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  • Erin Caitlin Sweeney

Redefining Success

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

Originally published in Matriarchy Magazine by Try Matriarchy.


Currently, as I sit here writing these words, I am in a nebulous stage of my professional life. I graduated with my master’s degree a year and a half ago. I’ve been building my practice doing healing work for the last year. I work part time as a server. I also work part time for an (incredible) herbalist and folk medicine school. I’m figuring out how to do the work I love while also living in a city I love. A city that also happens to be one of the most expensive places to live in the country. I’m trying to figure out what my work looks like. I’m trying to figure out what my life looks like at the age of 31.


As I sit in this nebulous stage, thoughts swirl through the fog I sometimes find myself in. Thoughts like, “Just get a normal job with benefits,” and “I’m going to be a server forever,” and “I’m never going to make a sustainable income doing work I love.” As these thoughts swirl, I’m struck by how they - and the voice of my inner critic - are dependent upon my own conditioning of what professional success looks like.


Dependent upon the system I live in.


Professional success is financial wealth. It is recognition from your peers, from society. It is the number of things you own. Success is power; it is dominance. Success is being consumed by work, being busy all of the time. Success is having thousands of followers on Instagram. Success is when people tell you you’re successful.


Or so I told myself.


Or so I was told.


My understanding of professional success, what I was conditioned to believe and the thoughts I find swirling through the fog, are rooted within the straight, cisgender, capitalist, white supremacist, colonialist, patriarchal system that is the foundation of the Western world.


Fuck. That. That is not how I will define success. So, let me try again:


Success is living your truth. Success is living your passion. Success is positively impacting the world. Success is the people whose lives you touch. Success is learning to trust. Success is to do work because you feel called to it, not for the financial reward or prestige. There is something undeniable pulling you toward it. A call you must follow because the fear of regret is greater than the fear of the unknown. Success is knowing that if your passion hasn’t revealed itself to you yet, it will - because it is within you. Success is change. Success is learning how to “fail.” Success is learning how to be “unsuccessful” through the eyes of the culture, the system you live in. Success is being exactly who are. Your success can only - and should only - be defined by you.


Let’s redefine success for the new paradigm we’re entering. A paradigm of equality, where all voices are heard and honored, where those in power are reflective of those they represent, where everyone’s individuality and how they move through the world is respected and seen as a gift.


I am doing work I feel called to. I am doing work that I believe can change the world. I am doing work that helps others. I am doing work I am passionate about. I am doing work that aligns with my truth. I have no wealth to speak of, no one has told me I am successful, I have 100 followers on Instagram - and yet, I am a success.


I. Am. A. Success.


As I redefine success in my own life, I also reflect on the ways in which I work. I have realized that in shifting the paradigm we live in, in changing the world, it is not just about the work we do but the way in which we do our work. It goes beyond my own conditioning of success to my own conditioning of how to achieve success.


In my twenties, I worked 80 hours a week. Just this summer I caught myself proudly touting that I was working five jobs. My busyness a badge of honor. Proof of my worth in this world; proof of my success. I’d find myself trying to control my work, my future, my life. Obsessed with perfection and feeling like a failure if perfection was not met. Feeling like a failure a lot. This, too, is conditioning. This, too, is rooted in the straight, cis, white supremacist, capitalist, colonialist, patriarchal system.


Again, I say, fuck that.


I will no longer work this way. Instead, I will move slowly. Knowing that I can be busy, I can “hustle” and still be slow. I will trust. When things are working out and when they’re not - I will trust that it is all happening as it should. I will follow my intuition. I will see the big picture. I will accept that change is the only constant in life. I will learn how to sit in the unknown. I will be forgiving to myself. I will honor my journey. I will practice self-care. I will ask for help.


May we define a new version of success and the way we work for ourselves. May we forge a new path forward. May we be models for those who come after us. May we support each other, may we love ourselves, may we change the fucking world.

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© 2019 by Erin Caitlin Sweeney. Proudly created with Wix.com

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