There are hundreds upon thousands of books on how to be successful. There are tens of thousands of blog posts, videos and TED talks about how to do it too, and now, because it’s 2018, we even have a meme!

Recently, Twitter user @APompliano’s tweet went viral after giving their opinion on the traits of “ successful people” . According to the tweet, “the most successful people” do things like “workout daily” and “believe in themselves” and “demand excellence in everything they do.”

You can stop rolling your eyes now. 

While a lot of people seemed to take the tweet to heart, because it’s Twitter, a lot of people decided to make a joke, and so a meme was born!

These are some of our favourites:

But that got me thinking, what does success really mean? And should we all be striving towards the same goals? Is success a simple definition? 

I asked two life coaches, Kerstin Waddell from Be Happy Life Coaching and Lynne Wright from Lynne Wright coaching and asked them what success really means.

READ MORE: How to network at events when you hate socialising

“Success to me is not chasing materialism, the status of being ‘busy’ and winning the competition and being the best,” says Lynne. “Success is serving a cause bigger than myself, it is having meaningful, positive relationships with others and having loving, open and truthful relationships with my children.” 

Kerstin says that our success is often defined by what we see from other people and that marketing and advertising has been trying to sell us an idea of success for decades now: “ you're successful when you look a certain way and you're driving a certain car, living in a certain home and wearing the latest trends etc. They have shaped our idea of what success looks like to encourage us to keep on buying more stuff. This is why we try to keep up with the Joneses. From the outside they seem so happy - latest everything, smiling posts of another holiday. But is it true? How many photos do you post of yourself having a bad day?”

Also, in the age of influencers and Instagram aspirations, it has become so easy to fall into the comparison trap.

We look at an image of someone appearing to live the glam life and wonder why that can’t be us. We see someone who has access to fame, money and being labelled as an influencer and wonder why that's not us, or why it's taking us so long to achiever our own goals.

And other social media platforms are definitely not helping. For every encouraging post we see, there’s always one that portrays an aspirational lifestyle that instantly inspires feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out).

In fact, back in May this year, Time.com reported on a survey that was conducted to determine the worst social media networks amongst young millennials. It turns out that Instagram beats all platforms as a leading cause for depression and anxiety.

While I don’t think anyone (I say this in good faith) has the intention of ever begrudging someone else their good fortune, it’s hard not to feel envious when you see how effortlessly someone has achieved a life goal.

READ MORE: Is it true that we all just secretly hate Instagram?

The truth is that some of us will achieve success more easily than others. Or it may seem that way.

The problem with this is that when we see stories of success (instant or not), we sometimes stop believing in our goals  - as if the amount of time we’ve already invested in working to get where we are has now ceased to matter because we’ve now convinced ourselves that we’re seemingly getting nowhere.

I’m speaking to myself as much as I’m speaking to you.

In many ways I often think that social media is such a double-edged sword.

READ MORE: Strategies of highly self-loving people - plus do our quiz to see if you give yourself enough self-love

On the one hand we’re given platforms that allow us to express ourselves on a global level, share opinions, signal boost and celebrate ourselves (and hopefully others).

On the other hand, there’s a lot of toxicity that can come with it – one that’s rooted in bullying, jealousy, envy and destructive intent.

It also often doesn’t show the story behind someone’s success which leads to a lot of misplaced and misguided feelings of envy. What looks like instant success could and is often the result of years of behind-the-scenes hard work finally paying off.

When we look at celebrities like Rihanna and Bonang for example, we see icons who are living their best lives and appearing on red carpets, it looks effortless.

Rihanna’s only 29 but in the past 10 years she’s not only won several awards, including eight Grammys, several MTV Video and BET awards, but she’s also gone on to collaborate with Puma to create the Fenty shoe collection (sliders, trainers and heels), and launched a successful and diverse make-up line that’s been killing it on the shelves.

She’s generous and a humanitarian to boot – in fact, Harvard University awarded her the Humanitarian of the Year award earlier this year.

Woman crush forever and ever.

On the local front, Bonang who is only 30 years old has really just gone from strength to strength. In fact, she’s reached Madonna-like first name status because everyone knows who she is. There’s no need to add Matheba when you’re dropping her name in the middle of a conversation.

SA Fashion Week, Day 1!! #SAFW

A post shared by Bonang Matheba (@bonang_m) on

From successful TV shows, to her strong sense of business acumen, the gorgeous Revlon brand ambassador has proven that she knows how to hustle and pave a path for herself.

And no, she won’t let a little controversy about her book get her down. She’s also wonderfully charitable and a huge believer in empowering women through education by giving away bursaries to students in need.
 
Celebs like these make you feel like anything’s possible, but in a way they also make you feel like you’ll never have enough time to do what you want to do.

READ MORE: 5 things I would tell my 16 year old self today

I mean, I have been trying to write a novel on and off for years. I keep stopping and starting, only to lose faith in what I’m doing, because I feel like the only thing I’m managing to achieve is getting older with nothing to show for it. It’s painful for me to talk about because my disability affects my time spent in front of a computer as well, but that’s another topic for another day.

And that’s the thing you know.

I think a good part of our envy stems from fear that there’s a cut off date for achieving our goals according to constructs about our age. And it’s perpetuated by machines like Hollywood that try and tell us that you’re no longer relevant if you reach a certain age.

In this article featured on Vanity Fair, we are given examples of actresses who’ve revealed they were told they were too old to play certain parts. I actually remember the incident mentioned in this piece where Maggie Gyllenhaal (then 37 years old) shared that she was told she couldn’t play the wife of a 55-year old man.

I’ll give you a moment while that bit of hypocrisy sinks in.

There are of course notable exceptions to this but unless you’re Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren, ageing is generally not encouraged in Hollywood.

Do we feel that same pressure when we see young and up and coming influencers posting about their grand lives? And do we do ourselves a disservice and dismiss all of our hard work because we think that the only thing success should look like is “under 30?”

I don’t think we should feel this way. In an ideal world we’d all be celebrating someone’s success whether they’re 22 years old or 65 years old.




What we also need to take into consideration is that everyone has different fields of interests – and the amount of time for achieving measurable accomplishments take us on different paths.

When you next post memes like the “You have the same amount of hours as Beyoncé," - which I know is meant to be motivational, but feels very shame-y because it assumes that people aren’t making the most of the time they’re given - really think about what it is you're actually saying.

It kind of reminds me of that time when Kim K posted a snapchat with the caption “You can’t have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage ethic.”

Memes like that are the reason that people feel they won’t get anywhere, no matter how hard they try.

So the next time you see that Instagram post showing your friend sipping Moet champagne on a yacht in Bali, remember that you’ll get there too (if that’s what you want), in your own time.

In the meantime, there’s no better way to say screw it to the ageist system we live in by cheering on everyone – those who’ve achieved their milestones at 20 and those still building their way up.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.