This article is about the darkness behind the scenes of success, that hardly anybody talks about. It is inspired by the sad suicide of Kate Spade yesterday.
It’s easy to assume that when someone has a life that looks shiny and beautiful on the outside… One where certain external and objective measures of success have been met. That they surely, SURELY they will be happy on the outside.
And that if they are not, they are surely a tragically ungrateful or broken anomaly.
This is one of the most flawed and pervasive assumptions in existence.
We apply it to others, and so too to ourselves in moments of weakness. When I have X, then I’ll feel amazing. That person has X, so they must be feeling amazing. Or, I have X, so I have to feel amazing every day! Or even, I had X, and now I don’t have X, so how can I possibly feel amazing?!
This is so far from the truth.
In reality, I’ve noticed a few things about human beings, in particular high and super-high achievers, that are relevant here.
One, is that the higher one rises, the higher the stakes are, the higher the standards, the bigger the decisions, the smaller the margin for error, and the more likely one becomes to experience inner turmoil that are often bound to these concerns. The turmoil is not a necessity or an inevitability, but it is a very real risk. And without established outlets, such as nourishing routines and rituals to balance the body and mind, and a dedicated, trusted confidant who one can confide in with no fear of judgment or recrimination – this pressure can build and build to the point of self-destruction.
The second, is that life consists of multiple areas and facets. And, you guessed it, some sense of balance is integral to happiness. Some areas and facets are not visible externally, in particular the areas of mindset, beliefs, creative fulfilment and the intricacies of personal relationships. And when these are out of whack, it doesn’t matter how great the other areas are. One can feel utterly hopeless and lost. I have had CEOs of major global corporations crying down the phone to me because there are beliefs or areas behind the scenes that aren’t working that no one else close to them has any idea about. But *they* have been feeling the pain daily. The heaviness, the darkness and the artificial – yet palpable – sense of constraint.
Thirdly, I’ve also noticed that not all – but many – high achievers seek – originally at least – to achieve in order to feel good about themselves or to obtain approval from caregivers they didn’t feel approved of by. They feel a fundamental “not enoughness” and it is a huge component to their extraordinary drive to do and be more. This pattern of achieving is both addictive, and never, ever satisfied. It’s no secret that many super achievers come from challenging backgrounds where they sought both to transcend their original circumstances and also validation in the absence of it being present during their childhood.
Challenging backgrounds can be financial, emotional, physical, sexual, you never know what has gone on behind the scenes of a person’s youth. But when drive comes from this place, one can then of course go on to achieve huge amounts, but if the underlying feeling of invalidation is not rectified, cycles of crippling self doubt will continue to pervade. From this place, you might have a bad day, month or year, or one or two areas of life may be out of whack, and in your eyes, you become worthless. I’ve worked with many exceptional achievers who under the surface have crippling self doubt and insecurity to cure these kind of cycles.
Furthermore, the same high standards that drive super-achieving are the same high standards that, can – left unchecked – make us unrelenting with ourselves and others, such that nothing is ever fully good enough. Like an inner hungry, angry lion that can never be satiated and yet continues to hunt for more and more and more prey, wreaking destruction and chaos along the way.
Wherever one’s concerns are coming from, however deep and unavoidable they may feel, they can be mitigated. The importance of nurturing our psychological and spiritual selves, and having confidants to rely on cannot be emphasised enough. I know for myself, without my partner, my coaches and advisors, I would not feel the sense of steadiness or serenity I do amidst the entrepreneurial rollercoaster and all that I’m up to.
The darkness behind the scenes is actually the number one reason I started Definitely Definitely, to help people have an internal experience of life that matches the outsides – and so to, to have outsides that don’t just look great but are exactly what THEY desire and yearn for. And not just what they desired last year, last month, or last decade, in a totally different space and time, from ego or fear, or any other form of projection, but what they authentically desire now, on a deep soul level. It has expanded to so much more, but this remains – and will continue to remain – my number one priority with any work that we do.
If you’d like to have a chat about your goals and what coaching can do for you, book a call in my calendar here.