Monday, October 3, 2011

Random Question: How Much Would You Sacrifice For Success?

Sacrifice and success. Usually when we put the two words together our minds conjure up the classic image of the multi-millionaire entertainer, actor, singer or business person who has accumulated untold wealth and fame, but feels unhappy or incomplete. Inevitably this person admits to having some regrets about the bridges they've torched and the bodies they may have stepped on whilst climbing up the ladder, and usually cite certain choices they've made along the way as the reason for their emptiness.

But what about us regular, everyday folk? For example, what if you're trying to move to another city to further your career or realize your potential. Would leaving old friends, family and possibly a lover behind be worth it for a leap into the unknown, where you could possibly find youself alone and isolated? Or what if you're trying finish school or obtain a higher degree in order to earn a bigger salary? Would putting off certain things, like settling down in a serious relationship, or having/adopting children for what could be years of hard work be a worthy sacrifice?

Or perhaps you already got a dream gig, but are starting at the bottom of the totem pole. Would weekends be better spent finishing assignments instead of curled up under the covers with him? Would off days be readily relinquished in favor of punching the clock whenever bossman or bosslady says "We need you," so you can throw it in his or her face whenever it's time to make that premeditated plea for a pay raise or promotion?

Most of us would probably answer these questions with a resounding yes. But then again the definitions of success and sacrifice can mean more than just more money and career advancement. For instance, maintaining successful relationships with friends, family and lovers requires a certain amount compromising, a.k.a sacrifice. You may temporarily put aside or tone down your passion for certain hobbies, or attempt to share in ones your friends/lover/family members have in order to form a deeper bond or connection with them. But at what point do the small sacrifices and compromises turn into you shape-shifting your own personality for that person or persons?

In the past (well, let's be real, a few times in the present, though not as often), I've been guilty of sacrificing too much of my own identity, opinions, personal taste/interests etc., in order to be a 'successful' friend, son, or boyfriend. As I've grown older and worked to become more assertive (I'm a people pleaser by nature, so it's been a battle for me to learn to say "NO" and mean it), I look back on certain instances where I caved in to a friend, family member or lover's wishes and realized I should've erred on the side of selfishness. Because while I may have succeeded at preserving a friendship, parent-child bond or romantic relationship, in truth I was failing. By acquiescing (or giving away my power if you will), I actually weakened the bond between me and that person because I did something I didn't want to.

Of course we all do this on occasion, like waking up in the middle of the night to help jump a friend's car, or mowing an older family member's yard when you'd rather be home watching TV. In those instances, you're giving assistance to someone who genuinely needs it, and usually that warm feeling inside that erases any temporary incovenience you may have suffered. But I'm referring those times when we do something because we're afraid we'll get guilt-tripped by the other party, be accused of selfishness, or we fear this person won't like us anymore if we don't say yes.

Many times these fears are unfounded, but still have real consequences that can manifest as feelings of resentment or anger towards an individual you now feel is using you. A friendship that could've been saved by an instance of selfishness (i.e. saying "I don't want to do that/I don't feel comfortable doing that" etc.) is instead destroyed by the an act of self-sacrifice . Ironic isn't it? A side note though: if someone is consistently making you out to be the bad guy or feel guilty for saying no, what you have is not a friend, but an energy-sapping frenemie on your hands. Run fast! But I digress.

Perhaps the question isn't so much success versus sacrifice, but personal automony versus group solidarity. In other words, is it possible to both diligently pursue the things you want in life while not alienating or distancing yourself from those around you (assuming you have no desire to do so), or do you have to settle for not chasing some dreams in order to maintain successful friendships and/or romantic/familial relationships?

Personally I feel it is a delicate balance. How to go about consistenly striking this balance is the tricky part though. It's easy to get so caught up in reaching for the brass ring that we miss the other gems around us, allowing them to collect dust. Or, in a sad twist we lose ourselves the pursuit of the becoming the person we want to be. Whatever goals I achieve, be they big or small, I'd like to have others around to share my triumphs with, cliche as that may be. Because whatever success we achieve, sooner or later we have to get back to real life.

So how much would you sacrifice for success, both personal or professional? And how would you find a middle ground between being super successful and alone and having all your dreams deferred? Discuss.

And if that line about getting back to real life reminds you of a certain old-school movie, it's on purpose. Check out Margo Channing's, a.k.a Bette Davis's, classic monologue about the conflict of family and career in All About Eve below. Even though her speech focuses on women, I think it could apply to anyone.

1 comment:

Prince Toddy English said...

This post is so true, 100%. I relate so much. I used to be such a people pleaser (because I always had this fear of someone getting mad and yelling at me...and then I yell back and it turns into a huge mess). However, I have been practicing the art of asserting myself for the past two years and it works for me in everyday situations...
It has also shown me that, ultimately, you have to do what comes naturally to you in order to be happy. Sometimes the needs of the ONE (you) outweighs the needs of the MANY (everyone else).
Good for you for coming to that realization. It really is everyday practice when you are used to being an agreeable person

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