Success: mine vs. yours

In college, I knew someone whose ultimate goal was to land a job as an investment banker on Wall Street upon graduation. She went through the recruiting cycles, landed internships with the types of banks that were “too big to fail,” and, eventually, she scored her post-graduation dream job that she was working toward all along. That was her definition of success. In the process, she skipped meals on a regular basis (openly admitting that she forgot to eat), lost weight, rarely went to the gym, and had little to no time dedicated to her friends.

Given the unique and extensive exposure I had into her life, I felt miserable for her and around her. I viscerally disagreed with her lifestyle choices and was even more repelled by her post-graduate career choice. I would vent to my friends about how much I didn’t want to be like her and how sorry I felt for her for pursuing that path.

Needless to say, I judged her and her life choices without restrain. I was filled with negative energy, which I could feel in my core. It permeated my thoughts and affected my productivity. The point is, I severely judged her definition of success, and it drained me.

Perpetuating one’s definition of success onto other people’ is crippling, exhausting, and a waste of time and energy.

At the end of the day, she led her life, and I led mine. At the tender age of 20, I was wrong to get carried away in my judgment zone, and I didn’t know where and how to focus my energy toward a healthier, more productive life. Unfortunately, many adults beyond the age of 20 are sucked into a negative loophole due to constant, subconscious, and harsh judgments on other people’s lives and life decisions.

However, this experience taught me about my own values, goals, and priorities. For example, I knew that I did not want to regularly skip meals by accident due to the stress of daily life. I knew I wanted to intentionally carve out time for my friends, my family, and most importantly, myself. I knew I wanted a balanced, healthy life by hitting up the gym, focusing on my work, meditating, being outdoors, and meeting and spending time with people. By contrast of being around her, I was able to learn more about who I am, what I wanted to achieve, and who I wanted to be — my focus, my path.

So, while it’s not healthy to judge other people’s decisions to the point where you have a dark cloud looming over your head, it can be a productive exercise to contrast your path with others’ in order to help define where you want to be, what your values are, and who you want to become. Social media has made it increasingly difficult to refocus on oneself, but remember to put your time and energy on what matters most to you.

People are brought up to have such narrow definitions of success that anything outside of their definition seems like a failure or something to mock and judge. As conventional wisdom likes to put it, mind your own business. Stay in your lane. Be better than who you were yesterday.

Of course, I haven’t become completely immune to the judgment zone since this experience, but now, I actively work to think twice before making any harsh judgments or I simply let it go. Can you relate? What experiences have you had where you judged something or someone too hard, and what did you learn about yourself in the process?