I decided to write this post because of yet another “Being happy/successful is the best revenge” status on my Facebook newsfeed. I get where people are coming from when they post those statuses, but I started to really think about this whole thing. I don’t know who these statuses are directed to, but I’m guessing people who have betrayed, used or belittled them.
While that may be a great motivation, trying to prove people wrong, it might have more downsides than we realize. The problem with trying hard to prove people wrong, even if we eventually succeed, is that we’re doing it not for ourselves, but for them. So many of us are constantly trying to get acceptance and respect from others, we live our entire lives trying to show that we’re worthy, we’re different, we’re not like the average Joe. So some people look to materials to make themselves feel worthy, confident, unique. Some look to achievements and their personal definitions of “success” to make themselves feel good and confident.
Before I came to Berklee I had this dream of working and somehow securing a high position at one of the major labels. As I thought more about the real reason I wanted that dream, I realized that it was to prove to everyone that I, a Malaysian girl, could get to the top of the industry in a foreign land. I wanted to achieve what seemed like an impossible feat to me. Yeah, this would be something I love to do, but I would be doing it for the wrong reason. Yeah, I would probably be able to proudly tell people about my accomplishments during a high school reunion, or I could trumpet my successes on Facebook for everyone to see. I pictured impressed faces and maybe some applause. Many going “I was wrong about her.” or “I knew she would make it all along.”
“Hah,” I could think, “Take that, everyone who ever doubted me. Look at me now. And well.. Look at yourself, you poor fellow.” So you’ve had your successes, proved them wrong, people probably feel sorry and ashamed for belittling you. But it is still your life, and whether you succeed or not, ultimately.. it doesn’t affect them. Acquaintances care less about you and your successes or failures than you think, if you aren’t much use to them. Cynical, I know, but true.
Perhaps something else to keep in mind is that people make mistakes all the time, and you probably have doubted somebody else too. Just because they were wrong about you doesn’t mean they won’t be happy for you when you succeed. They were just that – wrong. They probably didn’t even think it through when they told you that “you won’t make it”. But the moment those words escaped their lips, they pierced through that little confidence you have, and remain stuck in your head for many years. I’m guessing even after you’ve become “successful”, those four words would still be somewhat hurtful for the rest of your life, and you would remind yourself of all your accomplishments to ease that hurt. So the next time somebody says you won’t make it, think of it as an honest mistake and focus on what makes you happy and keep working on it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yes, being happy and successful might be the best revenge, but if we’re being happy/successful to show them, we won’t truly be happy and feel satisfied. There will always be something for people to criticize- your career, your spouse, your body, your personality, etc. There will always be something that is imperfect in their eyes. If we wanted to change everything that they don’t accept, we would probably die feeling empty and regretful for letting those people dictate how we should live our lives. We live in such a fast-paced world, constantly trying to outdo each other, constantly striving for people’s definition of “success” – great jobs, big fat checks, a big house, big cars, beautiful children, the list goes on. I used to have that same definition, now I’d say you’re successful if you’re living the life you dreamed of having. If you want a loving family and wish to be a wonderful mother and wife, and you are exactly that, then you’re successful. Then again, that’s MY definition of success. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s.
A few years down the road, I might want to be in a top position at a major label again, but this time it would not be to impress all my friends and acquaintances, but because I love it so much that it is my motivation to get out of bed every morning.