How Do You Measure Success?

Dressed to kill, you appear in the doorway to the party.  There’s an immediate hush among the assembled guests.  Maybe a few gasps.  You stride confidently across the room to the bar.  Before you utter a word, the bartender hands you a glass of champagne with an admiring smile.

You turn to find the other guests clamouring around you.  “You look incredible”, they gush.  “You’ve lost so much weight!”.  “How did you do it?”.

“Just sheer willpower and utter fabulousness”, you smirk triumphantly.  You take a sip of champagne and think: “At last, I’ve arrived”.

For many people who struggle with emotion-driven overeating and excess weight, this – or something like it – is what success looks like.  This is the dramatic Weight-loss Fantasy, the Transformation Moment, the Big Reveal.  You have conquered your demons, mastered self-control and earned your one-way golden ticket to Acceptanceville.

It’s a fantasy you can spend your entire life chasing.

In your desperate pursuit of the success fantasy, you ignore all the small, important successes you’re achieving.

We often believe that change happens in one great, big “By Jove, I’ve got it!” instant when everything magically falls into place and suddenly – Ta-Dah! – you’re the person you always thought you should be.

It’s not surprising.  Images of dramatic “body transformations” are projected in the media on a daily basis – sensational “success” stories of how everything “just clicked one day” and an “unhappy overweight person” has transformed into a “thin happy person” whose life is now perfect.  We’re sold the idea that change should be quick, dramatic and leave others in awe.

No wonder I’m asked so often by new clients if I have a “magic wand” or a “magic pill” to deal with their issues.  I don’t – just so you know.

The reality is that change doesn’t happen like that.  Generally, it’s a series of small adjustments in several different areas that eventually amount to something really significant. Adjustments not only in your eating behaviour, but also in how you relate to yourself, other people and to the world at large.

I can feel your sense of disappointment.  Not very newsworthy, is it?  “Where’s my Big Moment?” I hear you cry.

But the Big Moment comes at a very high price.  In order to achieve it, you have to be strict and rigid with your eating.  You probably have to punish yourself at the gym.  And even if you do achieve it, it may only be fleeting.  No sooner have you lost the weight then you’re putting it back on again.  And after years of trying and failing at the Big Moment, there may well be a part of you saying “I’m just not putting myself through this hell anymore”.

Another problem is that anything less than Big Moment simply isn’t noteworthy.  In your desperate pursuit of the success fantasy, you ignore all the small, important successes you’re achieving.  The times you left food on your plate because you stopped eating when you were satisfied.  The occasions when you supported yourself emotionally rather than beat yourself up.  The instances you felt like throwing in the towel but kept going.

In despair, you ask “When will life get better?”.  But life may well be getting better – it’s just that you’re not noticing it.

Forget about impressing other people and invest in yourself because, believe me, you’re a worthy investment.

So make a point of noticing.

Celebrate your successes.

All of them.

In any way that speaks to you.

You could write them down in a notebook, stick them up on Post-It Notes or start a Success Jar – do whatever feels right for you (suggestions are very welcome).

Better self-esteem and greater confidence aren’t achieved with the Big Transformation but with a steady improvement in how you feel about yourself.  Making those small but important changes that will have a lasting impact on your life.

So, to truly measure success, I would offer the following suggestions:

  • Surrender your attachment to the Transformation Fantasy and embrace the reality of change. You wouldn’t sign up to a 3-year university degree course and expect to understand everything and pass the final exams after 6 months.  Give yourself time to make sense of what’s going on with you and allow space for change to occur.
  • Wholeheartedly celebrate your successes, however small you might consider them – they’re all significant milestones in the process of recovery. Build a realistic picture of your achievements and an honest assessment of how far you’ve come.  You’re not saying “I’m better than anyone else”.  You’re saying “I deserve to take note of my successes because I’m as good as anyone else”.
  • Forget about impressing other people and invest in yourself because, believe me, you’re a worthy investment. The Transformation Fantasy is all about attempting to make yourself acceptable to others – but change is best motivated by an internal desire to feel better, for yourself.

If you can start to care about yourself after a lifetime of neglect;  if you can begin to heal your relationship with food following years of dysfunction;  if you can articulate and accept the feelings you’ve always suppressed; if you can learn to value and appreciate a body you’ve only ever despised;  if you can focus on your character in a world that says appearance is all that matters;  if you can find the courage to discover who you really are

…for me, that’s how you measure success.

23 thoughts on “How Do You Measure Success?

  1. Terrific post, Julie! I love the idea of a success jar – how motivational is that?! I think you’ve thrown some much needed light on a common fantasy, that feeling of ‘I’ve arrived’, when the reality is an everyday step by step gradual approach. I often wondered would I wake up one day thinking ‘Now I am a true minimalist’! Of course not! It’s all an evolutionary process. Thanks for the insight, Lxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “An evolutionary process” – what a great turn of phrase and so accurate. I love how you’ve related this to your own experience of becoming a “true minimalist”, as you say it’s an incremental process, not a sudden transformation. Many thanks for your comment, Lol.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I consider success when I am able to wake up and great the day, live life with all its challenges and adventures… all else falls into place as destiny has determined… 🙂

    “Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow remains a mystery, today is a new adventure. Greet it with open arms, a open heart, a open mind and a smile. Enjoy it because it won’t come again.” (Larry “Dutch“ Woller )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very nice, Dutch. It would be wonderful if we could welcome challenges as much as we do good fortune and fearlessly face each day. It’s learning to trust that everything will be OK that can be the difficulty for many. Thank you for sharing your experience and for the lovely quote.

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  3. What a wonderfully written post! I know you have been through all this because you are so ‘spot on’ in your descriptions. Even though my food struggles are behind me, I still sometimes have an inkling of the fantasy that I can lose weight and appear more pleasing to others. Fortunately, the allure of that fantasy doesn’t mesmerize me like it used to. I have so many reasons to be happy with myself that don’t include being thin! And you are so right, the small successes add up to a much better life than I ever expected to have. Thank for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely love that – “I have so many reasons to be happy with myself that don’t include being thin” – I would wish that for everyone. That’s the main problem with the Transformation Fantasy – it’s about trying to be acceptable to other people, rather than accepting and loving ourselves. Thanks for your comment, Merri, I always enjoy hearing your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

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