BY ESOSA A
How a Recovering Success Addict Learned to Find Fulfillment originally appeared on Shine, a free daily text to help you thrive.
In our social-media driven society, fulfillment is becoming more about getting followers, likes, and appearing to live an amazing life every single day. But is this true fulfillment? What is the point of posting pretty pictures if we are empty, devoid of joy, or desperate for validation and attention?
Personally, I find our Insta-obsessed culture frustrating. I’m aware the more we make moments about show and tell, the less time we actually have to inhabit the moment and just be. And it’s in those moments of “being” where true fulfillment is possible.
So what is fulfillment? Well, the word fulfill comes from the Old English fullfyllan which means to “to fill up, or to make full.” Fulfillment to me means to be “full” of joy, a sense of purpose, and gratitude. But what does that look like? It took me a while to figure that out.
My Chase for External Validation
As a first-generation Nigerian-American woman born in the United States, striving for excellence is not only a part of what I was taught to do—it’s become a part of my identity. On my quest for fulfillment—first in the form of straight A’s, then a great college, and then a thriving career—I came to realize that true fulfillment was fleeting.
It seemed that right after I checked off another goal on my professional wish list, I was pressing full steam ahead for something else. No time to celebrate. No time to rest. In this perpetual rat race, I realized that not only was I missing out on time to smell the roses and revel in my own wins, I was also chasing after accolades for all the wrong reasons.
Flipping the Script on Fulfillment
A few years ago, I had a realization: A huge part of my hustle was really about proving everyone who doubted me wrong, rather than achieving for me. My career as a producer, actress, and all-around creative was never really championed by immediate family. As much as I wished I could ignore it, that disapproval affected me more than I knew. It fueled me to go after success not for myself—but to prove people wrong.
Just as people get addicted to food, or drugs, some people are addicted to success at work because it provides them with a sense of validation. I’m not afraid to admit that this was me. My name is Esosa E., and I’m a recovering success addict.
My name is Esosa E., and I’m a recovering success addict.
As soon as I had this realization, everything shifted. I started to make changes. I was ready and excited to get in touch with my personal why—my mission statement of sorts.
It was during this process of getting real about what made me happy that I had anothermajor epiphany. I realized fulfillment can only happen here and now—it’s not some future attainable state. And for me, letting that fulfillment in meant that I’d have to take a chill pill on external validation—putting less focus on my "wins" and more on the joy of expressing my creative talents. I was ready to take my hands off the wheel more often so that I could truly experience this amazing ride we call life.
How to Find Everyday Fulfillment
So, how’d I do it? OK, we’ve all seen those gushy optimistic self-help articles that give us magic steps to fulfillment. Don’t expect any of that fluff from me—I’m going to give you the real word.
Truth is, fulfillment requires a daily walk. It is ongoing practice that is tied to connecting to what we care about. For me, that’s service to others, use of my personal talents, and gratitude for all that I have every single day.
Fulfillment requires a daily walk.
Below are my five steps to help you stay in the fulfillment zone.
1. Fill Up Your Gratitude Cup
Gratitude provides perspective. It can transform the worst of situations into a blessing. By stopping each day to say thank you for all of the things that are going right, we also get an indication of what fulfills us. As you make a mental or literal list on paper of what you’re grateful for, you’re also saying, “YES! I want more of that.” Start making a daily list to see what you want more of.
2. Hold Yourself Accountable to Your Feelings
This requires the realization that your fulfillment cannot depend on external circumstances or other people. Your fulfillment is entirely up to YOU. The wonderful thing about this step is that it forces you to manage your reactions. Even if you are having a bad day, you can choose to see the glass half full, instead of half empty. It is in this choice that you are taking a stand for your personal fulfillment. Go you!
3. Find Some Way to Help Others
When we shift from “What new status can I attain?” to “How can I serve?” we are one step closer to fulfillment. When we can see how something we love impacts others for the better, our empathy expands, our personal mission all of a sudden becomes more clear, and we can measure our impact in a completely different and tangible way. So take a moment to ask yourself: How many lives have I touched today? What can I do today to serve others with the talents I love expressing?
4. Find and Follow Your Purpose
It may take courage to find and follow your purpose, but you only live once! Is there something small or big in your routine that just makes you go “Ah, I love this”? Something you find yourself getting totally lost in? Do more of whatever that is every day. Remember that purpose doesn’t have to be a big grandiose undertaking. It can be a small quiet knowing that you love what you are doing, it has meaning for you, and also serves others.
5. Resist Comparison and Focus on #1
This means releasing the need for likes, validation, and the urge to invalidate your personal wins because someone looks like they are doing better than you. It’s so important and healthy to limit how much we scroll and increase the amount of time we revel in how far we have come on our own path.
Do whatever you need to do to focus. Shut down the ‘gram, schedule time with your biggest cheerleaders, or just take yourself back to a few years ago and really remember how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished. You are unique, and worthy of fulfillment. The more you appreciate that your journey is yours alone, the better you will be able to show up in the world and also applaud others along their own path.
Appreciate that your journey is yours alone.
Remember that there is no magic fulfillment pill; every day, every week, every month, you can check in with yourself and see where you are. Hopefully, you’ll find with time that inner peace truly is the new success.
Esosa E. is a writer and entrepreneur.
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