For as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to build a life that looks really good.
Perception has always mattered to me. I don’t know if that’s an oldest child thing, an Enneagram type 3 thing, a growing up in Carmel, IN thing, or just a general Amanda Boldt thing. But I have wanted to appear successful and accomplished by any means necessary for as long as I can remember.
Throughout my teenage years, into young adulthood, and especially throughout the emergence of social media, how well you were doing in life always seemed important. Success seemed to be about the major milestones you could post online, fit in a Christmas card, or mention at a networking meeting. What job you were working, how much you volunteered at church, the ring you eventually put on your finger, how great your eventual husband was, how awesome your kids are, etc. — all that stuff seemed to be the fundamentals. Those were the things that mattered. Your success in life was defined by what you did, the company you kept, and the manners you had at the dinner table.
A successful, happy life was the whole “white picket fence, family home, 9 to 5 good job” life. Everything else seemed like failure. As I’ve grown up and experienced different places, I’ve started to realize that this isn’t the case at all. While that version of success is a good one, that isn’t the only way to foster a happy, healthy life.
I have gotten to experience other versions of “success” and people who do things purely for the joy of it. No agenda. No questioning of their worth if they took a day off. No shame in not having a college degree or working a job in hospitality. No constant need to appear impressive. They’re just happy. No overthinking.
For a long time, this concept has seemed so foreign to me. And I'm just starting to recognize why and relearn my own versions of success.
Now, I loved my childhood. I come from an incredibly affluent, upper-middle-class place which was wonderful, but sometimes came with a lot of pressure to achieve. Currently, I’m processing how that affected my idea of “success” growing up. Don’t get me wrong, where I come from gave me tremendous opportunities that I will be forever grateful for. And my parents are absolutely incredible and raised me to truly believe I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be. (Shout out Mom and Dad!) I’m just trying to figure out why I choose to become this person that is paralyzed by the fear of failure? When did I become someone that was this terrified of not presenting a perfect life for everyone to ogle at?
Slowly, but surely, I’ve been unpacking and recognizing how much of my time and energy I spend chasing perfection. Chasing this idea that I can do it all. I work so hard for that idea of success that I’m sometimes missing out on the happy moments happening right in front of me. I’m thinking my way out of current joys in my day-to-day life because I’m so focused on accomplishing “joy” for everyone to see.
A few months ago, I was reflecting on all of this, and I came up with a question that’s stuck with me since then. “Do I want to live a life that looks happy and successful, or do I want to live a life that is actually happy and successful?”
When you put it that way, the answer seems kinda like a no-brainer. For me, at least, I’d prefer a life that truly feels good.
If I’m honest with myself, I believe I’ve made a lot of decisions about who I am to align with a version of myself that I thought would be well-received. If you saw me as successful and happy, then that was how I would become truly successful and happy. I lived my life for other people’s approval. And honestly, I still do to an extent. Like everyone else, I’m still a work in progress.
But here's what I've learned. Happiness = success. It's literally as simple as that. Being happy with your life and proud of your own progress without anyone else's approval is success. We're all allowed to simply make the choices that fill our lives with joy. How those choices are perceived, doesn't actually matter.
As I said, truly believing all of that and living by it every single day... still a work in progress.
But I'm meeting myself where I am. Now, as I make decisions, I’m trying to trust my gut. I’m trying to do the thing that brings me joy rather than doing the thing that looks good. From my relationship to my career choices to the way I structure my Instagram page, I’m trying to feel confident in the life I’m building for myself. I’m trying to feel happy, secure, and successful in that, no matter what anyone else thinks of it.
Because here’s the real secret, everyone is always going to have an opinion about the way you live your life. So if you constantly live to impress them, you’re never going to live up to the mark.
Someone is always going to be disappointed in a choice you make. Someone is always going to think you could be doing better. Someone will always be there to make fun of the fact that you’re dancing in the rain or to stomp out your laughter when you crack yourself up. There are people who make it their mission in life to step into a room and suck out all the sunshine. Don’t let them dim your rays.
Ultimately, the only person living your life is you. You’re the only one who knows what it’s like to exist in the world in your skin, with your thoughts, and with your heart. Take advice and guidance from the people that really matter, then tell the rest that they can kindly f*** off.
Their judgement doesn’t matter, and constantly listening to it or checking up on the haters will only derail the path you’re meant to go down.
Everyone is always going to have an opinion about the way you live your life. In a way, that is completely terrifying. In another way, it’s truly liberating.
When you can admit and recognize that you’ll never please everyone, you can give yourself permission to start choosing the life that works for you. Choose the life that feels good rather than the one that just looks pristine and polished. Choose your version of success.
I say it all the time, and I'll say it again, real life is messy. It’s hard and heartbreaking, but also joyful and amazing. Life is hard enough as it is. Especially recently, when so much has just felt so heavy. So why are you hurting your own feelings by worrying about everyone else’s opinions of the way you live your life?
Find your own version of success, and hold onto it. Don’t let anyone else convince you that your happiness isn’t worth fighting for just because it looks different than their idea of it. Fight for the life that feels good, and let go of that perfect image that only feels hollow.
Fight for success — your version that comes on your terms. And embrace a life that truly feels good. Because, simply put, you deserve it. And I have a feeling, that when you find it, it's going to be incredible.
All my love,