Success and political correctness have a leading role in the complicated society we live in, but what is behind these apparently positive words? If we take a closer look at success, we cannot but wonder what success is in this day and age. Is it having a brilliant career, a lot of money, power and fame, a million followers on social media? And is political correctness a way to please some social categories, even if this means distorting reality? What is “reality”?
In the Western world, the so-called “developed” one, we teach young people that they should aim to be successful and must all find their “special talents.” Despite this sounding a completely positive approach, at times, success may become an almost unavoidable duty and burden. We train children to believe that life is about being ambitious and striving to be constantly busy and entertained. Rather than helping them to genuinely connect with themselves, nature and others, we tend to push them to achieve more and more — externally — because that is what the lifestyle of this side of the world requires. This idea of success leads to a constant dissatisfaction, as it never is enough. Those who live aiming to achieve more and more project all their energy and attention somewhere else, on a future that keeps moving further and further away and is loaded with big expectations, rather than on the “here and now.”
Life is not about being happy all the time; life is often about being able to face the boredom of a daily routine or performing tasks that we do not enjoy, while gaining pleasure out of simple little things. It is about taking responsibility and learning — learning to find inner peace, through acceptance and forbearance. Life is about understanding that the only one thing we are in control of is ourselves — our emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and reactions to what life throws at us. What is important is that we always have some choices. We can blame life and others for our miseries, feel negative, resentful, and complain, but this leads us nowhere. Our second option is taking responsibility and being proactive. To have a positive approach doesn’t mean to paint everything pink, repressing our real feelings and pretending not to care. Being positive is about being resilient and able to work on ourselves, so that our actions and reactions are constructive. Success is not having what we want whenever we want it; it is understanding that sometimes what we wish for is not what we truly need and are meant to have.
I like to look at life as a big wave. We cannot stop it, we cannot fight it or divert its course; we can either drown under its fury or we can ride it to the best of our abilities. This second option makes all the difference between giving up or surviving and truly living, and it can be very fulfilling.
Whether we admit it or not, the deep cause of our pain is inside, not outside, and every human being, sooner or later, needs to face it. The void we all feel to some degree cannot be filled with material wealth, a busy schedule or a satisfying career. Worldwide, there is an endless number of rich and famous men and women (singers, actors, sports celebrities), who apparently had everything, were successful, and still ended up taking their lives because they were unable to find meaning.
The widespread and increased use of social media has caused an addictive urge to “look good.” Everybody seems obsessed with the need to compare themselves to others and stand out. We constantly showcase our lives in a sort of “window,” where the set-up is everything. We judge and are judged according to what we exhibit — an illusion, nothing but a big marketing operation. At times, success is accepting to be ordinary, to not have any special talent. The key point is that we can be apparently ordinary, but have the right values — this makes all the difference. When we have strong values guiding us, we have found the solid rock in ourselves, and even during the hardest times, we will not lose direction.
Right here, though, lies another problem. In the general mayhem, amid an increasing tendency to avoid responsibility, which ones are the right and true values? More and more often we tend to hide our wrongdoing behind political correctness in order to avoid accountability and this has created an escalating confusion. Over the years, things that were clearly wrong came to be considered right. People are less and less willing to take responsibility for their actions, as it is easier blaming others and defining some principles as outdated than admitting one’s own flaws and faults. The “I am offended” card is now the new censorship weapon threatening freedom of speech and belief, and allowing people to hide behind a false and misleading concept of equality. In this climate, our new generations learn values that have been turned upside down without even knowing it, because the principles that are meant to be universal and remain unchanged have been distorted and modified according to peoples’ likes. Some days ago, a friend said to me: “Just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should do it.” This statement resonated with me and I thought about the questionable progress that science has achieved in the last few years.
The reality is that we are not all the same and we all have different journeys and struggles. We all meet with hardships and pain to different degrees — we must learn how to accept, overcome, and learn from them. As human beings, we are just small particles in a big universe and we should understand that we cannot have all the answers, we cannot see and explain everything, as science, too, is limited. Correct moral values do not necessarily agree with our wishes, and just because we can do something, this does not mean that we should do it.
If we were able to accept our limits and imperfections, as well as that there are things bigger than us that we cannot see or explain, if we were able to look at things through our real nature, we would be more open, compassionate, and tolerant. There would be no need for political correctness or for false success.