

Yes, there will be days where I feel like shit and my inner critic creeps back in, but here’s my top tips for saying F U to the ideals of success and perfection.

Define YOUR success

The first step is to really consider what ‘success’ looks like to you. Success and perfection mean completely different things to different people. My definition of success is being able to have a good work-life balance, getting outdoors and feeling like I’m helping people in my day job. I haven’t quite worked out what ‘helping people’ looks like, but I know it’s a part of my success definition. Don’t forget success definitions will also evolve over time. Here’s some other people’s definitions of success.

Restrict social media use & never compare yourself to others

I don’t avoid social media, instead, I try to limit my use when I’m having a particularly bad week. It’s very easy to believe that everyone on social media is perfect, always smiling with six-packs (that probably took A LOT of work). Remember, social media is not real life. Limit your social media use if you’re feeling sh*tty and if you have to try to only follow people’s accounts that make you feel good!

Be kind (that includes to yourself)

We would never talk to a friend or probably even an enemy the way we talk to ourselves. It’s really upsetting to hear people say horrible things about themselves. Break the cycle and remember that you are your best friend. Be kind to yourself. If you’ve failed at something, eaten a whole pack of cookies (no judgment) or embarrassed yourself horribly – don’t worry about it. If it makes anyone feel better, I once shit myself in public when I was really sick. Nothing can be worse than that.

Set realistic & mindful goals

If you’re a goal setter, set realistic goals. After setting each goal, ask yourself WHY you are setting them. If you’re setting a goal to lose weight because you saw a photo of Kylie Jenner, step the f away (& follow I weigh). If you want to set a goal to get up earlier in the morning to catch more of the sun, then we have a winner. If you fail that goal, don’t worry about it and try again. Here’s a guide to setting realistic goals.

Acceptance is key

The thing that I’ve grappled with the most is just accepting that sometimes things go wrong and plans change. Accepting that success takes a lot of time and hard work in most cases is a tough pill to swallow. Keep going to achieve the life you want, but also accept that things change with time and it’s ok to chill out.

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.