Defining ‘Success’ Abroad

Success differs to each and every person and depends only on how you define success for yourself. Personally, I think that true success for me shouldn’t be something that is ascertainable, but rather is rooted in the joy, self-trust, and confidence that comes from knowing you do your best in your personal life and your professional life. The reason why I personally define it as such is because being successful is about ‘becoming’ successful which is largely set in the future. This implies that you assume you become happy when you are successful and have gained certain things. It takes the importance off of or darkens the journey to “success” in that unless you are where you want to be, you should not be satisfied. If I chases success like this, I know that even if I reach ‘success’ at any point in my life, I will be too focused on getting there that I will never fully be able to appreciate my hard work or have fun in the process. That is why I believe that true success comes from the construction of small successes, of acknowledging smaller feelings of achievement and self-appreciation. The idea that you are “not being finished” until you get to a certain successful point to me is naïve because as corny as this sounds, you are never finished until your last breath. You do not suddenly
finish” when you cross a finish line or milestones in your life. There are millions of milestones in each second and success comes from acknowledging yourself for acknowledging each moment and being content with that fact that you are never finished. While acquiring and having the power to obtain physical capital bring immediate yet fleeting ‘temporary’ happiness, I believe that true and lasting success roots from having the feeling of joy and self-satisfaction within yourself.

In the United States, the definition of success is evolving greatly with the creation and expansion of the social media. We constantly publish what we possess, and the physical things that can be viewed by the eye is what some of us may define as “success”. In the country that created social media, while it is normal to put yourself out there on social media platforms, this public disclosure of achievements is also part of the public norm. Because we can openly speak about what universities we went to, the neighborhood we live in, and in some business cases our salaries, we associate physical capital, wealth, and success very easily. This does not necessarily apply to people with physical wealth but people’s behaviors and how they carry themselves. A person is only successful and therefore is looked up to because they outwardly display them, while soft spoken people may be considered less successful just because we are not aware of their achievements. While this is not true in all cases, the idea that success comes from what we can see is inescapable in the word of social media.

In France however, it is customary that they hide their “successes” rather than being open or sharing them. For example, as I have mentioned in the example for the United States, topics like University, salary, and way of life is not mentioned unless otherwise asked or in professional situations. When I asked several French people about hiding their success, some answers that stood out to me were, “I don’t see a reason to share any achievements or successes because I don’t see a reason to. They are not a huge part of my identity”. Because it is not customary to share their achievements in France, being “successful” in a professional sense comes from the quality of their character. Although not in all cases, earning the respect of others may also warrant success and being seen as successful. There are certain qualities that are valued in the French culture, such as being able to express your own opinions in a way that is logical and reasoned. Having a character that brings people together and includes the opinions of everyone may also elicit respect and therefore success. Being successful in France is different in that the energy of success in the United States conjures being “seen” as successful whereas in France, there is just content on “being” and being successful as you are.