Support for Chronic Pain

What Defines Success?


“The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kind.”

Dalai Lama

Recently I was asked this question: “What defines success for you Jess?”  The person whom asked this question is truly the one person I look up to, admire, and have a deep admiration for.  Years ago if she asked me a question, I would try and think of the “right” answer or “what she wanted to hear.”  I no longer do that.   Call it age, wisdom, respect, trust, or whatever but I do not need to think of the “right” answer as there is no right answer and as much as I love and honor this person, telling her what I believe she wants to hear is quite frankly immature and an insult to both myself and she.  I do not have the same opinion of success as the vast majority of people I know.  I used to but I realized I only had a view of success through the lenses of others never looking within myself.  I thought success was: getting that 4.0 in college, a career, looking great, making my dad proud, money to some degree, friends (mounds of friends,) and to have everyone like me.  I am pretty fortunate that my view on success has changed because half of those things never came to fruition.  I did get that 4.0 and I did become a social worker.  I do not always make my dad proud, I do not make a lot of money and never did, I do not have tons of friends but the ones I have I trust and are more like family to me.  Everyone like me? I can honestly laugh at that.  There are many people who do not like me.  I did a lot of crazy sh*t that I am not proud of during my awful times with chronic pain.  A lot of people do not like me because of the opinions of others or “gossip.”  I am okay with that.  I do not really want to be friends with anyone who cannot forgive, see who I really am, or believe anything said about me without knowing me.  If my definition of success was the same as it was years ago: I am a failure.

None of the above things define success for me any longer.  The one thing I still “worry” about is making my dad proud and never letting him down.  This is something I have to let go of.  My dad is the greatest man I have ever known and truly does more for others than anyone I have met.  This past Mother’s Day he did not give me a card, that should not be a big deal.  *Dad. totally sorry for blowing you up about the damn card for the world to see.  Anyways, I swear just writing that brings tears to my eyes.  That is ridiculous.  He is the only person I still worry about whether he likes me or not.  I will be thirty four in two weeks (something my three year old enjoys telling the world…she still says she is two and yet remembers that I am thirty three.) I do not feel thirty four, I am definitely at a better place than I was in my younger twenties, especially regarding managing chronic pain.  However, I care way too much about what my dad thinks of me because I know he loves me.  I have a lot of work to do on my inner child because that is who is saddened by not getting a Mother’s day card from her Dad, the adult Jessica has a lot more to focus on.

So, what is success to me?  No it is not money, status, fancy things, a big time career, a good body and looks, or having everyone like me.  First of all, I believe living and managing chronic pain is probably the most successful thing I could do and that applies to all of you with any kind of invisible illness.  I mean hell, call it a day: I made it: success.  I believe making the world a better place is success: how cliché does that sound?  Easy out to a question, no.  When I say that I do not mean being part of a charity (that is success, just not what that I am referring to, please take part in charities) or planting a tree or what have you.  It means understanding people for who they are, where they are in life and never casting judgement on anyone: ever. It means seeing the good in everyone because I believe there is good in everyone, many of us just have a lot of issues. There is a quote I absolutely love by Yehuda Berg: “Hurt people, hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget without finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.” We are all products of our childhoods, if we were hurt, abandoned, or taught things that are not kind: we will most likely hurt others, live a life full of anger and self-pity, and practice what we know. How can we judge anyone?

Success is also doing what you know in your heart to be right despite the opinions of others. My writing is the lowest paying work I have ever done: aka I make nothing to write. However, I believe sharing my story and writing is one of the most successful things I have yet to do. I am following my passion, helping others, and doing what I know deep down I was meant to do. I believe in myself. Maybe one day this will be my career and I will earn money from writing, but that will not make me successful. What will make my writing successful is reaching and helping as many people as I possibly can. When I pass (not soon, I plan to live a very long time) I will not bring with me a car, house, clothes, make-up, a good body (probably not even a body but I have no clue what happens when you die,) or a career. When I pass, (again LONG TIME from now) I will leave a mark on this world. Even if just a few people benefit from my writing and sharing my journey with chronic pain than I have been a success.

For me, being a good mother is success. And being a good mom is different for every mother. I know in my heart what I believe being a good mother is and I think I am a great mom. There is nothing I love more. Instilling the values I have, lessons I have learned, and lifestyle I lead on my daughter will hopefully make an impact on how she treats people and aids her in her own view of success.

Finally, success is knowing that you are never “A SUCCESS.” Success is knowing that you are always growing and there are a many things you still have to learn and work on. I fall down, yes. But, I get right back up with lessons that I keep and utilize. I will never be a “SUCCESS.” For me, there is no such thing. We are all works in progress and the second you think: “I have made it, I am successful. There is nothing more I need to learn or do” is the second your life will begin to unravel: this I promise you. Trust your journey. Let go of the belief that you “have made it” and take time to truly think about what success means to you. There is no wrong answer.

I will say this, anyone with chronic pain who reads my writing is successful in my eyes. I know that for a fact. Go easy on yourself, you really are doing the best you can.


One thought on “What Defines Success?

  1. I think I’ve always had a different view of success than most people. For me it’s always been about just being happy with life. It’s not about money, or status although those things are nice and as I’m often reminded money certainly helps prevent unhappiness and stress. It’s just about being happy where you are and you can be happy anywhere with any amount of money. I grew up poor and we were happy. We wanted but we were happy. All I really want is to be content with life and to be able to help others in some way.

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