Since leaving university, the day that we graduated everyone was on an equal playing field. We were all fresh out of uni and ready to start the next chapter of our lives in the real world. Life has always taught us to be competitive and reach for the top of the mountain. But everyone’s mountain may have a different height and varying degrees of steepness. Some people have to start right at the bottom and some may be given a head start both depending on their situations. But is it right that if someone is half way up the mountain for them to look down on someone below or above them? Sometimes those more ample climbers reach the top faster than others. The way we view each other’s progress can be detrimental and is this what society has driven into us?
What I want to talk about is success shaming. I want to make it clear this is by no mean saying that people who are lucky enough to have a privileged background and an edge to the climb should be ashamed. This is merely how we have come to address and related to each other’s progress in life.
With social media being part of every day life we are more and more aware of everything going on in each other’s lives. When we post we want to put forward the positives like we are encouraged to do and hide the bad. However, from the other side of the screen this can cause second guessing of the progress made by another individual in comparison and over time this can lead to feelings of resentment. We all have different time lines and goals but does it make it right that we express ourselves so openly and is it right for people to be shamed for their success.
I am going to talk about my personal story here. Since uni a lot of people have gone on to lead different lives which is fine. Getting a job related to my degree has been hard as the majority of the work is seasonal and the work is very competitive. I have a lot of things that I want to achieve and most of my spare time I spend thinking how can I get to this goal. In other words, I am really proactive and work hard. It has not been easy. I have been borderline broke, had to live with my parents and face the pressure from the world to get my life in order. Not to mention being asked when I am going to settle down which seems impossible these days.
For a while I waitressed as it was the only job I could get. I sucked at it. When customers met me they would ask if I was studying or what my real aim in life was. When I told them I was just a waitress right now, I got judged for not aiming higher. To the point I would ask, is there something wrong with waitressing to make them feel as awkward as they made me feel. I know my friends would ask why I was working there. That whole year was pretty soul destroying but so many people were going through the same thing but they wouldn’t talk about it. The fear of the same ridicule was always there but there was light at the end of the tunnel.
But as time has gone on and I have said yes to more opportunities more doors have opened. I have written three books which are being released. I have this platform to work from and earn a living. I have progressed in ecology over the years from field assistant to ecologist. I have also got my own business with premises and a website which I built from nothing. This has taken sacrifice but the rewards are beginning to come through.
Sometimes meeting new people or even people I have known for a while I offer them a lift in my car. I worked hard and I have been saving up for a car since I was 17. I didn’t see the point in buying small and rebuying in five years so I saved some more which took a while and bought the car. But when people see it, I get asked if my parents got it for me, questioning how I could afford it and want detailed information how a person like me could afford it without help. The answer is working my butt off and living in a strict budget.
My next aim is to get a mortgage which in this day and age is incredibly hard. I went to the bank and I was told that 0 hours income doesn’t count. If I wanted to get a mortgage, I had to earn X amount by April or I wouldn’t be offered one at all despite my work record. So, after a day of feeling like crap I got down to the books and looked at what I would have to do to reach that. And the answer is work my arse off. Maybe not take any time off and I might just reach that goal. I am sacrificing to get there but it will be worth it and then I can free up more money for luxuries and travel.
Everyone has different goals and I find that even friends talk about each other’s situations. If someone has been lucky enough not to experience true hardship, why should they have the right to enjoy themselves? If someone has a parent who wants their child to not struggle like they did and give them a hand, why do others have to shame them on not achieving it themselves? If someone has anything luxurious, why are they automatically assumed to be from a middle-class family? I think everyone has been guilty at voicing these opinions sometimes.
But the question works both ways. If there is a working-class person living for the moment and not worrying for the future right now, why should that be someone else’s problem? If someone’s has an ambition to stay put and have a family, why is that something for people to ridicule? Why do we have to be so hard on each other for being outside of the societal norm.
I feel with the pressure of everyone to succeed and the added pressure of social media, success shaming is a real nasty side of society across all the generations. No one should have to explain their point in life or made to be ashamed of the choices they have to make to get where they are going. If someone is achieving something that you would like to do. Instead of bringing them down, ask how you can achieve that too. Learn, work and grow.
Life is not fair or equal but there is no reason why society cannot change its perceptions and becoming more positive and supportive. If you see a twenty-five-year-old having worked, got a head start in life or coming from an average family driving a fancy car or enjoying themselves. Don’t bring them down. Don’t give in to success shaming as it lowers you as well as the person you shame.