About a year and a half ago, I came across this quote on writer and poet Kojo Baffoe’s blog, “Definition of self is an individual thing. Therefore success is about the goals you set for yourself and not what society dictates.” Yesterday, I came across it scrawled across a crumpled yellowish paper, in one of my files. I felt a soft laugh in my throat. We constantly have to defend ourselves nowadays and being for yourself has never been more relevant as in today’s new age.
In modern African culture, success is measured in materialistic terms-fancy shiny car, expensive looking clothes, a big house in the ‘right’ suburb, the ‘right’ people…You have succeeded when you enter the marital institution and have children at a certain ‘right’ age. These are some of the measures of success; we are made to believe translate to a better quality life. It doesn’t matter if you are not prepared, don’t want to, your situation doesn’t allow-you have to.
But consumerism and uniformity patterns do not translate success to everyone. Everybody aspires for and deserves a comfortable happy life with minimum struggle, everyone has to pursue this at their own pace.
Societal expectations have a disadvantage in that they erode any sense of individualism and don’t take kindly to people pursuing what their hearts and souls thirst for. Being an individual and celebrating that individualism ensures you contribute healthily to being a member of a community, nation etc.
Societal standards are there to create order and like other man-made institutions like education and religion, serve a human interest, in this case being the personal and social front. Everyone must have the privilege to make their mark and move through life at a pace that reflects them, their reality and dreams. You cannot judge a man until you fully understand his/her thoughts or circumstances.
Personal success comes in many ways, apart from materialism, the peak being self actualization-when you have exhausted your abilities, purposes and talents. When you have managed to connect with some people, laces and yourself. When you have played a role, touched a life/lives gone through the magic of living-growth, maturity, emotions, faced and overcome obstacles. When you learn to let go and summon higher grounds your soul beckons to.
Your measure of success is your own. Own it, guard it and mould it. Society feeds your history, present and lays a platform for you to express your abilities to an audience, but then again, society has its own dreams to realize. Pursue your own.