You're successful? Says who?

on Thursday, December 03, 2009

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today regarding the definition of success His definition of success is different to mine, mainly due to cultural differences.

Being a British Muslim, I have a somewhat of diverse upbringing. I have values that I have acquired from my traditional Muslim upbringing but then I have grown up in a Western society so that has had a big impact on my life and often the two have conflicted and contradicted each other. The main problem is that there is a mixture of expectations placed on you by family, friends and society as a whole. All these have different definitions of success. Essentially you are trying to tick a lot of different boxes.

Societies and cultures define the meaning of success in different ways. In modern capitalist societies, success is normally defined by the outward indicators of wealth. Essentially, being wealthy is seen to be successful. However in a different culture, having a family and respect in the community is deemed successful as opposed to materialistic wealth (see South Asian communities).

In this situation individuals may live their life trying to be accepted by different segments of society and ultimately not achieve their individual goals or satisfy their ambitions in fear of failing one or the other. The perceptions held by members of society concerning an individual's level of success clearly influence how successful individuals actually regard themselves to be. Individuals may take decisions that do not in please themselves but may deem them to be more successful in the eyes of others.

So how do you actually define success? It is pretty much a grey area. One way I guess you could define it is through happiness. You could be struggling to get by in life in a financial sense but still be content and happy with life or you could be a millionaire and a manic depressive. So, which one is the success here? Ultimately I think success depends on what angle you look at and from which person’s viewpoint.

For me success is extremely difficult to define mainly for some of the reasons mentioned above!